What Content Marketing Can Learn From Political Campaigns


I’d like to think there could be some absurd situation in which it’s possible that you don’t know it’s a big election year here in the US. But since even the fire breathing dragons, mer-people, and cave dwellers seem to have a political affiliation (if not an agenda), it seems pretty likely that you’ve noticed.

While we at Content Equals Money don’t write political content, we think that there are some important content marketing lessons to learn from political campaigns. The candidates are, after all, marketing themselves. So how do those strategies translate?

#1: Don’t flip-flop. Take a firm stance.

This is an example of what not to do. There are countless politicians who have been accused of flip-flopping, or changing positions for personal gain. You would be wise to avoid such tactics in your content marketing efforts.

Controversy can be an excellent addition to your content strategy. Unfortunately, it’s not always planned to be that way. It’s a traffic booster because it gets people talking, but it can also bring the pressure to “take it back” or tone it down from those who disagree with your position.

Understand that you can’t play to both sides and you’ll never please everyone. If there comes a time when your company needs to publicly take a position, be firm in it. Make that position clear in everything from your Facebook and Twitter updates to your blog posts.

While not everyone will agree with you, people are a lot more receptive to transparency than they are to secrecy and deception. Consider this when developing your content strategy, and use your content as a vehicle to achieve said transparency.

Bonus: As an added piece of related advice, when your position differs from your competitors’, avoid the smear campaigns. Sure, it might be amusing for people to watch as you exchange insults (masked or otherwise) via blog posts and social media content, but it’s not the way to be taken seriously as a business. Avoid going for the eyes and be respectful and professional, instead.

#2: Pick and choose your negative campaigns.

Negative marketing campaigns are everywhere these days, and political campaigns are a perfect example of this.

I’m sure you know exactly what I mean: Candidate A airs a commercial that tells you how the world will implode of Candidate B is elected, then backs it up with reasons. Candidate B publishes a post to the campaign blog talking about how Candidate A will destroy life as you know it and follows up with reasons to support such a claim.

If there were a little black dress of political campaigns, fear tactics would be it.

While fear and negative marketing certainly have a place in your content strategy, avoid relying too heavily upon them. We as a society have become so accustomed to always hearing the negative and focusing on the bad that many of us have little, if any, reaction.

Focusing on the positive, on the other hand, is always a welcome strategy. We like content that makes us feel good and gives us hope – hope about your product or business included.

#3: Use multiple channels to promote your message.

This is one thing that political campaigns have gotten very right! Sure, you see campaign-related content in more traditional forms such as the flyer hanging on your door, the letter in your mailbox, the commercial on your television, and even the message on your answering machine.

Any serious candidate, however, knows it’s time to get social.

Today we see candidates posting content on Facebook and interacting with supporters through Twitter. Their camps are blogging from the campaign trail. Earlier this year, President Obama even held a Google+ Hangout. Content marketing has become very much a part of every political race.

If no one is seeing your content, you might become frustrated with your efforts. But you needn’t be. A politician’s goal is to win, and to do that, he or she needs to get every campaign message in front of the constituents. Making the messages available on multiple channels makes that possible.

So use the major channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and a blog to promote your content, but don’t forget about other sites (and there are lots of them). Slideshare, YouTube, PRNewswire, and Google+ (hangouts or not), are all good ways to use other channels to get your message out.

#4: Know how to reach your target market.

Along those same lines, it’s important to know where your target market is going to be. Spreading your message across various channels needs to be part of your content strategy. It can’t just be a series of random actions.

Through your research, you should know where your target market is spending time.

For example, Mitt Romney realized that the rise in popularity of DVR means that fewer people are watching live television. That, in turn, means that they aren’t watching commercials – they’re just fast-forwarding through them. In an effort to reach that target market, Romney’s ads appeared and played in web browsers.

Arguably the most important aspect of content marketing is a solid content strategy. Make yours work by knowing who you want to consume your content and where they will be. Those details are crucial to a successful campaign.

#5: Measure your success.

Political candidates know where they are in the polls. They know if they’re ahead or behind, and by exactly how much.

If you want your content campaign to be successful, you’ve got to know how you’re doing, as well. Dive into your analytics and spend some time really monitoring your progress (or, as is sometimes the case, lack thereof). Use this information to help you determine what is and isn’t working. If there’s a certain kind of content that’s really doing well for you, keep working on that. If something is falling flat, don’t place a focus on it.

A sizable portion of content marketing is giving your audience what they find most valuable. The Obama Campaign can see whether or not you’ve opened their emails, as well as what you clicked while you were viewing them. Based on that information, they know whether or not to send more or less content to you.

And they’re certainly not the only ones practicing this strategy.

The bottom line: keep a close eye on your analytics to help you determine where to focus efforts and where to ease back. Your audience will appreciate the way you appear to read their minds.

These are, of course, just a few of the lessons that we can take away from political campaigns and apply to content marketing. What do you think? What other lessons would apply?

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Renee is a writer currently living in Central Pennsylvania (whatever you've heard is probably true). In addition to writing for CEM, she serves as the Managing Editor for Business 2 Community and pursues her dream of once again renting her own apartment (preferably in Philadelphia), if only to house her ever-growing collection of books. She received a BA in English from Susquehanna University and an MA in English from George Mason. She's still waiting for someone to write a song about her life so she can just quote the lyrics for her author bios. Catch up with her on Twitter , LinkedIn, or reneedecoskey.com.

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