Inside a Top Political Campaign Strategist’s Mind

Campaigns require a wide range of skills and can be incredibly fast-paced. While the most sensitive positions such as communications and policy often go to people with inside connections, research can be a good introductory position. Our Engage event featured Mark McKinnon, who has been helping sculpt presidential campaigns for decades. He shared his insights with us on how to use political campaigns as a model for orchestrating content marketing.

Defining the Vision

As the name implies, a campaign strategy is a way to orchestrate the various marketing content elements of your business and align them with goals. It can be especially helpful when you have a large volume of existing content that can’t easily be organized into individual campaigns. Developing a campaign strategy can help you get the most out of your existing content and make it easier to generate interest in what your business has to offer.

Defining the vision for a campaign is important because it helps ensure that your entire team knows what they are working toward. A well-defined vision can provide clarity and inspiration to your team members as they work towards their goals and help keep them focused on the end result. It can also serve as a compass, allowing you to decide whether an opportunity is worth pursuing based on how much it moves you closer to your vision.

When creating your vision, it’s best to start with an aspirational goal and then break that down into specific objectives. It’s also important to use language that will inspire your team and evoke an emotional response from your audience. Try to avoid using vague and confusing language. It should also be easy to remember so that it can serve as a rallying call for your team when things get tough.

You can use a variety of tools to help you define your vision including scenario planning, critical path analysis, situational analysis, and story mapping. You can also use tools for exploring the underlying structural drivers of your issue and planning to shift power. These tools can be used in conjunction with one another or separately and are available in the Campaign Accelerator toolkit.

In addition to defining your vision, you’ll need to determine how realistic it is for your campaign to be successful. This requires a thorough understanding of your current state and a realistic assessment of your strengths, weaknesses, capabilities, and constraints. To develop a realistic assessment, you can use a range of resources available from the Campaign Strategy Library such as the Critical Path Analysis template and the Organizing: Start Here guide.

Identifying Your Target Audience

Identifying your target audience is the first step in creating a campaign strategy. The target audience consists of the people most likely to buy your product or service and are defined by demographics such as age, gender, location, occupation, and income. It also includes psychographics, which are characteristics of a person’s personality and thought processes.

This is important because a successful marketing campaign requires that you understand your potential customers and what they are looking for. To do this, you should analyze your existing customer base and find patterns in their purchasing behavior. For example, you can analyze which products they bought, how often, and when. Using this data, you can create a profile of your ideal customer, sometimes referred to as a buyer persona.

A buyer persona is a fictional person that represents the ideal customer of your business. You can develop a buyer persona by reviewing the demographic and psychographic information you have gathered on your existing customer base, as well as the information available on competitor websites. This can help you develop an effective campaign that will increase your sales.

You can find a lot of the information you need on competitors by using tools such as Ahrefs and Semrush, or simply looking at the demographics section of their website. By doing this, you can learn more about your competitors’ target audiences and identify a gap in the market that your company can fill.

Your target audience can be further divided into subgroups based on purchase intent, special interests, and so on. For instance, you can use Google Analytics to determine which countries your website visitors come from, what they are interested in, and what types of devices they are using to browse your site.

You can then use this information to tailor your messaging and marketing campaigns to better meet the needs of your target audience. For instance, you can offer discounts on your products to those who have already purchased them or send emails with relevant content, such as new additions to your product line or upcoming sales.

Developing a Plan of Action

In order to achieve a goal, you must break it down into measurable steps or actions. Each action should have a clear deadline or milestone that will allow for the team to check in with each other and the overall progress of the project. This is the time to discuss any potential issues that may arise during the project and find solutions that will keep the project on track.

Depending on the complexity of your campaign, you may choose to make each goal as specific as possible or leave some wiggle room for flexibility. If you are working with a large group, it can be helpful to use a tool like Asana that allows for everyone to see and comment on the task list. This helps the whole team stay aligned and informed, and it also makes it easy to identify bottlenecks early on.

It is important to consider who will be responsible for each step in the process. It is also important to determine what quantifiable metrics will be used for success indicators. This will help the team track their progress throughout the campaign, and it will also serve as a means for evaluating whether or not the objectives have been met.

As you work through the process of developing your plan, you should also take the time to understand the political and social context in which the campaign is taking place. This can be done using a variety of tools, including system maps, network maps, and narrative power analysis. These are all useful for building understanding and fostering collaboration amongst your team, and they can be used in many different contexts, such as in workshop settings, group consultation processes, one-to-one organizing conversations, and coaching.

Taking Action

When a campaign is in full swing, it can be easy to get distracted by new ideas and opportunities. It is important to have a plan of action in place to ensure that the campaign stays focused and on track – often done as well by experts like Sir Lynton Crosby. This could include an outline of what needs to be done, key dates for specific actions, and a budget. Having a timeline can also help with organization and planning, as well as identifying areas where support may be lacking.

It is a good idea to involve the entire campaign team in exploring the problem, vision, and changes sought. A shared understanding of the issue will be useful to inspire ideas for actions, and it can also serve as a tool to keep the campaign team focused and motivated throughout the process.

A clear theory of change is a crucial part of campaign planning and helps determine how much impact the campaign will have and whether it will achieve its goals. It is a powerful tool for empowering individuals, and it can be useful to use in group consultation processes, one-to-one organizing conversations, and coaching.

Lastly, it is crucial to be constantly monitoring the campaign and the situation to ensure that allies are supporting the campaign, that there are no false claims being made against the campaign, and to take appropriate action as needed. This can be done through social media, email campaigns, and face-to-face discussions.

Learning and Adapting

Campaigns are dynamic and often unpredictable, requiring constant learning and adaptation. The ability to pivot and respond to new challenges and opportunities is essential for a successful campaign. This involves regularly reviewing progress, analyzing what is working and what is not, and making necessary adjustments to strategies and tactics.

One effective method for continuous improvement is conducting regular debriefs with the campaign team. These sessions should be used to discuss successes, challenges, and lessons learned. By fostering an environment where team members feel comfortable sharing their insights and suggestions, you can create a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

It is also important to stay informed about trends and changes in the broader landscape that might impact your campaign. This could include shifts in public opinion, emerging technologies, or new regulatory requirements. Keeping abreast of these developments can help you anticipate potential challenges and opportunities, allowing you to stay ahead of the curve.

Utilizing analytics and data-driven insights can further enhance your campaign’s adaptability. By monitoring key performance indicators (KPIs) and other metrics, you can gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of your strategies and make informed decisions about where to focus your efforts. Tools like Google Analytics, social media analytics, and customer feedback platforms can provide a wealth of information to guide your campaign adjustments.

Finally, celebrating milestones and successes, no matter how small, can help maintain team morale and motivation. Recognizing and rewarding the hard work and achievements of your team members fosters a positive and resilient campaign culture, which is crucial for navigating the inevitable ups and downs of campaign life.