What Can Nonprofit Marketers Learn from the Election?

      

Photo by Tanya Ryno on Flickr

UPDATE: I’ve added two new articles to this post at the bottom.

In my various online marketing trainings this year, I’ve been saying that within six months, somebody from the Obama campaign will write a book about how they used texting and social media to build the campaign into something the likes of which we’ve never seen before. Just as the nonprofit sector learned all kinds of lessons about online fundraising from Howard Dean in 2004, so will we reap similar lessons from the 2008 campaign.

But until those books are written and interviews given, let’s look at what we’ve gleaned so far.

A linguistic analysis of the Obama and McCain websites by 7 Billion People found that they were preaching to the choir and missing opportunities to win independents over. They say: “McCain’s site talks about risk avoidance, “trusting your gut”, and is organized very procedurally driving visitors down specific messaging and paths. Obama’s website focuses on hope and change, speaking to people that prefer to be thought of as a group, driving consensus. His site also offers a more varied set of navigation paths, emphasizing choice.” The sites feel good to the base, but do little to move new people in their direction. 

Makes me wonder, how many nonprofit websites are giving their existing supporters what they need, but also answering questions that skeptics may have?

Jeff Brooks at Donor Power Blog has some questions for you if you are wondering how your nonprofit can learn from the Obama campaign’s fundraising successes:

“Is your organization a Barack Obama? Are you unlike all the others, or are you one of several similar organizations — distinguishable only by experts and insiders?

Is there urgency built in to everything you say?

Do you have the ability to reach out, grab people by the heart and actually make them feel differently from how they felt before they encountered you?

Are you fighting an enemy? (It needn’t be a person or people.)

If you can say yes to all those, then you can ask:

Are you really nailing your online fundraising techniques?”

In other words, says Jeff, your “offer” is more important than your “technique.”

My brilliant friend Nancy Schwartz at Getting Attention provided a great summary back in September of what she saw as the lessons in how to do good email marketing, based on what she saw from the campaigns, and more recently criticized the Obama campaign for not listening to what their supporters really wanted. Nancy is also looking forward to seeing what Barack Obama does with his massive online network, regardless of how things turn out tonight.

Advertising Age published “What Marketers Can Learn for the Obama Campaign.” The three take-home lessons are Simplicity, Consistency, and Relevance.

Ragan Communications has published “What the 2008 Campaign Taught Communicators,” with 15 lessons including Social Media Is Here to Stay, The Person Who Tries Something New Wins, and Write for the Sound Bite.

If you really want to be the first to know how all the election lessons shake out, follow Colin Delany’s blog at e-politics. He has even more posts for you to mull over on his Election Day summary. See the Essential Background section in particular.

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