Going Digital: Running for Office During COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has changed the way the world operates in a matter of just a few short weeks. As if the chaos that were the Iowa caucuses back in February weren’t enough, the virus and the resulting shift to remote working and staying at home have shifted this year’s election in more ways than one.
Instead of the frenzy of rallies, primary elections and caucuses, and tireless campaigning on the road, presidential candidates have pulled their teams off the road and into a new, uncharted territory of remote campaigning. Candidates at other levels of the election have done the same, turning to the internet and remote options to reach voters and spread the message about their platform. Hundreds of state elections have been canceled or postponed in hopes of regrouping when the virus slows down and life returns to some semblance of normalcy.
Campaigning Online and Running for Office During COVID-19
It’s difficult, no one is denying that. In fact, younger, more technologically savvy candidates may have a better time with this new shift than their older counterparts. Some would say that having to campaign remotely has hurt some of the major candidates. Others would say that this new environment is the future of politics and elections. But one commonality remains: candidates must now turn up the creativity, essentially morphing into a full scale digital marketing team, in order to rise to the virus-prompted occasion.
So what are some ways that a veteran running for office can help his or her cause during this unique time? For starters, it’s important to have a basic working knowledge of digital platforms such as Facebook, Zoom, and Google Hangouts. If you don’t feel savvy enough on your own, this is a great time to hire a consultant — often, you can find a consultant who will come on board at minimal cost compared to hiring a full-scale agency.
Building a Strong Digital Presence
Reaching voters now becomes even more reliant on having a strong digital presence. So get creative! Consider hosting a Facebook Live “town hall meeting” or Q&A session. Viewers can tune in right from their mobile devices and engage with the candidate in real time. Doing things such as this periodically will establish rapport with the voting public and demonstrate consistency.
Many voters want to know more about the candidates on the ballot. After all, there is more to a candidate than just a list of policy proposals. What is the candidate’s background? What inspired him or her to run for office? Why should a voter choose this candidate over their competition? This is an opportunity to tell your story, to truly connect with voters over more than just words on paper. Don’t be afraid to show some personality. Voters want to feel a genuine connection with a candidate, remember that.
Leveraging Digital Advertising
If you haven’t dipped your toe into digital advertising for your campaign, this is another option to consider. For minimal costs (most Facebook ads and paid search ads allow for budgets as small as $5 per day), you can reach more users who are spending more time online in this environment. Both Facebook (through which you can also run ads on Instagram) and Google have robust, user-friendly studios for creating, editing, and managing your ads. With a bit of learning, this process is accessible to any candidate looking to gain a competitive edge.
The reality is, no one knows what the world will look like tomorrow, next week, or next month. The COVID-19 pandemic has certainly put us all on our toes and has forced us to evolve on the fly. Candidates who meet this challenge head-on, with creativity and aplomb, may manage to gain an edge and connect with voters on a more real level. And in the current environment, that connection may soon be a very valuable commodity.
For a veteran running for office, this enforced downtime can be a ripe opportunity for expanding past politics, past the pandemic. How can you take the most advantage of this time? Here are a few ways to use the quarantine or downtime wisely.