A fascinating new report from two environmentally oriented foundations – Brainerd and Wilberforce – slices and dices the Obama For America online campaign of last year and offers some interesting conclusions not entirely in keeping with the media hype.
You can access the report – Online Tactics & Success – An examination of the Obama For America New Media Campaign – here.
The 42-page analysis concludes that, while the Obama team did a remarkable job utilizing email and the web in the 2008 campaign, the online success had more to do with the candidate than the technology. “The energy and enthusiasm of Obama supporters was unprecedented in modern elections,” the report says, allowing the new media team the daily – or hourly – ability to push a great “product.”
The foundations commissioned the analysis in order to learn what lessons non-profits should take away from the Obama campaign, but there is something here for everyone interested in how the Internet is remaking communication.
Like much of the rest of Obama’s historic march to the White House, the brilliance of the online campaign was in the quality of its execution. The report’s authors highlight seven key findings.
- Discipline: Develop best practices and stick with them. “ONLY send content that you know your supports will value.” And, have the discipline “to stay ON message.”
- The Right People: Obama campaign manager David Plouffe saw to it that the new media effort wasn’t organized as part of communications or finance, but as a stand alone part of the campaign. He then recruited top people from CNN, Google and Madison Avenue to staff what became an 81 person unit.
- Spotlight on Supporters: “The campaign made a concerted and deliberate effort to keep the spotlight on the people who supported Obama, and not just on the candidate.”
- Nimbleness: “The campaign was able to turn on a dime and launch a fundraising email within hours of [Sarah] Palin’s speech” criticizing “community organizers.” The email generated $11 million in contributions in a single day.
- Authenticity: “OFA managed to do something unique – share real, inside campaign information with its supporters, while making that information accessible and meaningful. Plouffe said: “Nothing is more important than authenticity. People have very sensitive bullshit-o-meters.”
- Content Matters: “From top notch emails, to 1,800 videos, to amazing graphic design, the new media team demonstrated a serious focus on content.”
- Data-Driven Culture: “More than any campaign in history, OFA was a data-driven operation.” The campaign created a six-person analytics team and tested and measured every aspect of the online program. “Entire projects were scrapped because the data showed they were not effective.”
The Brainerd/Wilberforce report offers this observation underscoring the essential requirement of any successful campaign – skillful execution:
“Fundamentally, the most successful elements of OFA’s new media program were not new. OFA’s new media team simply executed the same core strategies than many nonprofits have used for years – but they did so flawlessly.”