As a new media professional I spend a good part of my day listening to the conversation online about politics and about BIPAC. I can't read everything written about the candidates that the BIPAC Action Fund has endorsed or those running against them, but I do read every single tweet, Facebook post, media hit, and website reference that includes "BIPAC" and/or the "Business-Industry Political Action Committee" in it. I choose some to engage with. I choose some to share to our broader audience. Others I choose to do nothing with besides read or skim.
Offline, I received a card in the mail today from a friend and partner of BIPAC's - the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF). The consumption of content in this medium is a bit different than how I review content online, but in the end content-is-content, period. I was expecting the card to be a thank you for our recent work collaborating with them on a number of new media initiatives to recognize and improve how Congress conducts constituent communications in the 21st century. By working with partners such as CMF, BIPAC can help our members in a number of ways; but this card was not a thank you card. It was something entirely different. I opened up the card and it read:
We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate." - Thomas Jefferson
On September 17, 1787, the Constitution of the United States of America was ratified by the delegates of the Constitutional Convention.
This was my first Constitution Day Card.
I use this, not as a large public commercial for CMF or about how I spend my day-to-day, but as a means to pivot to BIPAC and the business-industry's efforts to increase employer and employee participation in the government process. A process that begins with the identification of candidates' who share our values of free enterprise and a process that continues after the polls have closed with a conversation between those who we send to represent us in the U.S. House and Senate and our employees. This conversation exists both offline and online.
At a functional level, CMF's card worked. They had a message. They choose a tool and channel to deliver that message. And that message was received by its target audience (me) when I opened up the envelope and read the card. It was brand exposure for CMF and brand association for CMF with Constitution Day.
Across social media, I have to be a bit more active in how I listen to the conversation about BIPAC's brand than opening up an envelope. For one, I have to go to the content rather than have the content come to me. And I know that the first rule of social media is that you can't control it, but the second is that you do your best to manage it. Without knowing what is out there about BIPAC, I can't manage it.
I have tools that scour the Internet and all social media networks that can find such references to our brand name in real-time. And I choose to engage in some of those references to foster and promote the conversation about the work that BIPAC is doing on behalf of our community of members and partners. If a tweet or FB post that you've shared about BIPAC has been RTed, replied, or liked - that was more than likely from me.
In today's interconnected and fast paced world of Web 2.0, we have more tools at our disposal to get our message across. This complicates the listening component for brand managers, campaign directors, and GR professionals; but it also provides us with far more intelligence than what was available to use in the days of Web 1.0 and before.
It is no longer just about what candidate makes the best TV ad or who has the most to spend. It isn't about whose direct mail list is better and/or if the photos and message on it resonated more with the audience.
Today those tried and true methods of political advocacy are still in high-demand and still play an important role in the relationship between candidates and the voting population, but they're not the only arrows in the quivers of political strategists and campaign communication directors. New and social media, SMS, and big data driven email campaigns lead to an ever-increasing personalized and localized approach to political and election advocacy. These tools are offering direct access to the voter and far greater access to reporting and intelligence.
The same way that I listen to "BIPAC," any smart digital campaign director is listening to the brand of his/her candidate. Any smart digital campaign director should be able to report to the candidate what the online sentiment is of their brand, such as - are more people speaking positively or negatively about it (or are comments neutral). Any smart digital campaign director should also know how influential his/her brand is online as compared to that of their competition.
A few years ago some of these channels and listening tools existed. Some did not. Some were being misused by campaigns, such as just using Twitter and Facebook as a secondary channel to distribute press releases, but not as a tool to listen and engage in conversation.
Well ran campaigns are listening as much as talking to potential voters today. They are engaging with potential voters. Employers and employee voters should be a part of that conversation and should consider actively engaging online regarding the election or at the least listening to what the candidates are saying across social and new media.
I am a strong believer in multi-channel communication. Every single day over 100 billion emails are sent and received around the world. On average that comes down to about 125 emails being read and/or sent per online individual. We can all empathize with this as Radicati data shows that about 28% of a business person's day is spent answering or reading emails. So it is easy for a single email to fall through the cracks, get caught in a junk folder, or bounce because of a typo in the name. Or some are simply ignored because many of us have more work in a given day than hours available to complete our given tasks. But I'd suspect each and every one of us starts their morning or their work day by skimming their emails in their inboxes and prioritizing to open those coming from their boss or their CEO. We've been conditioned to do such. Same is true for a text message. You may open an unread text from your kids or from your spouse before you open one from your dog walker. Same would be true from a text from your supervisor. Those emails and texts from individuals we unconsciously consider to be marked with a red exclamation point of importance are read and they're not falling through the cracks.
It is about the messenger today, more so than the message. And it is also about the channel(s) of communication and your content strategy to communicate that message.
In a soon-to-be-released white paper that is being co-written by BIPAC and CMF, based on survey data from Hill staffers, we are able to show that 64% of Congressional office social media managers and communications professionals recognize Facebook as being a "somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents' views and opinions" while "another 42% said the same for Twitter." I don't know or have the data of how this same paradigm relates on the campaign trail, but as many of these staffers come from volunteering or working for a candidate's campaign - we could assume that they're just as equally important.
Every single day 4.75 billion pieces of content are shared on Facebook.
Every single day 500 million tweets are shared on Twitter.
How are you and your business engaging in political advocacy in the 21st century? Are you engaged in the conversation? Are your competitors? Are you listening to the real-time business and political intelligence being shared online? Are you a part of those 4.75 billion Facebook updates, pictures, comments, etc and/or 500 million tweets shared?
I do not have an Ice Bucket Challenge idea for you, but I do have a political advocacy challenge for you...
Start to listen to the Members of Congress, the U.S. Senators, the state reps, and candidates for office from where you do business. Follow their campaign and official accounts. A follow doesn't equal an endorsement, but a follow allows you to learn from what is being said and make you more informed.
Have a conversation with your boss or the social media department of your company to better understand your business or association's new media rules. It doesn't cost you a thing to listen and you can always create a pseudonym account for you to do so. If you are allowed, try to engage with these individuals and campaigns online as either individuals or GR representatives of your business.
When candidates and Hill offices start to see comments from names they recognize through the work you do with them offline and/or directly coming from the brand and messenger of your company or association, you get additional brand exposure. And if you're creative, your message may get through some of the traps to get to the candidate. The to-be-released BIPAC/CMF white paper will have some tips for how you can do this and how your added political advocacy efforts can make a difference.