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Insight & Opinion

The DDC Advocacy Blog

“How are we doing?” – Key Performance Indicators

By: Chad Giron, Vice President, Client Relations

It’s the one question that client relationship managers either dread hearing, or can’t wait to crow about. “So, how’s the campaign going?”

On modern campaigns (marketing, advertising, advocacy or otherwise), measurement is not optional. First, clients are savvy enough to demand it and, frankly, for the trust they’ve placed in you and the money they’ve spent, they deserve it. Secondly, analytics tools across digital properties, including site, mobile and social, are so baked-in and so good that the challenge for campaign managers today isn’t in extracting data; it’s in determining which key performance indicators (KPIs) to track in the first place.

Obviously, each campaign has unique goals and, therefore, unique indicators of performance. Some advocacy campaigns are purely about grassroots activations. What we’re talking about here is the digital world, not the hardcopy, bricks and mortar, flesh and blood one of grassroots campaigns. That said, I’ve quizzed some colleagues here at DDC Advocacy, and below are some KPIs that we think you should be tracking for your clients (or at least be prepared to speak intelligently about). The following is certainly not an exhaustive list, but some of the important KPIs that we regularly keep an eye on.

Facebook – ‘Share’-ing is Caring

Everybody likes ‘Likes’ (it must be the thumbs up icon), but Shares are a better indicator of content quality (and reach). Let’s face it, you’re creating content in the hopes that your message is seen by as many people as possible. How does that happen? They Share it.

A Share is like a ‘Like’ on steroids. It gives the content the implicit endorsement of the sharer (just like a ‘Like’ does), but the person has taken the next action step and actively spread the message to others. The ‘Share’ says, “You need to see this! I think it’s important!” rather than, “I agree.”

Emails – ‘Take Action’

Beware the ‘open rate,’ celebrate the ‘take action.’ Just as Facebook’s ‘Like’ is the minimum possible action of someone viewing your content, so is opening the email the least that the recipient can do. Yes, at least you know that they received your message, but did they do anything with it? Did they spread your message, and imply their endorsement by sharing it?

Your email almost certainly has a ‘take action’ button or link in it, or else why would you borrow your recipient’s precious time? These buttons are the primary drivers of donations, petition sign-ups, sending letters to Members of Congress and website visits. While the 2012 Obama campaign was interested in email headlines that effected open rates, I’m sure they thoroughly tested and agonized over every aspect of the ‘take action’ buttons which ultimately netted them $690 million dollars.

A former colleague of mine at analytics company Webtrends, John Boyle, (now with Expedia) wrote a great article about Presidential candidate donation form optimization for ClickZ back in 2012—which remains a good resource today. John examines landing page optimization, but the lessons about maximizing ‘take actions’ are relevant for emails and websites alike.

The Click-Through

What we’re talking about when we’re discussing the KPI above could also be broadly referred to as the ‘click-through rate’. But there are plenty of different flavors of the click-through depending on what you’re actually clicking on.

If you’re running paid display advertising online, click-through rates are very key indeed. They are the first level of your ad’s (and your message’s) effectiveness. While click-through rates can vary hugely based on the quality of creative, ad buying strategy, message, etc., it’s reasonable to shoot for an industry average click-through rate of about .08% to .10% on paid media (though this is absolutely not a guarantee to current or future clients of that figure).

When you’re talking about video ads, the KPIs are a little different. Here, cost per view and percentage of total ads served which are actually viewed are better indicators of performance. Whether video, banner, social or other, the click-through rate of the ad is still the reigning king of paid advertising KPIs because it is the most universal and most basic measurement of effectiveness.

Cost Per…

For advocacy campaigns, particularly on social media, you’re most likely trying to recruit a person to opt into receiving your messages and sign up as part of your coalition effort. On Facebook, these are most likely a ‘Like’ or a follower—and on Twitter, a follow or an ‘engagement’, like a re-tweet of your content. Therefore, when advertising on social, it’s important to track and manage the cost that it takes to acquire followers, ‘Likes’ and, pardon the pun, the like. Keeping an eye on the cost per ‘acquisition’ of these elements not only benefits your clients by being stewards of their investment and ad budgets, but also by having a powerful indicator of the effectiveness of your advertising and messaging.

