Down Home Digital: Staying Online

You’ve won (or maybe you lost – but you want to stay politically active).

You’ve won (or maybe you lost – but you want to stay politically active). First enjoy the moment and reconnect with your family. But also take a break from picking up your yard signs to send out a thank you message to your supporters and update your website, your Facebook page and all your other online sites with a similar message. Remind your supporters that you remember the role they played in your campaign before they go back to their busy lives.   If you still have campaign bills to pay and you have a list of donors who’ve been responsive to your email solicitations, don’t be shy about asking them to help. Don’t hit them up the day after the election, but don’t wait until January either. Be honest – just as donors are more likely to respond to requests to fund specific items before Election Day, you may find that they will respond more positively if you set a specific amount of campaign debt that you’re trying to pay off.   As you prepare for the task of governing and representing your constituents, think about both how you want to communicate with them and how you’d like them to communicate with you. Your campaign website may have been good for pushing messages out during the election battle, but your constituents likely will have different questions for you once you’re in office; you’ll also have different types of information you’ll want to provide to them. Whether you set up a separate constituent services website or update your campaign website to present this information will depend on your state’s laws, how you’re funding the websites and what resources you have available.   Likewise, your “Elect Me” Facebook page may not be the right tool for communicating with constituents. Not all of them voted for you, so think of ways to expand your base and attract new supporters to your cause. This may be as simple as changing the messaging on the existing page. Or perhaps you’ll want to put up an entirely new page for this phase of your public life. If you do create a new Facebook page for constituent services, you don’t need to turn off your campaign page. However, you should direct folks to the new page in the info box or in your welcome tab, especially if you don’t plan on regular status updates to the campaign page.   One of the most important online assets to keep using is your email list. If you’re not mailing to your list on a regular basis, it will get stale and you’ll find it less useful when you do decide to communicate with your supporters months or years down the road. People move, email addresses change, interests change, etc., If you wait until your next campaign to send out an email to your list, your chances of running into a roadblock of bounced emails and spam complaints is high. If you send messages on a regular basis, the natural turnover in your list will be much more manageable. Plus you’ll get the benefit of people passing along your emails to potential new supporters (especially if you ask recipients to share your emails). You don’t need to send a transcript of every speech you make, but a regular newsletter that provides useful information will help remind folks that you are working hard to represent them.   Now that you are a public official, you may find it easier to get media coverage. Maybe. Media resources devoted to covering local and even state government continue to shrink, so you may still find it difficult to get the word out about your initiatives and issues. If you want to improve your earned media coverage, our advice to develop relationships with bloggers still stands. Since journalists monitor Twitter and blogs to determine what stories to cover, you need to be visible in these new media. Don’t hesitate to reach out to bloggers on the other side of the political spectrum – and don’t always assume that bloggers that were friendly to you during the campaign will always agree with you as an elected official.   The Web, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, email and all of the other online media are a large part of how your constituents will perceive you. As you govern, you will have a record. The question is whether you want to take advantage of these new media to weave your story to your advantage or whether you want it to be written for you by someone else.   Steve Pearson is president of CivicNEXT, which provides practical digital communications solutions for political campaigns and organizations. Ford O’Connell, a 2010 Rising Star, is president of ProjectVirginia, winner of the 2010 Reed Award for Best Use of Twitter and whose blog reports on “Where Politics Meets Social Media."

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