HOW TO CREATE A WINNING LEGISLATIVE CAMPAIGN

This six-part interview with Roger Senserrich, Communications Director for Working Families Party of Connecticut, explains how we worked with them to build a powerful digital campaign for Paid Family and Medical Leave.

Part 1. THE VIDEO SERIES 

It was crucial to create a wide range of videos that involved everyone that would be affected by this legislation.

Part 2. THE CONTENT-MAKING PROCESS

Messaging, scripting, producing versions and distributing hundreds of thousands of ads to our targeted audience was a smooth process.

Part 3. GEO-TARGETING THE CAPITOL

State Legislators were surprised to see our ads every time they were using the wifi at the Capitol. 

Part 4. BEYOND SOCIAL MEDIA

Using banner ads and pre-roll video, we were able to reach people beyond social media in order to get them to join this campaign.

Part 5. METRICS BASED DECISION-MAKING

Decisions about the campaign were made based on minute-by-minute metrics received from the various ads.

Part 6. THE RESULTS

The response to this campaign was overwhelming, "[Legislators] were getting thousands of emails each day."

SEE ALL THE ADS IN FEATURE LENGTH AND PRE-ROLL VERSIONS

INTERVIEW TRANSCRIPT - ROGER SENSERRICH 

Communications Director, Working Families Party of Connecticut

 

Thanks to the targeting we were able to actually make sure that the legislators we care about were the ones getting the contacts. For this campaign we actually tracked how many people were contacting legislators, and that was based on the ads that we were posting on Facebook, using the videos that DCS actually produced and the ads that we were posting online in newspapers, websites targeted on the district and targeted at the Capitol. So we were measuring exactly how many people were clicking, where the clicks were coming from, and we were following on essentially which legislators were getting the most contact. The results were actually really significant. BY the end of the campaign, combining the facebook ads and the online ads, we had thousands of people actually send letters to legislators called them, contact them, asked them to pass paid family leave, the important thing as well is thanks to the targeting we were able to actually make sure that the legislators that we care about were the ones getting the contact, so we were showing the ads on their districts, we were showing the ads to their voters and people that we knew that were going to contact them and the campaign allowed us to put pressure on the legislators that were key to pass this legislation and that we knew that were on the fence and needed that extra push to actually support the legislation .

In terms of numbers we actually had by the end of the campaign several thousand letters sent to the Capitol, and more importantly several thousand letters sent to the four, six senators and six to ten representatives that we really wanted to support this legislation - we needed them to actually hear our message. Those contacts, added to the constant online presence of the videos allowed us to be seen hundreds of thousands of times across the state. [The videos] got hundreds of comments each, got a lot of feedback, kept these [issues] in the debate and kept legislators hearing from the campaign and hearing from constituents from the start in April to the very day of the vote  

 

For targeting we did a combination of several different ways. On one hand we had geotargeting, mainly we were directing ads to the capitol, people that have been to the Capitol or were visiting the Capitol Building, so legislators every time that they opened the Courant or they opened one of the newspapers, saw ads for paid family leave and everyone that came in and out of the building; activists, lobbyists, people that were testifying on other things saw our ads when they were looking at anything online on the wifi of the capitol. We also targeted a few specific lists of voters so we had a list of our supporters, people that have been following Working Families and our campaign for years, that we know they are highly motivated and we know that they are very likely to actually contact legislators so we made sure that they saw ads. They were getting emails they were getting advertising, they were getting the videos on Facebook meaning that they were really pushed and prodded to contact the campaign, and we had a very very strong response on that. Besides that we were also targeting key Democrats, we had lists of  policy makers and people that we knew could influence policy makers and members of Democratic Town Committees, people that have been in the Democratic Convention, those are people that are likely to talk with their legislator at some point, especially if it’s their local legislator, especially if they know that the legislator is a bit on the fence on a piece of legislation that is popular, so we were making sure that they were seeing those ads. And finally we were targeting districts, so we had a list of target districts. We had the voter lists for those districts and we narrowed it down to make sure that we were targeting voters that had voted in the primaries or had voted recently in the general election and the state elections meaning that they were aware, they were engaged with the process and they were likely to actually contact and call legislators. And we made sure that they were seeing six, eight, ten ads during the campaign. More on the tail end once the legislation was in the House and we really wanted to ramp up the pressure so we were targeting districts we were targeting the legislators at their own homes.

 

For the creative we had a really strong combination of media and things that we were doing, the initial thing that we did was creating a series of videos, three testimonials of people explaining why paid family leave was important, why they had that life event, they had something that had impacted them on their lives, and explaining why paid family leave will have changed that and will have made their lives much better. After those initial videos we realized that we needed to fill gaps on these stories, in part because in terms of demographics, in terms of who we wanted to reach, in part reaction from what was happening at the capitol. So there were some workers for instance that were going to be excluded, so we had to shoot additional videos to actually explain the stories of those workers, explain the specifics of people that would have been impacted negatively if the bill did not include them. 

