A brief Twitter conversation took place yesterday following my post Media integration strategy missing from current election campaigns. The upshot of my post is candidates in the current municipal election are generally thinking of traditional and digital as discrete channels rather than treating them as part of the same integrated strategy.

That led to @BrianMFoster saying:

I can fairly say that makes no sense. Are you saying they should choose? Money is limited, we can’t all hire you.

In a word, yes. I am saying make difficult choices. The current approach is generally producing marginal results at best, rather than having a meaningful or far reaching effect.

Let me expand.

Almost every candidate has a website, blog, Twitter account, Facebook profile, Facebook group, YouTube Channel and Flickr stream. Some candidates also have smartphone apps. That’s a lot of communities to maintain and channels to feed with fresh, appropriate and valuable content. Most of those channels have some capital cost to set up properly and some have costs to maintain. However, the real investment is in the contribution to and participation in the community. IN selecting which of these channels the campaign will embrace, the campaign team must decide which channels reach the most people in a way that keeps supporters engaged and converts more voters?

Then there’s advertising. Google AdWords and Facebook ads are the two most popular online choices. They’re decidedly cheaper than print, radio and television ads. However advertising in any media requires money and not everyone navigates the same media channels.

None of what I’ve mentioned so far accounts for traditional channels: lawn signs, brochures, buttons, stickers, t-shirts, campaign headquarters, etc…

My main observation is candidates and their advisory teams are trying to do too much with too little. Rather than have a strategy and pick the tactics that deliver on it, they’re picking the trendy online tools (and lots of them) and trying to keep them energized, backfilled to a campaign.

My second observations is candidates, perhaps unwittingly, have cancelled the part of their budget that helps others help them. By reducing or eliminating lawn signs (environmental argument notwithstanding) and not offering a digital equivalent (e.g badges, avatars, Twibbons, etc…), candidates have eliminated the signposts that convert voters.

I noticed Brian changed his avatar to show his support for mayoral candidate Clive Doucet following our Twitter conversation (it had previously been a photo). That’s exactly what I’m suggesting. Digital collateral doesn’t cost much to produce and should be easily and prominently accessible from candidates’ websites.

Since we’re on the topic, here are some more recommendations for political campaign teams

  • Develop an integrated communication and community-building strategy first
  • Ensure the strategy includes paid, earned, shared and owned media
  • Know what you will do with your communities following both an election victory or loss before you execute your plan
  • Embrace tactics that work in service to the strategy
  • Put trusted and dedicated community builders at the centre of each community, traditional and digital
  • Assign trusted, capable and creative producers to the selected roles of generating good copy, good audio, good video and good images
  • Have a comprehensive online monitoring and response capability in place
  • Make it easy for others to help you in both the traditional and digital world