In Sunday's Star Ledger there was a little blurb (I looked on NJ.com but couldn't find it in 5 seconds so no link for you) about a blogger starting a petition and a website to draft State Senator Jennifer Beck (R-Monmouth) for NJ's first Lt. Governor. I was actually going to make a generic post on how politicians should get a jump start on 2009, but I'll use Anthony Del Pellgrino's grassroots effort as the example.
WHY IT IS IMPORTANT TO START NOW FOR 2009 ELECTIONS
- Build Your Online Tools Now - It used to be you can throw up a website, hope people show up but in the end you'd rely on proven techniques like phones, mail, radio, and if you were big enough TV. You'd work the backrooms in NJ politics and all of that takes time, money, and staff. Building a website takes a fraction of the dollars needed to run a full campaign and like Anthony, you can put up a decent site with all of the tools using Wordpress (I put my board of ed site up in a few hours with a total amount spent of $15). Basically to get started, you need a marketing plan and maybe ONE PERSON who knows what they are doing online.
- Social Networking Supporters Don't Just Magically Appear - I wrote a great post called Why Weren't We More Social which examined some false conclusions regarding Senator McCain's social marketing techniques. The net take away is that you must start early to really have a conversation and get people involved. That means building a blog, a Facebook page, a YouTube channel, a Twitter account, and your email-supporter list. Anthony gets it right by starting now.
- If You Build It, Will They Come? - Grassroots efforts require seeding - that is people and supporters who are willing to put in time without any long term promises. They need to make comments on NJ blogs, link to other sites, drive traffic, and put the tools at people's disposal to spread the messages. Basically, you need to direct supporters onto NJ blogs, news sites, NJ popular sites, etc to generate activity. As with any grassroots efforts and without paid advertising, this means you need time to gain critical mass.
- Earned Media Is Your Best Friend - One of my major lessons learned from Senator McCain's campaign and specifically campaign manager Rick Davis is that even when you are down and out, earned media is your best friend. That means you need to make yourself available to the press - radio, TV, and print in order to get free media. Whether you are officially running or not, the press can do for you what a branding campaign can do for you - get you brand name recognition.
- Get Online Experience - Once you put together your marketing plan, you'll undoubtedly have groups of voters that skew online and other that don't. That doesn't mean that you can't use online tools to contact all of them, but you need to get experience with which ones work more effectively by your target groups. Plus, when you look at what you need to win at the state level, who knows how many votes you can get in the long tail. Anyway the beautiful aspect of online marketing is how measurable it is so you can optimize your efforts and get the experience needed before your competition does.
The only critique I'd make regarding Anthony's efforts are to ease up on the length of the posts and that's saying a lot coming from me. I don't know how he is doing on the other points above (petition right now has 5 signatures including Anthony) so it is unfair to critique. However, he is setting an example for NJ politicians on how to get a jump now on 2009.