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If you’re eyeing your first run for office this year or next, it’s safe to say you’re not alone. Women, scientists, Muslims, millennials, and others are taking to the streets and signing up in unprecedented numbers to seek elected office.
Consider this: She Should Run, a nonpartisan organization training women to pursue elected office, reported some 6,500 women have participated in a training since Election Day.
Aligning your current online presence with your future political plans is a savvy move. Making a name for yourself begins now. With the ability to livestream on Facebook or publish directly on Medium, give would-be supporters, donors, and voters a reason to pay attention. Put your best foot forward online with these six next steps.
Play Defense First
According to tech entrepreneur and TV shark Mark Cuban, the biggest mistake you can make online is allowing every post you create to live on infinitely. He says: “Every person you follow on Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Facebook...every person you retweet, repin, repost, and regram on social media defines who you are. … And that is going to be used, not just by online companies, but that's going to be used in every walk of life.”
Google yourself and set up a google alert for your name. See what comes up. From there, options abound. Taking his own advice, Cuban co-founded the app company Xpire, which allows users to mass delete and manage old social media posts, while setting new posts to self-destruct within 24 hours.
If you can’t quite remember all of the accounts you may have signed up for over the years, Deseat.me is a new tool which will automatically locate your online accounts with links to delete them. If damaging press, embarrassing tweets, or unflattering reviews exist that you can’t expunge directly, don’t fret. Online reputation management is an emerging industry with numerous firms that can help you take the necessary steps to clean up your record.
Own Your Name
What’s in a name? When it comes to your online presence, everything. If you haven’t already, stake a claim to your name on every channel you can, purchasing possible domain names for your future campaign committee. Not doing so now can unnecessarily complicate your campaign launch later.
During the 2016 presidential primaries, Carly Fiorina launched her new website with the URL carlyforpresident.com. Opponents seized an opportunity purchasing a similar carlyfiorina.org in response, which directed site goers to an attack ad against Fiorina. President Trump reportedly purchased some 3,000 URLs to safeguard against similar attacks.
While the stakes are significantly lower for most races, purchasing top contenders for your campaign’s likely URL is an affordable and safe bet. Research possible variations using Google Domains or a similar service. Most URL’s will cost you $10-$25 a year.
Post with Purpose
Begin thinking about the mix of content you want to share with followers across your online universe. Answer these questions to start: What value do you want to add to people’s lives? What issues do you want to be known for? What influencers would you like to build a relationship with?
Focus 65-70 percent of posts on informative, entertaining, and helpful content. For the remainder, sprinkle in personal pieces. Don’t alienate fans with news focused solely on you 24/7. Hype the community projects of local officials, business leaders, and organizations in your area. They will be far more likely to share your news and events later.
Channel Your Inner Journalist
Editors are on the lookout for expert opinions to share with their readers. Pick the top three issues you want to work on most if elected. Whether ending homelessness or cutting taxes, brainstorm ways you can add to the discussion. Do you have specialized knowledge in a particular area or a controversial opinion to throw in the mix? If so, develop insightful, well-researched, articles and blog posts.
After deciding what issues you want to deep dive on, consider the type of people you will need to help round out a grassroots army. Who will be most inclined to give you money, volunteer, and vote for you? What mix of media are they consuming and sharing online right now? Those outlets become your targets.
If you live in an urban area, for example, post-college millennial women may be a top group for you. Writing a guest post for Bustle.com, an outlet geared towards twenty-something women, on a current hot topic is a great way to provide value. Later, when in full fundraising mode, these articles can be shared with potential donors, helping boost your credibility even more.
Stay Top of Mind
As you begin creating excellent content, sharing posts strategically, and networking, capture as many emails as possible. Commit to communicating with your list at least once a month. Use the “post with purpose” rules above. Doesn’t have to be complicated.
Email marketing is a personal way to keep top of mind, among new friends and allies. Plus, fundraising and volunteer recruitment, will figure prominently into any future political plans. Investing now in building your own email list can pay dividends later.
You’ve heard it said before: define yourself or someone else will. Now, more than ever, candidates have the direct power to shape their personal brand and message narrative long before they ever file paperwork to run. It’s never too early to contribute to the issues, causes, and communities you care about. Take advantage of online tools and media to do so and scale your impact starting today.
Leigh Ann Smith is the founder of BRAVE, a political digital strategy and marketing agency. She is a national campaign board member with the Victory Fund. You can connect with her @Leigh_Ann_Smith.