The average American voter is unaware of the pervasiveness of calculated marketing within political campaigning. However, as marketers, we’re extremely cognizant of just how much branding goes into campaigning efforts – at any level. And while there will always be a place for radio spots and television ads, the truth is that a healthy majority of political politicking is happening online in the form of content marketing.
The value of content marketing for politicians
You’ll often hear people debate the value of content marketing. Digital marketers, business owners, and entrepreneurs are forever intrigued at the thought of quantifying their efforts and want to place a price tag on investments like social media, blogging, and video marketing. Well, to the dismay of many, there’s no way to accurately value your content marketing efforts. This is largely because it’s impossible to define “reach.”
As a marketer, you have easy access to statistics and analytics. You can tell exactly how many impressions a blog post attracted, or how many shares a social media post received; however, that’s where it stops. You’ll never know the true impact. What effect did that blog post have on your readers? Did your social media post encourage customers to make a purchase? Unfortunately, these are difficult questions to answer.
What we do know is that content marketing facilitates positive results that extend far beyond what a Google Analytics account can measure. The viral nature of the internet means a blog post that took an hour to write could end up being read 100,000 times. A brief post on social media could end up being seen by 5 million users.
Content marketing is a cost effective solution to a dispersed marketplace that’s hungry for real-time news and developments. In terms of political campaigning – which is essentially brand building on a grand scale – content marketing has opened up a world of opportunities for candidates at all levels of government.
“If you’re going against a veteran or incumbent who’s been around for any length of time longer than yourself, you can expect they have better name recognition and probably will outspend you throughout the campaign,” writes marketer Chris Lee. Interestingly, content marketing has leveled the playing field. Within a matter of weeks, a candidate with little name recognition and a small budget can begin to make noise. Content marketing is a true game changer – don’t underestimate it.
2008: The campaign that changed everything
When you study the use of content marketing in political campaigning efforts, it’s clear that a fundamental shift occurred during the 2008 campaign for the White House. During this election, we saw a major transition away from print, radio, and television and towards the internet and social media. Spearheading that charge was then-senator Barrack Obama.
“Were it not for the internet, Barrack Obama would not be president,” Ariana Huffington, editor in chief of The Huffington Post, adamantly proclaimed in 2009. “Were it not for the internet, he wouldn’t even have been the democratic nominee. By contrast, the McCain campaign didn’t have a clue. The problem wasn’t the age of the candidate, it was the age of the idea.”
While those words rang true in 2009, they’re even more accurate as we look back after nearly seven years. “The tools changed between 2004 and 2008,” said political consultant Joe Trippi. “Barrack Obama won every single caucus state that matters, and he did it because of those tools, because he was able to move thousands of people to organize.”
In particular, Trippi applauds Obama’s team for their ability to leverage YouTube during his first campaign for the Oval Office. The content they created was viewed for 14.5 million hours. In order to purchase 14.5 million hours of broadcast television, it would have cost roughly $47 million.
In the next section we’ll discuss more examples of how politicians have used content marketing to expand their influence, but here’s what you really need to know. Content marketing works for everyone. Whether you’re a businessman running for a small position in your small town, or a career politician hoping to land a position in Washington, content marketing works. The key is finding the proper way to align your content marketing efforts so that they match your campaign goals.
How candidates have leveraged online content
The great thing about content marketing is that it’s continually evolving. As technology changes, so do the content mediums we use. Here are a couple examples of how content marketers and candidates have gotten creative in the past.
- During his 2012 campaign for the White House, Obama was able to successfully leverage social media to raise nearly $9 million from small donors for a fundraising event he hosted at George Clooney’s house. He and his team aggressively pushed the event via social media, SMS, and email, showing that content marketing can produce real results.
- The GOP shows us the importance leveraging every bit of space you have. In the 2012 campaign, when democrats were making fun of the right for being less tech-savvy, the GOP had a little laugh with their 404 error pages. They put up this image of Hillary Clinton, showing that content marketing success is sometimes found in the smaller details.
- Donald Trump. “At the heart of Donald Trump – the man, the brand and now the candidate – is a deft deployment of content marketing,” writes Austin Talbert, a content marketer himself. Trump’s team has done a tremendous job of creating stellar content – largely based around bold quotes and contrarian ideas – which has helped him attract a large social media following.
Putting it all together
In the end, it’s clear that social media has tremendous value in political campaigning. Whether you’re running for treasurer of a small town or president of the United States, social media, blogging, and video marketing are extremely valuable. They allow candidates to increase their reach without blowing through their budgets. It’s really an incredible marketing tool and clearly shows how far the marketing industry has come over the course of the past decade. It will surely be interesting to take another look back in five or ten years.
If you want a whole set of tips to generate leads with content marketing such as ways to repurpose your content into other forms, insights on which format you should focus on, techniques to measure the results and other data points, download the eBook “How to generate leads through Content Marketing“.
Image by Alex Proimos.