Traditional political campaigns often follow a specific schedule. Unfortunately, this is common amongst various committees and parties and leaves little room for originality and flexibility. Why, and how, should this planning evolve so that campaigns become more effective? We will answer this question in this article.
And as a bonus, we provide you with a free downloadable schedule to help you organize your very own political campaign.
A few weeks of preparation... only?
In Switzerland, political campaigns traditionally start a few weeks after the last vote or election. Posters and all households bloom 4 to 5 weeks before the key date.
Is this timing optimal to generate more votes in favour of one side or the other?
Unfortunately, absolutely not.
Try to remember the last time you voted. Has your opinion on the subject been formed in the past few weeks before the voting date? Really? Unless the subject is of very little importance to you, your choice was most likely made months in advance.
But then... why?
You may be wondering why we are sticking to this tradition of inefficiency?
Well, it’s the result of two forces.
1/ Institutions participating in political life
Parties, committees, organisations or lobbies and influence groups have to deal with 4 rounds of (national) elections or votes per year. In terms of preparation, we can well imagine that this is a lot to handle in one year. That is why, although there are people responsible for future campaigns, the machine often only starts working when the next vote is only three months away.
2/ The media of the 20th century
In the 20th century, the powerful and legal media outlets in Switzerland were posters, the press, and postal mailings to all households. Television and radio were excluded from the field of political marketing in Switzerland.
But these media outlets, billboards and newspapers are not precise in their targeting. And to exceed the visibility threshold, the forces are concentrated on a short time period of 3 weeks.
However, postal voting has been used in Switzerland for a long time. This spreads the voting act over 3 weeks instead of one day. The political groups that could afford it ran their campaigns for 6 weeks, i.e. 3 weeks before the Swiss population received their voting documents.
But let’s think about this for a little bit… is political opinion really formed by seeing a poster, seeing an advertisement in a newspaper, or receiving one of those damn flyers in our mailbox when it clearly says “No advertising” on it?
Certainly not… today, as well as in the past, political choices are made as we discuss, when we read, listen to podcasts or consume other types of media. And what we read in Switzerland today is largely determined by two companies, Google and Facebook.
Google is our Internet portal with the top 3 most visited sites in Switzerland in their portfolio. Facebook gives us the impression of choice, but how many times have we read an article from the Time, or watched a video from the BBC simply because it was shared by one of our friends?
How is one’s political opinion formed? Through discussions and reports of discussions as articles and topics in the media.
The way political issues are treated and votes take place spans over a long period of time. The earlier one starts with influencing the opinion building the easier it is to convince the public of your cause.
It is therefore important to plan the campaign well ahead and to amplify the messages that are in your favour.
Today, in the 21st century, we can influence how people should perceive political messages, we can shape discussions and de define what content is displayed. But in order to take advantage of that 3 months are definitely not enough. There too, two forces are at work.
1/ The authority note
Each search engine has its own SEO classification algorithm. The one from Google, called “RankBrain”, calculates the position of your site in real-time and according to a large number of criteria. Some of these criteria are known to the general public. There are many tools that allow you to audit and grade your website more or less precisely.
This grade determines the strength of your statement on a subject. And this note is largely driven by a site’s past. A website that has been there for a long time and has been talking about a specific subject for years has more authority than a site that has just appeared on the same subject.
Thus, if we want to be read and seen more often… well, we have to create content before others do, and on sites that have more authority. And yes, creating a campaign site is nonsense inherited from the time when we made brochures…
2/ Delivering the right message to the right person
Political marketing can be summed up as following: delivering the right message to the right person at the right time.
But in order to do this, it is necessary to be able to determine what the right message for each target group is. This takes time and will require A/B testing. Concerning the “at the right time” part: There is a good chance that this point in time will be earlier than during the last 6 weeks before the vote… so be careful not to miss your opportunity.
That’s why even though political marketing is no more expensive today than in the past, campaign planning is – or at least should be – completely different.
For it to be successful, it must contain, in addition to the strategic phase and the push phase, phases of A/B testing, community meetings, and site preparation.
Here, you can access an example of a planning format that I hope will help you defend your cause.
Are you interested in reading more about political marketing?
- In this article, find out whether you got all the elements ready to launch your next political campaign!
- Learn more about the dark tools of political marketing here.