What about negative campaigning: does it work? Yes… and no. It does improve differential performance of your candidate. However, it does so both by firing up your supporters (everybody instinctively understands this) and by depressing turnout in that moveable middle. This – aside from not being good for the cause of democracy overall – denies a true mandate to even the “winner.” The mathematicians out there will have rapidly worked out that 51% of the actual votes cast may not really be a majority. And the reality is that election turnout in the U.S., even in a presidential year is mid-50s of percentage points, with off-cycle years in the high 30s… some mandate! This exacerbates the challenge of the post-election environment for the not-so-lucky winner, but I will return to the topic of public policy management in a future post.
OK, SO WHAT NOW?
The prescriptions for campaigns are clear and there is a spectrum of commitment levels along this path to suit all types of candidates, as well as different electoral district demographics. These break down into two major areas: “front office” and “back office.”
First – a truly mobile and social platform for collaboration among campaign staff will not be optional by the 2016 cycle. It will need to be secure, segmented and audit-ready. It will need to allow for quick,mini-poll capture for precinct walkers from a mobile device, with geolocation and timestamp. Materials such as talking points, videos and news articles will be available to share in person or to re-tweet to a circle of followers. More than this, the new electorate needs to be engaged with an app offering many of the same features and utilizing gamification to incentivize influencer activity, moving them up the levels from “like” to “organize” or “fundraise.”
The data sources that are currently in use are valuable, but incomplete and the state of the analytical art is well off the pace. The freshest data doesn’t all come in the same format, isn’t normalized and indeed may not be totally “clean,” but you have to start work right now. Twentieth-century tools choke or give nonsensical answers in this environment; they also tend to be good at answering the “known unknowns” on a repeated (non-real time) cycle, but are totally inadequate to the task of identifying new insights or lines of attack that provide an edge in a tight contest. A platform with real-time visualization that doesn’t require a PhD or a Computer Science degree is essential – it has to be as easy to surf data as it is to navigate Google Maps. Conventional data sources need to be synchronized and correlated with external social media data, including sentiment analysis, but also rapid identification of circles of influence. This combination of sources and an offer-palette function also gives the ability for campaigns to dynamically re-order the “batting order” of key manifesto points, so improving the response from any individual voter. To tie all of this together, you also need a data infrastructure that allows you to skip the step of putting everything in one database, instead allowing the use of data where it is – and how it is – right now.
Finally, you start to put all these elements together, whether for campaign staff, fundraisers or the candidate themselves. A version of that same social/mobile platform previously discussed can give them the ability to use Augmented Reality capabilities to identify key contributors that you may never have met, but also leverages the platform described above. It takes those events beyond the normal dynamic of surfing through a crowded room looking at name badges to real interaction, based upon actual knowledge of who is important, who they are, what their hot-button issues are and what their funding capability (both in terms of financial capacity and legal limits) might be. It is, if you will, X-ray specs for campaign staff: you can see the wallet and the heart of the potential contributor.
This is not science fiction – it is real, it is here and above all it is ultimately better for both parties and the electorate in general if we improve the engagement level and the quality of decision making in the democratic process.