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Election 2014 - Engaging the Candidates - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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Election 2014 - Engaging the Candidates

By Pam Fielding

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's Connectivity blog.

Primary season for the 2014 midterm election is almost halfway over. As the summer starts to heat up, so do general election campaigns. For those in the advocacy space, that means there is a whole universe of candidates to start engaging now.

Advocacy efforts often target those who are in office. But the months leading up to an election offer the perfect time to get your issues in front of the candidates vying for those seats. Now is the time to start motivating advocates to reach out to the candidates.

While candidates are not able to change policy right now - and if they lose may never be able to - it's still important to begin engaging them in the early stages of the campaign season. An election cycle is a learning experience for many politicians. It's the time of the year when they're interacting with and listening to their constituents. Looming election days often sharpen the politician's awareness of what constituents are concerned about.

One need only look to the stump speeches politicians deliver every day to see the impact of getting your issues in front of them. During the 2012 campaign, Mitt Romney often spoke about the people whom he had met on the campaign trail and the stories of their real-life problems. By encouraging your stakeholders to engage with candidates, you can infuse your issue into the discussion.

Influencing candidates offers many benefits to your advocates and organization. First, by helping a candidate understand the importance of your issue, it is more likely he or she will begin to interject it into the campaign discussion. This increases the possibility of your issue getting more airtime. And if an opponent starts talking about your issue, it will often force the incumbent to also discuss it, too, and take a stance on the matter. If a candidate you've influenced is victorious in November, you have already laid the important groundwork to have engagement with the new officeholder.

Organizations can help their advocates connect with the candidates in many ways. Like advocacy campaigns targeted at office holders, you can and should encourage your stakeholders to email the candidates. Since President Barack Obama turned the political landscape upside down by using social media, more candidates are keeping robust accounts on Facebook, Twitter and other platforms. Encourage your stakeholders to engage candidates in their districts by tweeting at them or posting on their Facebook pages.

It can also be easier to arrange face-to-face meetings with those running for office. A candidate will try to get as much interaction with likely voters as possible, so setting up meetings allows the candidate and your organization to both achieve their goals. You can use the opportunity to help brief a candidate on issues of importance by providing a candidate guide on your issue area, positioning yourself as a resource for issues affecting your industry or cause.

Encourage advocates to schedule meetings with candidates at their campaign offices. Ask the candidate's campaign for a schedule so that advocates can attend voter meetings at local restaurants, schools and community organizations. Campaign season is also a great time to invite candidates to your organization's headquarters or where you have a large presence. By hosting a meet and greet, your stakeholders have the ability to interact with the candidate and explain their concerns. It's also a value-add for your members, allowing them easy access to those running for office.

If you want to help drive your agenda with candidates, consider conducting polling or focus groups on your issue area in key districts or states and ask voters how important the issue is to their Election Day decisions. Sharing this information with candidates could put your issue at the top of their agenda and make it a key talking point on the stump.

Waiting until the election is over is too late to start talking about your issue with new candidates. By engaging your stakeholders and mobilizing them around the election, your issues can become an important part of the campaign discussion and give you a head start with new office holders.


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The power of Mom - SevenTwenty Strategies

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The power of Mom

By Pam Fielding

This post appeared in CQ Roll Call's new Connectivity blog

It's almost Mother's Day and 180 days until Election 2014.  Of course it's a good time to send a card or some flowers - but for public affairs professionals, it's an even better time to reflect on the power and impact moms have on our country.  Ann Romney got it right when she said, "It's the moms of this nation - single, married, widowed - who really hold this country together...You're the ones who always have to do a little more."  For those of us advancing issues in the legislative session, in the community, or in an election, the power and potential of America's moms can't be overstated.   

How will moms vote in the upcoming midterm Congressional elections, the first since the implementation of the 2010 health care reform law? While it may not be crystal clear just yet, it's crucial to remember that American women make 80 percent of the healthcare decisions for their families, according to the Department of Labor, and $2.7 trillion in annual consumer spending decisions.  And that decision-making power will weigh heavily on them and candidates as moms head to the ballot box.

Over the years, we've been called lots of things:  Soccer Moms, Walmart Moms, and this year, if Michael Bloomberg has his way, perhaps Gun Safety moms.

The former New York City mayor is banking $50 million this election cycle on Everytown for Gun Safety, an umbrella entity for two gun safety groups he controls, including Moms Demand Action for Gun Safety, whose aim is to make gun safety an issue in this election.

