Looking Ahead: 5 Next Steps for Candidates on Digital
A new political cycle is underway—and with it a new, diverse, active class of Americans settling into office, as well as a time of reflection for candidates who’ll be back for the next fight. But regardless of the vote tallies in November, remember that winning isn’t just about one night: It’s about building an organizational foundation that will endure long after ballots are cast.
No matter your results in 2018, the digital program you’re building should not, should NOT!—we’d shake you by your lapels if we could!—end on Election Night.
The fact is, eventually the time will come either to try again, to defend the seat you already won (for those in the U.S House or some state legislatures, two years will fly), or to explore other options, all of which will be easier if you’ve built and, more importantly, maintained a strong, healthy program all throughout the cycle.
Don’t let your hard-won habits and processes fade away—build on what you’ve already put in place. No matter how Election Night turned out for you, here are five tips to keep in mind going forward:
1. Keep your campaign social media accounts awake and alert.
It’s a common sight: electeds whose activity on their political accounts dries up for months or years, only to crank awkwardly and zombishly back to life at election time. If you won your race, it’s true you’ll need to plan for a double life on social using both official and political accounts, but don’t let that campaign account get rusty (remember, you can say things there that you can’t or won’t want to say as an elected official).
The same goes for people who signed up for email updates—if you go months without reaching out, you could find that those contacts have gotten old or, worse, that some of your audience has tuned out. Regardless of your outcome, it’s smart to keep your supporters engaged with your future. Keep holding events, asking for comments, and inviting your community to keep engaging and organizing with you.
2. Review your gains in the context of your race.
What aspects of your digital program performed well? Consider what you accomplished across email, social media, video, and digital advertising. How many followers or new supporters did you inspire, and what content drew them in?
Try analyzing these gains in the light of results: Did you win by a razor-thin margin, or lose because of turnout in certain neighborhoods or counties? This analysis can provide a roadmap for how to grow your audiences and target and curate your digital content in the future.
3. Let your message evolve as a candidate.
Keep your message as dynamic and responsive to current events as you did during your campaign. Your contact with supporters can’t go on autopilot. Yes, 2018 was a “blue wave” and a referendum on health care; 2020 will be a presidential year and a chance to vote on a change in national leadership. Keep thinking actively about how your campaign and goals fit into the state and national conversations as well as the needs of your local community. Don’t just count on luck or good will: the landscape will be different next time, whether you are an incumbent, a repeat challenger, or entering a new race altogether.
4. Stay on top of new technologies and trends to incorporate into your campaigning.
Haven’t yet tried Instagram, Facebook Live, or a direct donate video campaign? Have you considered doing a Reddit AMA, inviting supporters to run a (peaceful) Twitter takeover, or trying out peer-to-peer texting tools like Hustle? Make sure you’re taking advantage of all the tools available to you—an election cycle can feel like a century in terms of technological development. Researching new options now will set you up to integrate them smoothly on a future campaign.
5. Thank the people who got you here. A lot.
Re-mobilizing your supporters for a re-election, a repeat challenge, or a new endeavor will take soul-searching. Think hard: Why should they buy in with you again? What will you bring to the table this time that’s new and current? What’s your new case for giving? A sincere story is what matters, and you should communicate it with the same quality and rigor that you did before Election Night. If your heart isn’t in it, don’t run again. If it is, show it.
If you’re going to get the band back together, you need to do it smartly, sincerely, and in a way that adapts to new realities—political, technological, electoral, and beyond. No matter where your next adventure leads, good luck!
Janani Sreenivasan @jennyvasan is Content Director at Do Big Things.