Don’t just lock down, Look Up!

There are digital opportunities for progressive campaigners amid the Covid crisis

“Now’s not the time to be political.”
“We need to rally behind the government.”
“Political point-scoring isn’t appropriate at a time like this.”

Sound familiar? And I guess it feels mostly true. But this doesn’t mean progressives should put away our campaign pants and settle back on the couch to rewatch Tiger King. Where there are incumbent conservative governments, the inevitably-impending austerity measures will be used not just in reaction to our post-covid economic challenges, but also a trojan horse to deliver right-wing goals of stripping back public investment and social spending. And with elections scheduled later this year across the Balkans, progressive campaigners in Europe need to be prepared for the onslaught, and fighting fit – more Eye of the Tiger than Joe Exotic. The good news is locking down now actually delivers many great opportunities for us to arm ourselves with the digital campaign arsenal we need for when the austerity attacks begin.

Get your Digital House in Order

All those training programmes and desk admin you’ve been thinking about getting done for months, years maybe, but the busyness of campaign life always got in the way? Now’s the time to get it done. In-person canvassing may be on hold, but use the lockdown period to introduce a digital organising tool (such as from my compatriots, Ecanvasser), and train your teams and volunteers in how to use the software so you’ll be ready to hit the ground running -literally- with a digitised field strategy. Build out those planning frameworks in the cloud: we won’t be gathering around a whiteboard again for some time, but brainstorming in a google doc makes it easier to refer back to in the future. Set up (or clean up) that shared creative library, with all the video and image assets you’ll use in your digital advertising. Make sure your CRM is fully integrated with your campaign strategy, your data sets are well-organised and feeding into all your digital buying channels (and vice versa). It may sound dull, and it doesn’t have to spark joy, but doing a spring clean of your data and digital systems now will pay huge dividends down the road.

Get Sociable on Social

We’re all getting used to Zoom calls with friends – and we all agree they’re not as good as the real thing. But speaking directly, face to camera, brings a degree of personal connection we all crave right now. For politicians and candidates, using social media – from Facebook to Instagram to Snapchat – to speak directly to constituents can start to build those personal relationships, almost as though they’re 1:1. You can be your authentic self, without the polish of a politician in parliament or on tv, and the natural humanity you bring to these in-person engagements will not only help build your personal brand, you’ll also help bring people with you, as they see you as both a leader and a friend. Just ask Jacinda Ardern how it’s done.

Virtual = Accessible

For campaigns who had planned rallies or donor events this summer, moving them online might feel like a disappointment, without the buzz and face-to-face connections. But virtual conferences and live Q&As provide accessibility to audiences who would never previously have been able to attend our real-world events: people with different abilities, living in remote locations, with young families, caring responsibilities, or anyone who just doesn’t have the time to attend campaign events – chances are, they’re now able to attend your virtual conference. Take this as an opportunity to develop in-house capacities for online conferencing – there are technical elements to be finessed around, for example, multi-channel live-streaming; but also to get comfortable with building rapport with audiences through online media, knowing how and when to vary your tone as you might in different real-world contexts. Virtual conferencing should not only be a covid-avoider, but also offer an ongoing way to connect with our audiences inclusively and accessibly. Invest in a tripod for your phone, a lapel mic and maybe a little ring-light; you’ll still get plenty of use out of them once lockdown lifts.

Digital Ad prices are Down ↓

With less competition in the online ad auctions across search and social, as commercial advertisers suspend their spend, auction-winning CPMs and CPCs are reportedly lower. If you’ve been planning a paid campaign to diversify your Likes with an under-represented social demographic, or to drive donations for your cause, you’ll get better value from digital advertising than ever before. Plus, with most of us spending longer online each day, there are more available ad slots in our newsfeeds, and we’ve more time to watch those videos or read those posts. Taking advantage of low ad prices not only saves your campaign money, but helps build your community of supporters now, at a time when many of us are looking for hopeful, positive movements to be part of. Don’t hold onto your pursestrings until the full distraction of normal life returns and the attention economy bounces back.

Digital Donations are Up ↑

People can be great sometimes, eh? Now is one of those times. While we’re all feeling a bit sad and challenged by covid and lockdown, some even more than others, we’ve responded by donating to causes online more than ever before. Donations in the UK are up 59% according to Revolut, with more than half the UK population making at least one donation in the last month, and a third of regular donors giving more money than usual. So, though the gala dinner you planned or the sponsored half marathon may be off for now, that doesn’t mean you should put your fundraising efforts on hold too. Make sure your capacity to receive online donations is in tip-top shape – signup with Facebook Donate, and check that the flow of your on-site donations processor is quick and easy for prospective donors (and fully-cookied for conversion tracking). Bring your fundraising activities online: what elements of your calendar could you make ‘virtual’? What peer-to-peer fundraising could people engage in while social distancing? The gala dinner won’t deliver, but could you auction a virtual meet-and-greet with your political leader or celebrity? The marathon might be a non-starter, but maybe supporters could walk a mountain up their stairs at home?

Getting creative with online donations planning – as with all the digital activities above – is essential now, to keep our organisations afloat, our supporters engaged and our opponents on the back-foot. But digitally-transforming your campaign will be the gift that keeps on giving, long past covid. Let’s seize the opportunity now and embrace the changes lockdown requires, but keep on looking up towards a better future for us all.

If you’re looking for help with your campaign in any of the areas above – or beyond – ODV Digital specialise in groundbreaking digital campaigning for progressive movements. Get in touch with us for (zoom) chat!

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