About a month ago, I noticed a local PR colleague, Kelly Groehler, tweeting about a book she was writing (along with Dave Ladd, Greg Swanholm, and Bass Zanjani) about social media and political campaigns. I was instantly interested. For one, any time a friend writes a book (a huge undertaking) I’m curious and want to support. And second, social media and politics is a topic I haven’t written about much, but one I’m increasingly interested in (especially given this year’s elections).
So, I reached out to Kelly to see if I could get a copy of the book to review. She did me one better: She sent me an advance e-copy of the new book, Like: Seven Rules and 10 Simple Steps for Social Media in Your Campaign. Of course, then I sat on it for a few weeks–you know, client work and all 😉 But, I recently got around to reading the book.
The book’s a fairly fast read. Easy to scan and only 47 pages in total. So, I’d have no problem recommending it to political clients (not that I have any right now) who are most likely short on time.
As I read the book, I kept coming back to the seven rules Kelly, Dave, Greg and Bass laid out for political consultants, campaign managers and candidate themselves. While the rules weren’t exactly ground-breaking for those of us who have been working in this world for a few years now, I thought they represented key basics for politicos (especially those new to social) to keep in mind as they develop and execute campaigns in the years ahead.
Below are those rules–and my take on what they might mean for political advisors in the new media climate.
Rule 1: A campaign strategy without social media isn’t 100 percent complete.
I think I agree with this rule, even though the authors note Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton ran the better part of his successful run to the governorship without a significant social media component. The biggest issue here is resources and commitment, which are addressed in rules further on down the list.
Rule 2: Think about your personal brand, because it will be tested like never before.
My big question around this rule: Should politicians manage their own social profiles? Obviously that’s not possible for some politicians (President Obama, for instance). But, what about a state representative? What about a senator? What about the mayor? I think this one gets a little murky. Is it OK for agencies/consultants to generate content and share it via social networks on behalf of a brand? Yeah, I think we’ve cleared that hurdle by now. It happens every day. I advocate for the brand to actually manage their own communities. But, do agencies/consultants help out in developing the content? Sure. Now, with politicians, it’s a bit different in my view. These are actual people–not companies. So, the idea of a team of people generating content and sharing it on that person’s behalf, well that just seems kinda weird to me. It doesn’t seem genuine. It doesn’t engender trust. And, isn’t that what politicians are after?
Rule 3: The greatest influence on a voter is the opinion of someone the voter trusts.
For me, this one gets at another key issue. A big part of anyone that’s running for public office isn’t getting the “likes”, followers or unique visitors. It’s abou influencing attitudes, perceptions and ultimately behaviors of voters–and influencers of voters. Those are the people who will decide your candidate’s future. But, before you can influence, you need to build critical mass, so I guess generating “likes”, followers and uniques is a bit of a “chicken and egg” type situation. But, I also think political consultants would be wise to strategize and approach situations with that viewpoint in mind–it’s not all about the “likes”. It’s about influencing real behavior change. And, building that trust.
Rule 4: Know thy audiences and how to best engage them online.
The first thing I typically recommend when I start any client engagement is an audit. Political campaigns are no different. The authors walk you through the different components in the book. Audit your key audiences. Your competitors. Your existing presence (if you have one). What people are saying about you now. I’d put a lot of time and effort into the audit process on the front end–it’ll pay off 10 fold down the line.
Rule 5: Traditional media and social media are always — always — interconnected.
The authors note in the book that social media can be a “predictive tool for mainstream coverage.” Agreed. Even more so in “crisis”-type situations. Increasingly, traditional reporters are looking to social channels for sources and trends–essentially scanning places like Twitter and Facebook for potential stories each day. So, watch what they’re watching–and keep your eye on potential stories so you know where to insert your candidate, and your message, into those rapidly evolving stories.
Rule 6: The best defense is a strong offense.
Like the sports metaphor. I don’t have much to add here.
Rule 7: Manage social media. Every. Single. Day.
This is another interesting conundrum for politicians. See #2 above. As the authors note, social media needs to be monitored by candidates. Every day. But, how you monitor and stay on top of it is the key. Do you rely on the 21-year-old intern to monitor and keep you up to speed? I probably wouldn’t. Remember, social represents the pulse of the people. It’s your direct access to your constituents. Don’t take that lightly. Think carefully about how you want to resource this. The big challenge becomes how do you balance social along with more traditional opportunities. Which deserves more resources? These are the tough questions political consultants need to ask.
The last issue I think is interesting when it comes to social and politicians is the topic of sustainability. Let’s say a candidate uses social as a key part of his campaign (see #1 above). The candidate blogs frequently from the campaign trail–updating constituents on key issues and meetings. The team livestreams stump speeches from the road. But, then the candidate wins. She’s in office. And the posts trail off. The livestreams are few and far between. The candidate become less and less visible online.
Is this a viable option? I think most would agree no, but it’s something that does happen from time to time. And, it’s something to consider as you start your campaign. Will you have the commitment–and the resources–to pull this off long-term. I think that’s a very important question for candidates and political teams to ask themselves up front.
And those are my thoughts. Like I said, “Like” is a quick read. And, if you’re consulting those running for office, definitely worth a read. Kudos, Kelly, David, Greg and Bass.
Disclosure: I did receive a free, advance e-copy of the book, “Like” but was not paid or compensated for this review.
Note: Photo courtesy of owenwbrown via FlickR Creative Commons.