One of the most important skills a digital strategist needs but is rarely on a job description is the ability to successfully advocate for resources. With its current, overly broad definition “digital” in politics straddles both organic and paid activities. That means decision makers are often confused about why a digital program needs resources and will be reluctant to invest.
At the same time, digital practitioners need to do a better job of lobbying for the resources they need and show clear results from digital spending.
Here’s how you can build a case to increase your campaign’s or organization’s investment in online efforts.
Try Before You Buy
First, you’ve got to exhaust every existing option available to you before you go asking for additional resources. If you’re trying to grow your email list for fundraising, try getting as many donations as you can from your existing list. Make sure your site is optimized for collecting emails from organic traffic that you get. Create petitions, surveys, and lead magnets and share them organically on social media and with your supporters.
Your paid efforts should be used to scale what’s already working – that’s a much easier case to make when you have results and data in hand.
Connect Inputs to Outputs
As part of your early experiments you should identify data that will help decision makers connect inputs to outputs. For example, you could say, this petition reached 1,000 people organically on Facebook and we got 100 of them to convert and then 10 of those also donated. You can then credibly make the case that paying to promote the petition on Facebook for a certain budget would then yield a given outcome.
This aligns digital with the analog media decision makers are used to. With a specified budget they know how many TV points, doors knocked, mailboxes stuffed, and ID calls they can get.
Develop Competitive Intelligence
Dig into the public data you can access about your opponent to create benchmarks for your own campaign. The new ad archives provided by Google, Facebook, and Twitter give you much richer data that you should be monitoring daily.
I want to be very clear here: I’m not talking about spending money to get parity on likes or followers, which is a losing game.
Use your opponent’s spending levels on these platforms to advocate for your own budget. Also dig into fundraising reports to learn more about their online fundraising operation and put together a plan for how your candidate can close the small dollar fundraising gap.
You need advocates to help you make the case for increased investment in your campaign’s digital efforts. Identify the individuals, both within and outside the campaign, that influence decision making. Share with them the information you’ve found in your initial efforts.
It’s also a great example of “managing up” to let these people know early on how hard you’re working so they can be your advocates as decisions about resource allocation are made.
Finally, you’ve got to be patient. In politics, money comes in fits and starts. I’ve had budget requests languish for weeks or months and then have more money allocated than I know what to do with. You should have your requests laid out early and clearly so when the money does come, you’ll be able to benefit.
Advocating for your digital program is one of the most important responsibilities of a digital director on a campaign or within an organization and it’s a skill set that too often goes under-appreciated.