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Digital Strategy for This Year's DNC

Posted on 8.26.2012

When Business Empire Consulting (BEC), a digital agency specializing in integrated campaigns developed from big data insights, accepted the challenge of making this year's Democratic National Convention the most open and accessible convention in history, BEC cofounders Matthew Laster, Brandon Blair and Bryan Young didn’t waiver, instead they confidently relied on their own methodology — vision before execution — to tie all of the moving parts together, creating a seamless integration between the actual convention in Charlotte, N.C. and its global footprint. With the DNC fast approaching, the trio shares its thought processes behind designing the DNC’s digital strategy.

To successfully influence customers, you must optimize your message and provide a seamless experience across multiple mediums. Just like the Democratic National Convention, every business has objectives it wants to accomplish. While a presidential nomination convention is only held once every four years, there is plenty that can be learned from the DNC's goal to produce the most open and accessible convention in history.

For the DNC, increased interactivity through the inclusion of social media, interactive maps, event creation tools, calendars, forward-to-a-friend tools, a video gallery, polling, commenting, sign-up forms and automated or moderated displays of user-generated content allowed for a greater level of voter engagement. For your site, this real-time data can show you what visitors are most interested in and help develop calls to action that support those interests. But how do you decide which interactive elements are most important to your site? Take a look at social media.

B2C businesses are starting to get social media, just like they got search before it and display before that. Social has been around long enough for us to have enough examples of how to do it right and wrong. Unfortunately, most organizations in the world are repeating the same mistakes they made with display and search; they build a “social team” and silo all social media efforts to that team, which leads to an isolationist approach to our newest, and possibly greatest marketing tool.

We now live in a world where the young professional (and many older professionals) can’t imagine life without social, search, display or all things digital. We, the marketers, need to stop speaking to our audience in one place and then restarting that conversation in another, while refusing to have it in a third. That is, we need to integrate our efforts and view our website as more than just a brochure for our services. If you have had the privilege of being at the helm of a marketing campaign in the last six months, ask yourself these questions: Did your SEO keywords match the differentiators you advertised in your display and video? How accurate was your audience model, predicted conversations and responses to actual results? Most importantly, what did your audience teach you about your brand? A political convention exposes these questions on a broader scale to a much wider demographic, but if you’re not searching for these answers, you are likely missing opportunities. 

One way to avoid this, is to separate the vision from the execution.

As marketers it is becoming more apparent and imperative that we change how we think. Rather than siloing ourselves into print, direct, search, social, display, mobile, location or whatever comes next, we need to begin looking at the bigger goal of driving and regaining ownership of our respective brands across all disciplines, in an integrated approach. To build a holistic vision of your brand, you must put time into building buyer profiles and audience models, developing rich content banks alongside well-defined and strong conversational gates. Then, when you have a strong core, expand it outward, executing in each discipline your audience resides in. When you finally launch your campaign and get to see that first set of results on your integrated monitoring dashboard, you’ll be amazed.  

Because you properly planned your campaign you’ll have much better engagement. However, it's more than that; it's engagement around the differentiators you want to focus on, using the keywords you want to use – which, by the way, are the same ones your main assets are optimized for, so your SEM cost will drop as well. With your new insight, you’re also able to start testing your audience model as a whole against the entirety of your marketing efforts, which leads you to better placement parameters for your display and video efforts. By integrating all of your planning efforts, you’ve created a clear and concise vision, which has enabled you to have streamlined and more efficient execution. When done properly, you are then able to determine which interactive widgets go beyond being cool and actually become useful. 

Best Practices

1. Sit down with all of the stakeholders and make a plan, beyond visual elements, of what you want your website to accomplish. Your key message (content) and calls to action (CTA) should back these goals. If you want engagement, tell the consumer something interesting. Make the value of your product or services easy to distinguish. 

2. After you’ve created a clear and compelling call to action, develop your audience models. This may take a while, but the effort is more than worth it. Look to support your gut decisions with as much real-time or empirical data as possible. For example, one of the goals of the Democratic Convention was to increase the level of engagement with the Hispanic community, which meant going beyond making the site bilingual. Through research, we found the number of Hispanics, who use a smartphone as their primary way to access the Internet, has increased to one quarter of all Hispanics, according to Mintel. Creating in-depth audience models will help create your best- and worst-case engagement models.  

3. In the case of the DNC, in about the same time it took for our initial comps and branding to be polished, we had our vision. Execution was fairly simple in theory, as we wanted to spread the conversation to everywhere. We wanted the conversations around the DNC to be the same conversation across multiple platforms, with questions asked on one platform showing visible answers on another. Suggestions made on one platform would impact other platforms in near real time. We wanted the very same conversation going on in the press pit on the main floor to be the same conversation going on in your living room, on Youtube, Facebook or that you see being tweeted about on the live tweet streams. Anyone can participate in that conversation and let their voice be heard in the most open and accessible convention in history.

Your plan may not always be good, but a plan for when to listen and when to engage can go a lot further than trying to avoid engagement altogether or just ignoring the negative. After all, we're human, and we must act like it, even online.

About the Authors

Matthew Laster, Brandon Blair and Bryan Young are the co-founders of digital agency BEC. They been named Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year nominees and one of Bloomberg Businessweek’s top young entrepreneurs under 25.





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