Monday, June 7, 2010

In the spirit of election season, we’re releasing 8 tips for developing an online Political marketing strategy or GOTV campaign in the Cloud. We’re not experts in Political Marketing but we manage our share of virtual phone banks and polling around this time of the year. These tips are based on research and conversations we have with our valuable political clientele. This is not an attempt at defining an all-encompassing online political marketing campaign - instead we hope you find a strategy or two for your political campaign that you haven’t yet executed. We left out the more obvious suggestions like, “make decisions using data and analytics,” “design a great website” and “respond to email.” Instead we attempt to highlight trends in online political warfare specifically in the 2010 election cycle. We’d love to hear your feedback!

#1 Market your candidate in search results on Google and Bing

Around election time people will be searching these and other search engines by candidate name. (ex: “Barbara Boxer”, “barbara boxer ca”, “barbara boxer vs”, “barbara vote california”). Your search result should appear for similar queries and any relevant permutations. If your budget permits, consider showing your candidates ad whenever someone searches for the names of political opponents. This isn’t considered poor form – we see it as a public service to voters. Consider using multi-variate testing to determine Ads that drive the highest clickthrough from the cloud.

  • Pros: National reach, highly targeted
  • Cons: Expensive, $1-5/click

#2 Place site-targeted ads for your candidate on Political websites

Content match advertising allows you to place video or text ads for your candidate across various websites and mobile devices. Consider targeting geographically relevant local news websites and the political news sections of nationally read publications like,, and

  • Pros: Less expensive than search advertising, target the long tail.
  • Cons: Untargeted.

#3 Accept campaign contributions online, via telephone and snail mail

Make it blatantly obvious how supporters can donate to your campaign. Services like Google Checkout, and allow you to build web-forms to accept online donations. Use variant testing to measure the efficacy of different email designs, landing pages and call-to-actions for each donation push. Just a few days of A/B testing can reveal small percentage differences in donation levels and clickthrough rates. Seemingly simple variances in ad-copy and your call-to-action text can result in considerable (in some cases double-digit) percentage changes in your collections efforts. (Fast forward to minute 18:00 to watch Dan Siroker discuss how small changes in user interface design can change donation outcomes. )

  • Pros: Inexpensive to set up, collect more donations than ever.
  • Cons: More money, more problems. Just kidding, none that we can think of!

#4 Enable volunteers to make voter-outreach calls from home

Lets face it, some volunteers (like some employees) prefer to work from home. In 2008 and 2010 we saw an increase in on-demand Virtual Call Centers usage by political folk. Solutions like CallFire’s own Cloud Call Center and Five9's Virtual Call Center software allow groups to enable the long-tail of their volunteer base who may live in geographically distributed areas of the United States. Cloud power dialing solutions like these allow volunteers to work from home, the beach or phone banking location with just a cell phone and laptop - and allow real-time telephone targeting in the areas your campaign needs it most. Because it’s web-based, you can change the script for your volunteers and collect statistical data in real time that can change the outcome of an election.

  • Pros: Low cost because volunteers use a cell phone & their own laptop (no hardware or software), harness more volunteer hours, allow volunteers to work from home.
  • Cons: Volunteer training is required.

#5 Survey your population via telephone and social media

Make calculated efforts to collect data on your voting population with online & telephone surveys. For example Facebook and Twitter support applications like RealPolls which provide easy tool to survey Facebook users. Short, fun surveys provide an interactive way for voters to find friends with a similar political lens while providing your campaign team invaluable data on voter preferences. Toll Free feedback hotlines can easily be set up using a Cloud ivr system like CallFire or Angel. Advertising an anonymous feedback hotline allows voters to freely voice their opinions, giving them the opportunity to be heard.

  • Pros: Analytics galore, survey dozens or millions instantly, low cost, send automated outbound surveys or inbound toll free hotlines.
  • Cons: Tough egg to crack, multiple survey types and iterations may be required.

#6 Tailor communication by age, location & political affiliation

If you’re mobilizing volunteers for phone banking, ensure voter-lists are paired with volunteers of similar backgrounds. Similar backgrounds creates an ethos of trust with the recipient and increases the chances they will discuss issues of mutual importance. For email campaigns, be sure to address issues important to that specific voter. We’re not suggesting you create 100 different variations of your email blasts - but splitting them up by major 2-3 age groups and 3-5 political affiliations may allow your team to leverage key issues that are more important to one demographic than another. For example, you might want to target a 25 year old male voter with an email describing your candidate’s Gov2.0 transparency initiative - but on that same day a 70 year old female voter might receive an email regarding women’s rights issues. Electronic communication affords you relevance and micro-targeting like never before - take advantage of it!

  • Pros: Connect with voters on a personal level, make outreach relevant.
  • Cons: Time consuming and resource intensive.

#7 Try the “Google Surge” (no, it’s not a dance move)

The phrase ‘Google Surge’ (also known as a “network blast”) refers to practice of buying all online ad real-estate for a single ad-network in a given geo-targeted area. For example Carly Fiorina may consider buying much of the online real-estate on Google, Bing & Yahoo’s network for any user with a California based IP-address. A network surge can cost anywhere from $1M-20M per surge but ensures thousands in your geographic area *will almost definitely* see an ad from your candidate.

  • Pros: Network surges are highly effective at getting last-minute eyeballs on your candidate.
  • Cons: Extremely expensive

#8 Partner with an experienced Political Technology company

Experience trumps all, so if you’re late to the game and don’t want to architect your Cloud campaigning solutions in-house, we suggest you find a great technology partner. We recommend a company like or an experienced creative political consultancy like If you can’t afford one - a good start to your cloud campaigning efforts should include the implementation of a hosted CRM platform to manage your outreach efforts. Consider or For those of you with in-house techies - consider an open source option like SugarCRM, and OpenCRX. Remember, to accurately measure your outreach efficacy you must first define quantifiable success metrics!

The modern political campaign seeks not only brand awareness, but also requires interaction and voter education for a big win. Always question your assumptions, rely on real-time data feeds and create innovative ways to connect with potential voters.

Good luck from the CallFire team! 877.897.FIRE

For your reference

Patrick Michael Kane - Technology driven political advocacy expert, CTO & founder. Former lead technology consultant for,, OFA and clients.

Brian Donahue - Political Consultant & Founder of Mr. Donahue has managed 4 Federal election campaigns and served on 2 presidential campaign staffs and Headed national 72-hour Task Force for RNC. Mr. Donahue also served as the Executive Director for Bush-Cheney '04.

Dan Siroker Video: "How We Used Data to Win the Presidential Election" Stanford University & Dan Siroker - the former Data Analytics Manager for the Obama campaign.

Election Assistance Commission - Data from 2008 Download the full report as zip.