Many corporations and non-profit organizations use political and issue-oriented marketing to sway citizens’ votes on topics ranging from Internet sales taxes to food stamps. Some even work simply to get people to the polls. A familiar non-partisan example is Rock the Vote’s campaign, which has driven millions of young voters to the polls since 1992.
Issue-oriented marketing resembles lobbying by swaying members of Congress to vote for or against specific bills or other pieces of legislation. Indirectly, these marketing campaigns impact Congressional votes by mobilizing citizens to contact their Representatives and Senators with their views on specific legislation.
August can be a tricky time for issue-oriented marketers, when power in the District ebbs for congressional recess. Congress historically breaks for the month, during which members of Congress return to their home states to spend time with their families and meet with constituents.
The Marketplace Fairness Act is one example of legislation that will be top-of-mind for many retailers and small businesses when Congress resumes on September 9. Prior to the recess, messages from organizations on both sides of the issue encouraged citizens to act. When the House and Senate are back in session, we expect to see more activity in DC around this legislation.
Putting in the effort and time to rethink the marketing strategy for only a few weeks may seem inefficient, but this activity can help an organization keep its message in plain sight during recess. For non-media marketing activities, Congressional recess means business as usual. For example, marketers can continue social media, blog and outreach activities for SEO purposes.
The month off can also be used to analyze the campaign-to-date success, conduct competitive analyses and figuratively reboot. Or, use the lull in legislative activity to refresh the content strategy — including website content and ad copy — for when action resumes in September. For example, you might want to revisit your search and display ad creative, develop an online game, build a mobile app, or produce a video or motion graphic.
Adjust The Media Strategy
August warrants an entirely different media strategy. It may be appropriate to simply pause the media spend in August, or reallocate the online and offline media spend in the highest priority Congressional districts. Google AdWords enables paid search and display media advertisers to target users in specific congressional districts, although setting it up can be tricky. For example, when I go into Advanced Targeting and search for the third district in Louisiana, “LA-3″ does not appear anywhere in Related Locations.
LA-3 also does not appear in the search results.
However, when I search for the fourth district in Louisiana, voila! There appears LA-3 in Related Locations.
If you do not find the district you need in AdWords, try searching for surrounding districts to bring up that district in the results. If you are still unable to locate the district, you may need to improvise by using a mix of inclusion and exclusion targets for the time being.
Adjust The Message
If you change your media strategy, remember to adjust your message as appropriate for your target markets. For example, you might change the message to encourage advocates to participate in Town Hall meetings, which almost every member of Congress holds in their district during recess.
These meetings provide rare opportunities for advocates to challenge their elected officials about important legislation. Bonus: it’s all on the record. More than once, members of Congress have been caught off-guard and provided responses that unintentionally bolster support for issues. Town Hall meeting locations and details are typically promoted via House or Senate members’ websites, in newspapers and through other local media outlets.
Plan Ahead For September
The downtime can also be used to review the media plan for September and the remainder of the year. For example, you may want to target specific placements in outlets like Twitter and Facebook on calendar dates that coincide with Congressional voting schedules.
This often requires a bit of crystal balling, as Congressional schedules can be unpredictable and change quickly. Odds are the competition may be targeting the same dates for similar placements in some of the same media outlets. Securing those dates ahead of time is essential, especially if you want to own a specific placement or run a takeover ad.
The important takeaway is to strategize differently during the downtime in August to keep your message front of mind. Just as members of Congress change their routines over the break, so too can your marketing campaigns. Please share your thoughts and experiences via comments below.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.