The big question for those of us who believe in the power of mom to impact this election and this legislative session, is how will we reach her and what will we say when we do?  The good news is, we moms are overwhelmingly online.  Ninety percent of us use the Internet, according to Edison Research.  And increasingly, we're part of a growing momosphere.  In fact, 3.9 million U.S. moms identify themselves as bloggers.

Moms aren't "one size fits all," of course, and that's what makes it fun and challenging for advocacy professionals to do what we do for a living.  Moms need to be understood and communicated with - recognizing all the things we are and care about.

Moms are social media mavens. In fact, a joint study with BabyCenter.com and comScore found moms are 20 percent more likely to engage on social media than the general population.  So how do you reach mom?  Give them social media content that feeds their interests and give them the tools to make a difference.

In a study done this February, Yahoo's advertising department found 70 percent of moms are more responsive to online ads that relate to their current online activities.

Yahoo also found that 25 percent of moms say they have a higher affinity with brands that sponsor content that interests them - like sponsoring recipes or sites that provide tips for dealing with children.

Big data opportunities abound to reach mom, whether you head to the voter file or commercial lists.  But before you press send on your email, know this:  millennial moms and baby boomer moms have varying online habits. According to a study by Yahoo, millennial moms are more likely to engage with social media, online video and streaming music. Baby boomer moms prefer more traditional forms of online content, like text articles.

Whether you blog, tweet, pin, email market or advertise, moms value content about topics that matter to them, are relevant to their current online activities, and feed their natural tendency to engage.

This Mother's Day, while you're pinning the corsage on mom - don't forget her favorite online equivalent (Pinterest, of course.)  And, be sure to recognize her undeniable power: as a social media influential, an advocate and a voter.

Happy Mother's Day, Moms.  You rule!

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Election Day 2014 – Are You Ready? - SevenTwenty Strategies

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Election Day 2014 – Are You Ready?

By Vlad Cartwright

It's hard to believe that in just six short months, Americans will be heading back to the polls, to cast their ballots in many pivotal races that will determine control of the U.S. House, Senate and state governments.

Every day that passes is one less day that your organization has to engage your stakeholders, whether they are PAC members, advocates, employees or association or coalition members. Many opportunities exist to build relationships with your stakeholders and educate them about the races. And if you get a head start now, there are creative and engaging ways you can encourage them to take part in their civic duty while advancing your PAC or advocacy goals.

Educating stakeholders around the elections isn't about wading into partisan politics. You can develop a non-partisan platform about civic participation and taking part in your constitutional rights. Successful PAC and advocacy programs excel at linking the impact of issues and elections and their communities and jobs, for example. With a few easy steps, you can set your audience up to be informed and engaged voters while at the same time, generating interest in your programs. Here are a few recommendations to consider today:

GOTV communications for employees, retirees and all other stakeholders...
Don't wait until October to start implementing your Get out the Vote program. Primary and general election registration deadlines vary by state and sneak up with little warning. Research these deadlines for your key states and communicate around them via your regular communication tools (you are communicating regularly, right?).  By developing an engagement calendar now, you will know when to communicate and what information to discuss. Communications can link stakeholders to your PAC or organization website where you can embed tools that allow users to register to vote, identify their polling place or learn about the candidates in a few easy clicks. If you have legislative action tools, you probably already have this content.  By doing this, you are turning your program website into a virtual civic participation engine! 

Develop a voter information toolkit...
Ramping up for the election early means you have time to get creative. You don't have to endorse specific candidates. But you can help your members make informed decisions.  Identify the key issues that you're focused on and turn them into engaging materials. By identifying the issues your stakeholders should consider when they head to the polls and providing information on where the various candidates stand, you have empowered them to make informed decisions.  A flier or issues pamphlet can be crafted to help stakeholders remember the issues you are focusing on this election. A poster in the break room reminding employees to vote (no matter who they vote for) is an easy way to increase engagement and drive traffic to your website.

Voter education video...
SevenTwenty has found that one of the most effective ways to share information and drive engagement is through video. Video can be engaging and help to promote civic participation and your particular programs.  When you start thinking about Election Day early, there is plenty of time to develop your own video message. Maybe you already have a Grassroots or PAC video that you use for recruiting and fundraising - based on its level of success, you may want to consider additional video content that promotes the value of your PAC and the importance of the elections.   

