The Democratic presidential primary debates taking place this week in Miami will give practitioners some fresh insight into the latest digital strategy around major campaign events.
But what if you’re on a race that’s not looking to clinch a major party presidential nod? There are still digital debate strategies that practitioners can take away from what’s being used by the top-ticket campaigns. These practices are about more than just “winning the night,” but that’s where campaigns should start.
For Daniel Bassali of GOP firm Go BIG Media, a campaign needs to start by working the referees. “Frame the debate by running provocative ads beforehand around newsrooms and the debate hall,” said Bassali.
Then when your candidate gets on stage, make sure he or she makes a digital plug. “Have your candidate incorporate digital assets such as your website or text keyword from the debate stage,” he said.
After the debate, Kristen Luidhardt, a GOP digital consultant with the Prosper Group, recommends being ready to highlight the candidate’s best moments. “[S]end fundraising emails out with the best highlights, and monitor social media to capture the volume and sentiment of reactions.” Follow that up by monitoring social media for reaction.
Gauging supporters’ reactions online can work in the place of A/B message testing as time is limited. In fact, waiting for those results, or a layered approvals process to play out can see an opportunity disappear.
“The ones that understand this and take their digital strategists’ lead on debate night will have the best shot at ‘winning’ the night,” said Kyle Tharp, of ACRONYM, a Democratic digital shop.
Another time-saving tip: prepare templates for static social graphics, email copy and ads in advance. Early manning of the battle stations, said Democratic digital consultant Cheryl Hori of Pacific Campaign House, can help a campaign “to control the narrative around the biggest issues of the debate.”
Eric Wilson, a GOP digital consultant with LearnTestOptimize, said it’s up to campaigns “to have their organic and paid conversion funnels as finely tuned as possible.”
He recalled that while working for Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) presidential in 2016, the fundraising boost from the debates was critical. “Debates are like a firehose of attention and your job is to not spill a drop,” Wilson said.