Monday, May 22, 2017

Why Direct Mail Is Still Top Political Campaign Tool

At Beyond Voter Lists, we specialize in supporting political direct marketing, especially when it come to targeted data for postal efforts. So we're happy to read that one takeaway from this year's major political marketing conferences is the continued value of direct mail. In Campaigns & Elections magazine, Elena Neely, national lead for the U.S. Postal Service® (USPS) Political Mail Outreach efforts, describes five reasons she supports that conclusion. Let's start with an obvious one: Mail is still the only campaign channel with 100% voter reach since you have to have a mailing address to register to vote. Next, direct mail is a highly targetable medium, and political campaign success today relies more on targeting specific audiences than mass marketing. The proof is in Borrell Associates’ 2016 political advertising analysis report that more targetable media, including digital, cable and direct mail, “gained $1.7 billion over 2012 spending levels while radio, TV and newspapers lost nearly $1.3 billion.” Next, direct mail retains a place in the campaign promotional mix because there just is no one-size-fits-all medium for audience targeting; as the Pew Research Center found, people are influenced by multiple information sources, with nearly half of 2016 respondents learning about the presidential race from five or more types of sources, ranging from cable television to social media to campaign e-mails. Direct mail also fits easily into a multichannel effort; for example, campaigns can use a mailer's QR code to digitally connect voters to a social media platform or campaign website. Yes, different generations and demographics respond to direct mail differently, but it works well across the board. A 2016 USPS survey not only found that 46% of baby boomers ranked mail as their preferred political ad format but younger millennials also rated political mail “important” for state elections (82%), local elections (80%) and even national races (76%). And when it comes to vital swing voters, 58% said mail was “very or somewhat helpful,” and that compares with television (55%), digital ads (48%) and e-mail (46%). Finally, as attention spans shorten and media noise escalates, direct mail can use tangible creativity to grab share of mind, with dimensional mail, audio mail and video mail as examples. For the complete article, go to

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Political Campaigns Face Social Media Changes

Social media strategy is essential for the success of political campaigns and causes today. As the Pew Research Center reports, a majority of Americans now say they get news via social media, and half of the public turned to social media sites to learn about the 2016 presidential election. Social success in 2016 doesn't mean campaigns can rest on their laurels, however. A Digital Information World post by Anthony Bergs--including a handy infographic from CJG Marketing--cites a list of social media changes and trends that political marketers should include in 2017 strategies. For example, improved social targeting got a lot of buzz in 2016, with campaigns embracing the effectiveness of Facebook's “Lookalike” audiences. But in 2017, machine learning, artificial intelligence and access to increasing amounts of data--from demographics and behavior all the way to forecasting of intent-- will support even more precise ad targeting, provided campaigns make the investment in audience data and analytics. The response-getting power of digital video is well-proven, so it's no shock that 48% of marketers are planning to add YouTube videos in 2017.  Campaigns and causes would be wise to also invest in an internal or external video content development team and live streaming,  now available on social platforms such as Facebook, Twitter's Periscope, YouTube and Snapchat. Next to video at the top of social marketing agendas this year is "influencer marketing," with 84% of marketers planning at least one social media influencer campaign to find and leverage sources of followers and engagement. One reason for the influencer search is that the ability to generate free organic traffic via social media is waning thanks to social platform algorithms favoring paid ads and squeezing out organic content. With Facebook and Twitter offering just 2% to 4% organic reach for posts in 2016 (and falling), most political budgets need to include paid social ads. But here's good news: Chatbot technology is on the horizon and promises to handle a mass volume of user conversations one-on-one with customized content; Facebook's current Messenger bot is a harbinger of more to come. For more social media trends, check out the article and infographic at

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Social Media Listening Informs New Political Strategy

Digital marketing to a targeted audience with relevant messaging is a must in politics now. But how can a campaign develop the required digital audience understanding to be most effective? One answer is social media listening, per a 2017 post by Augustus Franklin, CEO of CallHub, supplier of voice and SMS broadcast software. Franklin cites 11 social media monitoring insights to help turbocharge your digital marketing strategy. Here are just his initial five tips: First, design a social media monitoring blueprint by creating an extensive list of relevant keywords and hashtags on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, etc. Find the people who follow your campaign or cause (or brand), have tweeted about it, or have "liked" relevant posts. Second, expand on the existing network of people who have shown interest in a keyword or hashtag and ask them to tweet with a certain hashtag, or share a post with their network, to garner the followers of your followers. Try to capitalize on advocates with influence in online communities outside the social networks, such as blogs or forums. Third, turn general demand into specific engagement by identifying social activity that aligns with your candidate or cause and reach out to these prospects with messages configured to their expressed interests/needs. Keep track of those who subsequently like, share, post, etc., because that engagement is a step closer to conversion (to a volunteer, donor or voter). Fourth, merge your social media inflow data with your marketing outreach list, and directly contact the socially engaged to ask them to spread your message. And fifth, use social listening to learn what each target audience segment wants to hear, from their perspectives, so you can specifically address challenges and needs in messaging. To get even more targeting insights, also monitor the activity on social networks of opponents and allies to see what people are saying. These insights can help to map engagement paths from interest to advocacy and to craft testing for analysis of what marketing works best. For all 11 tips, go to

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Trump Marketing Effect: Temporary or Lasting?

