Unlike other parts of your campaign, digital can’t be turned on a few months before election day. In order to have this crucial piece of your campaign in place and ready to go a year from now, you should already be started. Digital infrastructure is a 24/7/365 proposition.
There’s no other part of your campaign that works around the clock. Having your website ready now pays dividends in Google search next year. Sending a steady volume of email to your list now means it will be delivered to the inbox next year. If you delay investing in this critical infrastructure, it won’t be running on all cylinders for you on Election Day a year from now.
It’s also important to remember that you have no idea what is going to happen in the next year. Your digital infrastructure needs to be ready to handle an immediate influx in attention if a major news story happens or if you decide to change races if a vacancy opens up.
This is a high level overview of what you should be preparing now so your online campaign is in place to help you win on Election Day, one year from now.
Audit Digital Assets
Make a list of all of the online tools and properties you’ve used in the past, including your website, social media accounts, email marketing software, donation platform, and your domain registrar. Ensure that you can login to each of them. Test all of the pages on your website, including volunteer, contact, and donation forms to ensure they’re working. Make sure your domain name registrar (typically GoDaddy) has a valid credit card so your campaign URL won’t expire.
It may seem like a hassle now, but you’ll thank me when you’re not scrambling to track down a password from a campaign staffer from two years ago who now lives in a different state for access to your Twitter account.
Bonus Tip: Get serious about your cybersecurity and use a password manager (I like LastPass) to generate and store strong passwords. You can even share access to different team members securely.
Warm Up Your Email List
If you haven’t sent to your email list in a while, you have some work to do building up your sender reputation and it’s likely that some of the email addresses on your list are no longer active. Start by sending an email to a small segment and then over the course of a week send to larger and larger segments.
Once you’ve warmed up your list, make sure you’re sending an email at least weekly to maintain your good sending reputation.
Start List Building
You have to start paid list building efforts now. This isn’t optional. Your Democrat opponent will have access to a huge online fundraising community. Chances are you won’t be able to beat them with online donations but you can’t afford not to narrow that gap to blunt their advantage.
It takes, on average, 45-90 days between the time a supporter joins a list and then decides to donate. If you wait until September of next year to start building your list, that window is beyond your Election Day. The sooner you start building your list, the sooner you will start getting donations
Identify Online Allies
Grassroots activists are already talking about your race online. You should start building and renewing those relationships now. Encourage your supporters to “raise their hands” online and embrace them. Create groups on Facebook and Twitter and email for social sharers. Do Facebook live videos where you interact with supporters.
You’ll want these allies in your corner when a controversy arises so you can ensure your side of the story is heard.
Interview Vendors and Agencies
Even if you’re not going to start using them yet, have them identified so they can do things like placing an advertising retargeting pixel on your site and they’ll be ready if an opportunity pops up. Again, you don’t want to be scrambling to build out a team when something unexpected happens for your campaign because every hour that goes by is an opportunity lost.
Refresh Your Visual Brand
If you’re like most campaigns, you probably didn’t spend much time thinking about your campaign logo, but you’ve got time to do it right now. The main things to consider in a refreshed logo are whether it has an element that can be used as an icon online, are there versions for light and dark backgrounds, and is it easily readable at a distance for uses like yard sign.
Schedule a Photo Shoot
You need photos for everything you do online, whether it’s social media, link previews, email, or ads. Your direct mail team will also benefit from a photo shoot. Plan it for a whole day. Change clothes, scenery, and extras. Hire a professional and do it right and you’ll be good for a whole year.
As an incumbent, your main advantage is time. Don’t squander it by failing to put critical digital campaign infrastructure in place. You need to get started now, not only paying attention to it, but also by investing in your online campaign with paid efforts early.