Plan events or conference calls with members...
From tele-townhall meetings to "Pizza (or pancakes) and Politics," staging a memorable event can help your members get excited about the process - and your programs. Is there an exciting race in the state where your company is headquartered? Reach out to the candidates and ask them to stop by and meet your employees. PAC members will appreciate value-added events and candidates are typically interested in direct outreach to voters. A conference call with a political prognosticator who can lay out what is happening in the political arena can be an easy way to generate interest in the election. Alternatively, you can have a leader in your Washington office hold a webinar or conference call to talk about their impressions of the coming election and what changes in political dynamics could mean for your issues.

 

So think about getting ahead of the game and being prepared for the upcoming elections.  Planning early will help you to create value for your stakeholders, build a more informed voter base and benefit your programs via increased traffic.      

 

Questions or comments?  Contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For more information on planning a successful GOTV program, contact SevenTwenty Strategies at 202.962.3955 or via email at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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SevenTwenty’s Chris Monnat on building a responsive, one-stop website - SevenTwenty Strategies

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SevenTwenty’s Chris Monnat on building a responsive, one-stop website

By Ginger Gibson

Editor's note: SevenTwenty Strategies is launching a new feature. We will begin regularly featuring some of the cutting edge and exciting work being done by our employees and offering you a chance to get to know the people behind the solutions. Check back for more exciting updates about the work being done at SevenTwenty.

 

Chris Monnat, chief technology officer at SevenTwenty Strategies, likens his job to that of a fire fighter - without the life-threatening task of putting out fires, of course.

Not only does he juggle the every day evolving needs of clients - from website creation to database production - but he's also thinking strategically about how to put out - or prevent - the next fire.

"The day-to-day is mostly finding the best way to take technology and mold and shape it to meet our clients needs," Monnat said. "It's looking at technology and things like responsive design and finding ways that it can benefit our clients." 

Responsive design is one of the newest ways that Monnat and his team are working to create websites that provide clients with a strong and creative first impression for their supporters.

What is responsive design? Monnat breaks it down simply: One website that is viewable in every browser and on every type of device.

Before, web designers would have to produce multiple websites so that if users surfed from home on their PC or on the road from their smartphone, the site would always look nice.

But now responsive websites detect what type of device and browser the visitor is using and adapt.  Users are viewing the same website, but pieces of it may change so that it adapts for their device.

"It's one stop, one source to serve all devices," Monnat said.

Having a well designed website is important, Monnat explains. If someone puts a lot of time into designing the site that users on a computer sees, but disregards the mobile version, there could be real repercussions.

He points to a study that found that the web surfing experience has a real impact on how people see the brand.

"Fifty seven percent, over half of users say they would not recommend a business with a poorly designed mobile site," Monnat explains.

And when trying to get visitors to our website to sign on to a campaign, that response becomes more important.

"We're dealing with advocacy," Monnat said. "You're counting on people's goodwill to spread the word. If you don't make it as simple and accessible as possible, you're shooting yourself in the foot."

He added, "When it's not accessible on their phone, they could be losing 50 percent of those going to take action, not spreading the world or spreading the word negatively."

There are lots of advantages to designing websites using responsive design, Monnat explains.

No matter what topic a website is addressing, eventually the content is going to need to be changed or updated. A responsive website only has to be changed in one place and then all versions of the site are adjusted. When dealing with the traditional setup - multiple sites for different browsers and devices - the content has to be changed several times. Trying to coordinate multiple changes is where errors and inconsistencies start to get introduced.

Is a responsive website always the best choice? Monnat said for most situations it is. Any site that is dealing with content - the written word, photos or videos - or is going to be updated frequently benefits from a responsive website.

The only exception Monnat finds are websites that are intended more as an experience than an information hub, particularly those that rely heavily on Flash or other interactive elements. 

 

Get to know Chris Monnat quickly:

When he joined SevenTwenty? September 2010

Where is he from? Rochester, NY

What's is favorite app? Microsoft's new One Note app for Apple products. He uses it to take notes in meetings and keep track of all the work that is going on. 

"I'm finally back in my note taking Nirvana," he said.

If Monnat could have an app to do anything? Clean his apartment.

One thing he isn't willing to give up for technology? Printed copies of magazines.