Entering 2017, political marketing has some new ground rules thanks to Donald Trump's unorthodox campaign and presidential style, per political pundits. For example, while political campaigns used to focus on motivating voters to get involved, voter passion (from protest marches to besieged political offices) seems to be the rule rather than the exception now. Where political campaigners once tried to fight voter apathy, today they need to understand and address voter demands. A recent Direct Marketing News article cites Will Bunnett, Clarify Agency principal and former senior e-mail writer and producer in 2008 at Obama for America: "The voters that are the subjects of political marketing are behaving much differently in this political climate than they have in the past. Right now, political marketing is less about cajoling people to get them motivated, and more about keeping up with the demands from voters." How did Trump succeed? With a branding strategy, opines Bunnett. "The [Trump] brand handled the persuasion and the turnout, so branding strategy will get more attention in the future of political marketing thanks to Trump's success with it," he tells DM News and adds, "I predict that in the wake of Trump, political marketers will refocus on strategy over tactics" such as moving voters up an engagement ladder from interest to petition to donation. But a big question is whether this is a permanent or temporary shift in the political winds. Bunnett, for one, warns political strategists to "avoid overcompensating for a shift in voter behavior that's ultimately probably temporary." He urges campaigns and causes to "adapt to the passion right now," but "not forget how to cajole." For the full article, see

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Study: Negativity Ruled 2016 Political Coverage

A Harvard University study released in December concluded that media coverage of the 2016 presidential election was overwhelmingly negative, topped only by the 2000 Bush-Gore campaign, according to an Associated Press (AP) news story in U.S. News. Once "horse race" stories about polls were eliminated, coverage of issues relating to Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton's fitness for office were identically 87% negative for each candidate, according to the report from Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. The researchers looked at coverage on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News Channel nightly newscasts, along with The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, USA Today, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal newspapers. The media analysis firm Media Tenor judged the tone of stories; for example, a story about the FBI reopening an investigation into Clinton's e-mails was judged a negative for her, while a story about lawsuits against Trump's business was a seen as negative for him. With all stories included, 71% of the overall presidential race coverage was negative, and 29% was positive. By comparison the 2000 presidential race had a negative-to-positive ratio of 75% to 25%. That's very different from earlier, more positive campaign coverage trends; in the Kennedy-Nixon campaign in 1960, for example, three-quarters of the coverage was judged positive, according to the Harvard report. Overall, whether positive or negative, Trump received far more media attention than any rival. Yet, while the negative tone may have generated interest as measured by television ratings, it didn't seem to drive voter turnout since unusually large numbers of voters either abstained from the presidential election or entered write-in candidates per early evaluations by the U.S. Elections Project, which collects data on national voter turnout. But perhaps the biggest issue for mainstream news organizations was the trend of voters snubbing mainstream relevancy in favor of news sources that bolstered their own viewpoints — including fake news sites. David Bohrman, a former CNN Washington bureau chief who helped with NBC's political coverage, summed up to AP: "The traditional gatekeepers were out there saying 'this is true and this is not.' But they were lost in the noise of 4,200 other sources of information." For the full story, see

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Google Offers New Election Search Trends Hub

Whether campaigning at the national, state or county level in today's digital-first environment, political pros want to track what engaged voters care about in real time, and what better gauge than Internet activity? Enter the newly launched Google Trends Election Hub, a trove of free research. Search Engine Land recently reported on how the new Google hub site takes a deep dive into this year’s election-related search trends across the United States, with real-time reports on president and vice president candidate search queries, by state, plus search data on state and county political issues. And if you wonder how engaged the electorate is online, Google reports this year’s election-related searches are up 240% over the same period preceding 2012’s Election Day. Just some of the goodies you can cull: The hub home page has a chart graphing national search interest in each candidate over the previous week, as well as links to daily state-by-state search interests, voter registration searches, and the top election issue-related searches by state during the past week. There are also charts graphing the number of “Vote for [presidential candidate]” searches during the past week, and tracking of searches for “how to vote,” which Google reports is at its highest rate ever. At the state level, candidates and causes can drill down to the county level on issue interests; for example, while the economy is the most searched issue on average across the swing state of Florida, immigration is more searched in southern counties in that state. There's even a YouTube election map so you can see how many people are watching Trump vs. Clinton videos. Check it out at

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Targeted Digital, TV Ads Mark Political Milestones

In 2016, major political campaigns that don't embrace targeted, programmatic digital and media advertising are simply on the wrong side of history, implies a recent Adweek article. The article presents an evolution of political advertising compiled by Videology, a digital video ad platform that works with political campaigns on both sides of the aisle. There's a handy infographic that starts back before the Founding Fathers promoted revolution and shows how technology is speeding up and raising the stakes. You can see that the first meetings of Massachusetts town halls in 1633 have been replaced by Facebook town halls with national reach. James Polk unveiled a durable political tool, the first campaign slogan, back in 1844, but 2016 campaigns that want to leverage a rallying cry turn it into a hash tag for millions of Twitter followers. And since presidential contenders George W. Bush and John Kerry invited voters to their dueling websites in 2004 nomination speeches, and President Barack Obama inaugurated a social media strategy to woo younger voters in 2008, political digital advertising has exploded. In fact, spending on political digital advertising is expected to top $1 billion for the first time in 2016. More than half the digital ad budget will be used to target social media sites this year, the infographic reveals. In 1952, Dwight Eisenhower launched the first TV political ads, and now, per Borrell Associates, the bulk of the projected $11.7 billion spent for political ads in the 2016 election cycle will go to local broadcast television at $5.9 billion. That's a spending record, but the increased use of TV ad targeting technology is what Videology spots as the significant shift; Hillary Clinton's campaign especially now uses addressable TV advertising to target TV ads to specific households based on demographics and set-top boxes. Adweek quotes Videology's Mark McKee, SVP of North America: "This idea of more addressable ways of which to connect consumers is something that, hands down, everyone is talking to us about. It's not about these mass market pushes that they're thinking about and strategizing most of their time. It's much more about 'Where are the places that we need to make the biggest difference with a very targeted message?'" For the article and infographic, go to