The Ultimate KPIs

For me, as a client relationship manager, the ultimate key performance indicator is client satisfaction. And while, yes, that too is a KPI that can be tracked quantitatively through customer satisfaction surveys, I think the ultimate measures of satisfaction are qualitative. Are your clients happy? Would they recommend you to their friends and colleagues? Are they extending their contracts? Do they send you bottles of scotch during the holidays? (OK, that might be a very specific KPI.)

The road to client satisfaction is paved with data, and the KPIs are the highway signs along the way to prove to you, and your clients, that you’re on the right track.

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Jessica Kahanek Named as One of National Journal’s Image-Makers

The following article appeared in National Journal on June 12, 2014. Jessica Kahanek is DDC Advocacy’s deputy digital director.

When Jessica Kahanek was in high school, a teacher told her, “You’re too good at arguing for your own good.”

A decade later, the Waco, Texas, native has made a career of being heard in a crowded media landscape. Last month, the Democratic operative was named deputy digital director at DDC Advocacy, where she will specialize in big-data analytics and microtargeting tools.

“This opportunity really allows me to dive into the digital space,” she says. “We just don’t have access to the same cutting-edge tools on Capitol Hill.”

For Kahanek, who was most recently communications director for Rep. Jim Costa, D-Calif., the move will allow her to work alongside image-makers of every political stripe. “We have people that have worked for Obama and people that have worked for [the Charles] Koch [Foundation],” she says.

Kahanek got her first taste of politics at the age of 18, when she marched into the Waco office of then-Rep. Chet Edwards and offered to proofread the Texas Democrat’s campaign mailers. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where a summer program organized by Fox News’s Chad Pergram, a Miami alumnus, brought her to Washington for a three-week lecture series. Kahanek and her classmates met with Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, CBS Correspondent Bob Schieffer, and a host of congressional staffers.

After interning for then-Rep. Charlie Melancon, D-La., Kahanek served as a staffer on what is now the House Education and the Workforce Committee, followed by a stint as a legislative correspondent for Rep. Gene Green, another Texas Democrat. Since 2011, Kahanek has served as Costa’s top communications aide, working with the five-term incumbent on such issues as the quinquennial farm bill, California water politics, and high-speed rail.

Kahanek, 28, runs marathons and Ragnar Relays. “That’s my sanity point,” she says, “and it’s a lot cheaper than therapy.”

She is engaged to Lewis Lowe, who was communications director for then-Rep. Bobby Bright, D-Ala., and now is a consultant for Strategies 360. “We met through the Blue Dog world,” Kahanek says. “There might not be many Blue Dogs left, but their staffers are still out there.”

Reflecting on her career, Kahanek adds, “Washington’s been good to me…. It’s given me the opportunity to do things that, growing up in Waco, I never dreamed of.”

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Making Your Issues a Priority in Election 2014

By: Tom Benjamin, Partner

How do you inject your issue without endorsing the candidate?

Companies and organizations looking for issue support during election years consistently face a conundrum; candidates will avoid officially committing to any policy stance until necessary, and directly endorsing them during a campaign cycle risks too much for a corporate brand. To bypass the direct endorsement game, organizations can find and engage impassioned advocates to serve as the face of their issue, ensuring their position is represented at various campaign events, while their brand remains protected.

Elected officials of all stripes are loath to ever officially commit to a policy position until they absolutely must. They are masters at the brush off, trained to make their constituents believe they have been heard on an issue—whatever the issue may be. Their staff is skilled at sending constituent response mail that states something along the lines of, “Thank you for your recent letter…we agree on the importance of this issue…so-and-so committee is examining the impact of this issue on everyday Americans…” The official has responded, acknowledged the communication, but not said if they agree or will do anything about it.

This elusive behavior is especially true in the throes of a campaign cycle, when any one candidate statement can offend a needed constituency for the election. What is a concerned constituent to do? Or what is a concerned company or organization to do? There may be legislation or regulatory action on the horizon that could dramatically affect how they conduct business and threaten their employees’ livelihoods. A rightfully concerned citizen would certainly want to engage during the campaign cycle to make sure their concerns are heard. But this is a risky proposition for a corporate brand.

