We’ve never seen anything like the coronavirus pandemic or the measures being taken to slow its spread. There’s not an aspect of our lives that hasn’t been impacted and that includes campaigns and politics.
It’s impossible to share best practices or lessons learned in a situation like this, but we can follow principles to guide us. Having a mental framework in place will assist us in filtering through decisions about tactics, technology, and strategy.
Don’t be afraid of over-communicating. During a crisis, speculation and rumors rush to fill the vacuum of uncertainty. Even if it’s unrelated to your campaign, amplifying accurate, trustworthy information is a valuable service and will help keep your audiences engaged on social media, email, and other platforms.
Plan for the Worst
As Morton Blackwell says, “Pray as if it all depended on God; work as if it all depended on you.” We don’t know when things will get back to “normal” and what might change. So plan for disruption indefinitely with the understanding that elections will go forward. If your plans aren’t needed, you’ll still have pieces in place for a successful campaign.
Digital Transformation Has Two Phases
There are two phases of digital transformation. The first is simply moving the analog online. Email, for example, is just a digitized letter. Broadcasting campaign speeches online is an example in politics. But in the second phase, we’re unlocking the full potential of the new technology. Slack revealed problems with email and transformed professional communication.
In politics, we’ve seen some candidates like Donald Trump and AOC completely transform what it means to be a politician with social media. If your campaign is still making phase one transformations, you’re behind. Start looking for phase two opportunities.
Trends Have Accelerated
Trends – good and bad – that were present (not just in politics) before have been accelerated by the pandemic. Campaigns were relying more and more on remote teams, tech-enabled voter contact, social media, and online fundraising. Now they have no choice. If you thought you could get by in one more election cycle without changing how you campaign, it’s time to recalibrate those expectations.
Disruption Means Opportunity
It’s frustrating that things like conventions, fundraisers, and voter contact are on hold, but it’s also important to think about the opportunity. When the game changes and the playbook gets tossed out the window, you get to rewrite the rules.
If there’s something about how campaigning has “always been done” and events that were must-dos that never made sense to you – now’s the time to change it. Your supporters will be more forbearing in this crisis than any other time.
We’re all hopeful that life returns to normal soon, but until then, as campaigners navigate uncharted territory, these principles will help guide our decision making.