 

 

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Happy Halloween from SevenTwenty Strategies - SevenTwenty Strategies

SevenTwenty Strategies

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Happy Halloween from SevenTwenty Strategies

By Pam Fielding

Boo! Did we scare you? A Message to SevenTwenty Strategies clients and friends from our CFO (Chief Fright Officer)

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New FEC Ruling Paves the Way for Text-to-Donate Strategy - SevenTwenty Strategies

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New FEC Ruling Paves the Way for Text-to-Donate Strategy

By Vlad Cartwright

160 characters ... That's the limit of a standard text sent over Short Message Service (SMS). And those 160 characters can have significant influence on political operations. Since the 2008 election, campaigns and candidates have been using text messaging to engage their supporters to mobilize in support of shared causes with increasing frequency and success. Now, the text messaging game is changing in a new and potentially explosive way: fundraising.

An August ruling by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) cleared the way for campaign contributions to be sent via text message, adding a new and powerful arrow to the fundraising quiver. There's little doubt that fundraising via SMS has the potential to play an important role in identifying, growing and mobilizing a stronger donor and advocate base for those that take advantage of it. As seen in the wake of natural disasters, people can be quickly engaged and vast sums can be raised in short periods, such as $43 million in the wake of the 2010 Haiti earthquake. And we are excited about the new possibilities it presents for the organizations with whom we work.

For many potential donors, sending a pledge over text is far more convenient than filling out a form and entering payment details. And, for the organizations that leverage SMS, they are interacting through a technology that most of their donors and stakeholders use on a daily basis. Stakeholders and donors can now simply text "GIVE" to a designated number to donate to a campaign or PAC. Strategies such as this can help an organization successfully raise money and expand their contact lists.

According to Brett Kappel, a campaign finance lawyer at Arent Fox LLP, who worked to convince the FEC to allow contributions by text message, "Text message contributions have the potential to truly revolutionize the way PACs raise funds."

While the FEC ruling on texting unleashes a powerful new set of possibilities that can prove to be a game-changer to many candidates and organizations, there are still issues to work out with regard to the cost of overhead and collection of accurate donor information. However, smart organizations seeking thoughtful and intelligent application of this new tool will quickly find ways to perfect the process. Some may even seek to convert text donors to more traditional methods of engagement, while continuing to take advantage of the power of SMS to identify new donors and mobilize the grassroots.

As with any new opportunity, there are kinks to work out. However, supporters of the ruling, including both 2012 Presidential campaigns, which launched text-to-donate efforts in late August, lobbied the FEC to move on this for one reason: this technology can play a strong role in expanding their donor base and growing their grassroots advocacy missions. And we here at SevenTwenty Strategies certainly agree!

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When It Comes to Engagement Videos, Shorter is Better - SevenTwenty Strategies

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When It Comes to Engagement Videos, Shorter is Better

By Bear Baker

Think the length of an engagement video doesn't make much difference? Think again. In a recent study conducted by a video hosting service, it was found that a video's run time has a dramatic impact on how many people stick around past the first few seconds.

The study examined two videos - one 30 seconds in length, and one 90 seconds. The graph below reveals the "engagement rate" of the two videos. The top line represents the shorter video, while the bottom line shows the longer video. The content of each video was virtually the same - in fact, the first 30 seconds of the 90-second video IS the 30-second video - however the rate of decline is vastly different. By about 10-15 seconds in, viewers were much more likely to turn off the longer video than they were the shorter one.

 

Engagement decreases as time increases

 

 

Why? The average viewer is now beginning to look at the timeline at the bottom of the video to see how long the video is, and then quickly decide whether they want to invest their time watching your message.

When the study was drawn out to include videos of greater lengths, the metrics show that a steady drop off accompanies the growing length of videos studied. While a 1-2 minute video garners an engagement rate of over 65%, a 2-3 minute video only keeps a little over 50%.

 

Engagement decreases as time increases

 

Statistically, this has a profound effect on your communications strategy. While we'd like to say it all with one video, that's not the most-effective messaging solution. Aside from watering down the core message (contribute, participate, etc.), we're also losing viewers. If we can get the message out in less than 1 minute, we are most likely reaching close to 30% more people with that message than we would with a 3-minute video.

Now, if we make that video compelling, or fun to watch, then viewers are far more likely to watch an additional short video or click on a link to a webpage designed to take the viewer further into varying facets of the core message.

Today's technology has come a long way from the corporate video playing on a DVD/VHS combo TV on an A/V cart in the lunchroom. The days of the captive audience are over. Your communications strategy needs to take into account that viewers can now simply bounce off the webpage hosting your video without anyone noticing. At SevenTwenty Strategies we are continuously honing the craft of modern, digital communications for our clients. Let us help you with yours.

 

 

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