Organizations and companies—for any number of legal, ethical and marketing reasons—must make every effort to stay away from direct endorsements during elections. They care about the candidates, but they care more about where the candidate might stand on a specific issue—the goal is to stay out of the direct endorsement game. How do you stay out of sight, out of mind while keeping your issue in sight and in mind?

The key is finding an organic balance: humanize or personalize the issue with third-party constituents who can become advocates for the organization and serve as the face of the issue—thus keeping the brand inoculated and free from endorsement concerns.

There are myriad ways to identify credible third-party advocates to serve as surrogate voices for your cause—from online recruitment advertising, to telephone outreach, to various industry stakeholder engagements. Once you have identified your advocates, provide them with the tools necessary to assert their voice in the electoral process.

Create an issue-specific website and/or develop ongoing communications to keep advocates abreast of upcoming opportunities to inject your issue into the campaign, such as at town hall events, campaign rallies, or by generating letters, emails and calls to candidates’ campaign offices. Create a presence for your issue advocates at as many different campaign locations and events as possible. Develop issue-specific collateral—t-shirts, bumper stickers, signage, etc.—to ensure your presence is felt.

Deploy these advocates frequently and help them to stay on message. Ask advocates to raise the issue with campaign staff and, where possible, with the targeted candidate(s) themselves. Take a holistic approach to your engagement activities to ensure your perspective is being heard.

The ultimate goal is to fill up the campaign “echo chamber” with so much organic constituent concern for the issue that the candidate is compelled to go on the record. And once they are on the record you have struck gold for your issue.

A candidate who has taken a formal position on your issue is much more likely to stay with that position, should they win elective office. And once in office, you can then begin the process of engaging that legislator in a campaign to ensure they fulfill their campaign promises.

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Building the Elements of a Strategic Plan

By: B.R. McConnon, Founding partner, Chairman and CEO

In advocacy, devise your strategy first. The tactics will follow.

In “The Art of War” Sun Tzu says, “Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.”

In today’s technology age, it’s easy to get caught up in the bells and whistles of shiny new campaign features or tactics, without taking time to consider whether those tools will actually advance your strategic goals.

Before biting, or signing on any dotted lines, it is imperative to have an answer for how any of the tactics and tools you choose to advance your client’s campaign fit into a larger strategic vision. Winning and growing in competitive environments requires clearly defined goals and for tactics to flow from strategy in their pursuit.

Once a client’s goal has been defined, a strategy must immediately follow. Building that strategy requires you to plot a course from their current position, via key achievements, to their ultimate goal, which frequently means beginning with that goal and walking backwards from there.

The critical components of this strategic plan must include a comprehensive evaluation of the client or candidate—you need to know and understand their issues and history, their narrative, their strengths and their liabilities. You also need to factor in environment dynamics—political, market, social and regulatory—as well as the capital and assets (existing and potential) the client is willing to leverage toward achieving their goal.

Accessing Assets and Allies

Assets and capital come in many forms. But in advocacy and grassroots coalition building, none are as important as human capital. Every client brings with them a network, or at least a natural constituency—even if that audience has yet to be assembled.

To implement a client’s strategic plan, you must build and mobilize an audience comprised of individuals with high engagement potential who can play a role in your client’s success. These people may be consumers, they may be voters, or they may be high-profile opinion leaders. The tactics are the methods whereby this audience-building and mobilization is done.

Understanding Tactics

Tactics come in many forms: public relations media blitzes, digital campaigns, mail programs, advertisements and town hall events to name just a few. Understand that not every client requires each of these tactics to galvanize an audience, and no two goals or strategies require the same tactics. But each of the tactics employed must be evidentially integral to advancing strategy and bringing a client closer to realizing their goals.

One of my favorite quotes from a client came some years back when websites were the newest thing in public affairs. “We know we need a website,” the client explained. “It just can’t say anything.”

Clients tend to have a strong vision of where they want to go, but upon examination of their tactics, we often find that while some are actually moving in the right direction, others seem to exist independent of the overall mission.

In a world of limited resources, it’s essential to edit out the superfluous. If a tactic is not building toward a client’s goal, show them how they can stop wasting their resources and change their strategy or their tactic.

