GSG Blue Book: Best Practices for Campaigns and Digital Comms

The 2016 campaign represents a turning point for digital communications. Gone are the days of digital proving its worth, feeding on the scraps that fell from the table of TV buys and mail drops. 2016 will be more than the year of Facebook or YouTube or Snapchat. Instead this will be the year that we seek a true understanding of how all the gears and cogs of the modern media landscape can work together. It is an exciting time for those of us who sit at the nexus of the worlds of campaigns, research and digital.

At Global Strategy Group, we have been afforded the opportunity, working with a number of research partners, to test, measure, and learn how digital communications can be most effectively employed this cycle and beyond. In the coming weeks and months, we will be releasing our Blue Book of Best Practices, research-tested best practices for placing digital media and developing digital content.

Digital Communications Best Practices

Our first post is devoted to insights drawn from our work for Google in conjunction with Frank Luntz (R) in the days before the Iowa caucus. We spoke to likely caucus goers to uncover how they see the role of digital communications in deciding their vote. The full research memo is available here.

Here are five insights into digital communications for the forward thinking campaign.

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Digital media has not and will not replace television (or radio, or mail) but rather it has expanded campaigns’ toolboxes. Our research found that likely Iowa caucus goers turn to digital for more in-depth, fact-based, and unbiased information on candidates — make this the focus of your digital media strategy.

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While TV is a good starting point to introduce candidates and issues, voters find both TV advertising and news reports to be too one-sided and too short. Instead they turn to digital to get specific information and do their own research. This is an opportunity to use digital media to engage with the information-seekers, for example using search ads to capture people as they look up candidates, issues, and when and where to vote.

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With more and more voters working, shopping, and chatting on-the-go, digital media, particularly mobile, is an opportunity to reach them where they are. Voters report that they want political information and insights on their schedule — not someone else’s — and mobile delivers this. Understand who your audiences are and how they use the phones. Build a strategy that makes your key messages and appeals accessible and easily digested by users on the go.

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Digital video should be more than a repurposed TV spot. Voters want what they called the “whole story,” including full, unedited clips of debates, informative videos on complex issues, personal candidate stories, and behind the scenes moments. Campaigns should leverage long-form content that is relevant, educational, and personal, keeping in mind that you must capture voters’ attention within the first 15–20 seconds — or, like viewers do with television advertising, they’ll quickly tune out.

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Not only are voters of all ages increasingly using digital and social media (hi, mom on Facebook), they have come to expect that campaigns “get it.” Even if they are not actively engaged with the campaign online, voters of all ages prefer campaigns that they perceive to be doing digital well. Both older and younger caucus goers we spoke with believed campaigns should invest more resources online.

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