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Applying political campaign tactics to your small business

4 years ago
UNIBusiness Editor
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By: Mallory Feeny (Public Relations '17), originally posted on the BCS Blog 11/19/15.

Political campaigns, especially during a Presidential race, are careful and thorough. Making a mistake in this high-stakes game could significantly damage their chances of winning. In the business world, a lot of this holds true as well.

Here are three tactics political campaigns use that you can use to grow your business:

Seek out Positive Public Relations

I’m sure you’ve had your inbox bombarded with emails, articles, and feature pieces about presidential candidates.  Just look at today’s newspaper (especially here in Iowa), and you’re bound to see one or two articles about something that some candidate is doing or saying. Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush have already been featured in TIME Magazine this year and I’m sure we’ll see more of the candidates in the coming weeks/months as well.  None of this is by accident, it’s all part of the strategy. Political campaigns have a reputation to maintain and they do that in the best way they know how, though positive public relations. They send out press releases, host community events and other public engagement opportunities. Most importantly, they tell voters everything good they are doing. As a business owner, you can do the same by taking advantage of your situation and letting your community know what you’re up to! Host or sponsor a community event and let everyone know you will be there.

Gain customer support by setting up an email campaign to blast out a weekly alert to your customers letting them where you will be and how they can interact with you. Virtually every presidential campaign sends a detailed agenda of their upcoming stops to supporters and reporters (and anyone else who is willing to read it!). From Lincoln Chafee to Mike Huckabee, each campaign makes sure to let the public know what they are doing in whatever community they are doing it in.  You can do this too by sending press releases and media alerts when you launch a new product or innovation.  Send these to local news outlets and business blogs (here in Iowa, IA Sourcelink and Silicon Prairie News are a great place to start). It’s all about spreading the word about your business’ positive impact.

Utilize and Engage on Social Media

What is the fastest way to connect with a voting audience? If you answered social media, you are absolutely right, campaign strategists sure have figured it out! Social media has become an indispensable tool for promotions, announcements, and general audience engagement. Last month, Republican Candidate Rand Paul became the first candidate to live stream an entire day on the campaign trail. The live video stream was easily accessible from his Facebook page. Likewise, Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton uses Twitter Chats to ask her voting audience questions and opinions. With more than 378 thousand followers on Instagram, Clinton is able to engage with younger voters.

Integrating social media is one of the best ways to promote your business without breaking the bank. Consider setting up a Facebook page, a Twitter account and a LinkedIn company page for your business. After that, follow others within your network, businesses, community members and local representatives. If you already have social media created, make sure to keep them updated with content, and not necessarily just self promotional content. Interesting related content helps you build a stronger following and online presence. Think about it, no one wants to see advertisements day in and day out and they probably aren’t going to share those posts to their friends/followers.  Finding and sharing content that your followers find thought provoking and interesting (also called content curation in the marketing world) will make them want share it with their networks, putting your brand out there for all to see.

As for engagement, always respond to post mentions, comments and shout-outs within a timely manner, realistically if you haven’t responded in more than 6-8 hours, you have missed your window. You can also increase engagement by asking questions, holding online contests or putting special deals online.

Know your Community and Audience

Political campaigns are constantly competing for your attention. Whether you realize it or not, each campaign is targeting a specific group of voters. For example, the Bernie Sanders campaign knows that majority of their voters are grassroot supporters. Currently, the Bernie Sanders campaign has raised 26 million dollars from online donations averaging $30 per donation. On the other side, Republican Candidate, Ted Cruz, knows his audience of voters are motivated by religious. His campaign has been increasing the amount of events and luncheons they hold with local religious affiliated groups.

As a  business owner, knowing your audience is tantamount to success. Without this knowledge, everything promotional that you are doing could be falling on deaf ears. Take a step back and analyze who your audience is and how have they have evolved over the years. Next, ask yourself what can you provide for your audience. Interacting within your community and involving your local audience can drastically increase community support and visibility of your business while giving you a direct line of communication to your audience.

As you can imagine, there are dozens of other tips and trick you can take from 2016 Presidential race. From building an engaging online presence to creating community impact, your business has the potential to grow and reach new grounds.

More resources for ‘Building a Better Iowa’ including your small business, can be found on our website, http://bcs.uni.edu/.

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