Online Marketing Best Practices from the Obama Campaign

M+R Strategic Services just released a report outlining the strategies and best practices from the Obama new media campaign and how those practices should be applied to nonprofits and their online marketing and fundraising efforts. It’s a great read. Here’s the lead in paragraph:

The best news for nonprofits? The most successful new media strategies for the
campaign were all things that can – and should – be replicated by nonprofit
organizations. Build an email list. Send high-quality, engaging emails to those
constituents. Make them a part of the story. Run a program that is data-driven,
and use analytics to improve that program. Use authentic organizational content –
video, text and images – to tell a compelling story. Use email and phone calls to ask
online volunteers to participate in offline programs.

The report contained a few key concepts that I always impress upon my nonprofit clients, including:

  1. Be disciplined to create a strategy, consistent message, and stay on message – sending certain messages to certain segments for a reason. Measure. Rinse. Tweak. Repeat.
  2. Give your online marketing staff them the autonomy to make good decisions regardless of the HIPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion) in the room. Did you know that the Obama campaign had a 81-person new media team that grew to nearly 170 people by the end of the campaign?
  3. Hire talented, trained staff (I would argue that this also means you actually need to pay for their talent. The number of nonprofit openings for online marketing staff with extremely low salaries I think demonstrates that many nonprofits don’t “get” that hiring talented online marketing staff is worth it.  From the report: Chief Technology Officer Michael Slaby had this piece of advice:
  4. You need more new media people than you think you do, and they are worth more than you think they are.

  5. Be authentic, and keep the focus on your supporters, let them interact with you. If your budget is supported by them, you won’t be able to do the work your organization works on without them.
  6. Content is important. You won’t be able to build an online audience without good content.
  7. Build your email list through website optimization and testing. (page 13-14 of the report). EVERY nonprofit needs to understand HOW important website optimization and testing is, and needs to make it an organizational priority.
  8. Timing. “Timing is more important than perfection” – Arun Chaudhary, New Media Road Director. I could not agree more. This applies to email, launching an ad campaign, posting on social media sites, putting up a blog posts. Posting or sending during certain times of day will have a much higher success rate than others. I always cringe when I see nonprofits posting a blog post or sending a email at midnight on Thursday night just because that was when it was “done” instead of waiting for the best time window and scheduling it to go out the next day.

All in all, great stuff and every nonprofit marketer should thoroughly read the report and absorb it’s findings. You can download the full report here

Corporate Online Marketing Best Practices Applied to Nonprofit Challenges.

I think this also demonstrates what I’ve been saying to folks all along. Corporate best practices around online marketing should be applied to nonprofit challenges. The tactics are the same, the message is just different and nonprofits have an advantage in that their supporters can be used to spread the word about their mission in social media more effectively than Coca Cola fans ever will. If you look at where the staff for the Obama campaign came from – it was largely corporate online marketing experience.

If you are a nonprofit online marketer, you should follow the for-profit marketers that have the extra resources and capacity to really test new strategies in the online space and follow blogs like SearchEngineLand.com rather than non-profit only forums. You will be a better marketer for it.

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