It’s critical to listen to your clients and properly ascertain their goals. Then you can build strategic plans tailored to fit both their target decision-makers and their constituencies, which then integrate the specific tactics they need to get to where they want to be.

As part of that effort, be meticulous in showing how every tactical expenditure propels clients toward their strategic goals, and judge yourselves just as meticulously—did the strategic guidance you offered to clients and tactical execution achieve the victory the client sought?

Measurements Matter

Winning teams, winning campaigns and winning strategies constantly evolve. Winning requires honest and frequent metric assessments of how strategies and tactics are performing.

When those numeric come-to-Jesus moments reveal failures in strategic machinery, or any sort of underperformance, it is imperative to adapt. That can come in the form of changing tactics and strategy, or in reallocating resources among existing tools.

Crafting thoughtful, informed strategies from the get-go, and building upon tactics that will reliably perform well for clients and their audiences should be the standard industry practice, along with refection and flexibility. Constant measuring is needed to ensure the strategies and tactics employed are still those best suited to deliver a client’s win, and when change will bring improvement, adjust.

The marriage of strategy and tactics toward a specified end, and an enduring commitment to self-scrutiny and adaptability within that relationship is what it takes to deliver the win today.

This article recently appeared in Campaigns & Elections magazine.

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Two Ways You Can Use Snapchat to Enhance Your Advocacy Campaign

By: Ryan Donovan, Media Coordinator

The ever-evolving world of social media churns out a whirlwind of new applications that leave many campaign teams with a case of digital dizziness. Facebook and Twitter are the foundational properties for any campaign’s digital cache, but what new apps are out there waiting to be used?

One unique app certainly stands out: Snapchat. The mobile photo/video sharing app is one of the fastest growing social media applications, with an estimated 30 million monthly active users sharing more than 700 million photos and videos each day.

Snapchat allows users to send photos and videos directly to other users in the form of “snaps.” The catch is that these snaps are only visible to users for up to 10 seconds before they disappear. The app’s nature may sound unorthodox, but here are two ways you can use Snapchat’s unique capabilities to engage your advocates.


1.Provide Exclusive Content
DonovanTacoBellUnlike other social networks, Snapchat’s messages cannot be made public within the app itself. Users send messages exclusively to recipients of their choosing, providing a level of exclusivity other social sites lack. You can give your advocates that special treatment by sharing content no one outside of Snapchat can see. For example, if your organization is hosting an event or making a big announcement, encourage your supporters to follow you on Snapchat to receive the details before anyone else.

Taco Bell is one of the best examples of brands effectively using this tactic. They tweeted an invitation to follow their Snapchat to find out a secret announcement. Taco Bell then revealed the return of the Beefy Crunch Burrito exclusively to their Snapchat followers. What’s more, their followers took screenshots of the announcement snap and shared them through their own social networks, further amplifying Taco Bell’s message. Snapchat will then send users a notification if another user screenshots their snap. A campaign would find this feature very useful in identifying potential advocates that care enough about your message to save it.

By recruiting potential advocates and spreading messages, Snapchat can help your campaign kill two birds with one stone.


2.       Offer a Personal Touch

In an issue-oriented campaign, it’s often difficult to convey your message in an easily relatable way. In a political campaign, humanizing your candidate is a constant struggle. Given its mobile-only capabilities, Snapchat gives users the ability to share off-the-cuff experiences and messages taking place in real time. Adding personalized text to these snaps provides an added special touch.Donovan_image2

Take Rand Paul’s snap, for example. After joining Snapchat, he sent a personalized thank you message to every user who followed him. As a recipient of that snap, I felt like I had exclusive access to a man slated to be a 2016 presidential frontrunner. Giving your advocates that special feeling will instill a sense of investment in your issue or candidate. That investment then increases the likelihood of that person taking action for your cause.

In less than two years, Snapchat has become a rising star in the suite of social media apps at America’s fingertips. From exclusive content to personalized messages, a snap can go a long way in recruiting advocates and encouraging them to take action for your cause. These unique outreach capabilities make Snapchat a worthy addition to any campaign’s cache of digital and social media tools.

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