 

The turnaround from DCS was really really quick, we needed the video on Friday, I called them on Monday, Wednesday we were shooting, and we had the video ready and up going on Facebook by the end of the week. The process was extremely smooth, DCS was incredibly helpful actually crafting script and making sure that it was condensed enough that it fit both in a slightly over a minute if we wanted to do something a bit longer, then compressing it to the sixty seconds that you need for Facebook and for Instagram to make sure that we could blast it as far as possible and then creating small clips, six fifteen second clips that could be used in quick things, quick things that will appear on Facebook stories or Instagram stories, and that could be used for banner ads. The banner ads were a combination of both conventional banners with animations that we did in part in house but with a lot of support and a lot of guidance from DCS, and videos that were being shown on websites, again based on those six - fifteen second, brief mini videos from the longer pieces. DCS actually took care of actually making sure they were edited correctly, that they were carrying a powerful message that they were extracting and subtitling in ways that were impactful. The campaign already had sort of a visual design - we were using fonts, we were using some specific ways to show titles and things like that, and DCS actually adapted the creative look that we had, to the videos so it was really consistent with everything we were doing. Meaning that if someone saw the videos on Facebook, and had seen things in print or had seen flyers or had seen props that we were using at the capitol, they had a similar style, they had the same look, and it was really easy to identify that this was a campaign, this is the Paid Family Leave method that we are pushing, and it was consistent across. 

 

The thing that happens with legislative campaigns is you start with the plan; you start with a timeline you think the bill, the legislation is going to go out in a certain amount of time, and then that never happens. The bill hits snags at some point, there are legislators that raise objections that you are not expecting and so on and so forth, so you have to adapt. This meant that for this campaign in particular, we had to make the campaign longer, that we had to change targets midway, so some legislators at the beginning we thought were not really going to be a problem became a problem, some legislators that we thought were going to be a problem stopped being, and DCS was incredibly flexible actually letting us adapt. So from the get go for instance, we realized that the initial five-six weeks that we had as a timeline to pass the bill was not going to happen, we were able to actually go back to the drawing board, go over the results that we were getting from the ads, change the mixup of the ads so instead of having a lot of ads running to our list, it looked like the people who were on our list had responded really quickly and they were tapped out, they were not clicking anymore because they already heard the message, we shifted part of those resources to districts that had not been in touch, to new legislators. We moved some of the ads that were not being as effective as banners or as videos out and we actually added new ads in to bring new messages, new concerns, and DCS was really responsive along the way.

So every time we hit a snag at the Capitol, we had changes made, we got in touch we discussed,  how can we switch this so we are actually leaning harder on this side of the aisle, we are talking more to House members, we are actually focused more on Senate members now, and shifting the ads depending on what we needed. We needed to move ads away from personal stories because maternity leave and things like that were something we stopped having to talk to legislators about because they were already on board, but we had to focus on the size of the company workers we were working in, so we actually moved out some of the ads that were being less effective in our rotation and added the new ones and showed that to the legislators that were more recalcitrant, and showed that to voters in their districts so that was what was prompting the calls. And along the way every time we had to make those decisions we could make a decision based on metrics, we had data from how the ads were running on Facebook;

we had really good digital data on how the banners were performing, how the videos were performing and we just moved things around based on that.

 

So the most impressive thing and the thing that actually we were the happiest about this campaign was how it added another arrow to our quiver so to say. If you’re used to working with facebook and twitter ads or things like that you have a certain way to target people as long as they are on social media or social media adjacent, but you know that you are missing people, and you know that for instance you cannot target a specific list of people, you have to target a demographic. Doing this we were able to actually get lists of addresses, lists of where people were physically living, getting the voter list out and actually blasting those addresses and blasting on those districts in particular. So we were able to be really really specific that we are going to target only Democratic voters in the thirteenth house district and they are going to see ads for two weeks, half banners and half video ads. This is far beyond what you can do on Facebook. On Facebook you can only target people from what they’re interested in, broadly geographical areas but I cannot target only Democrats, I cannot target only people who have voted in the last election. This allowed us to actually go broader and get people who are outside this bubble to contact legislators. This meant that legislators were getting emails from people that they are not used to hearing from.

Geo-targeting the Capitol, meaning that we were going to be showing ads to people that have been physically  in the capitol or had been over the past few weeks or months. We actually found that that was both going to be effective and fun. Fun in the sense that legislators are used to getting calls, they are used to hearing from us when they are in the hallways, they are not used to seeing us target their cell phones and laptops when they are in the building. The result was that legislators were seeing that this was this very strong grassroots effort, they were getting thousands of emails, hundreds of emails, every week about Paid Family Leave, they were getting the visits and calls of hundreds of people. On top of that, every time they opened their computer they were seeing ads about Paid Family Leave, they were seeing the videos and the banners and basically pieces reminding them about all these people that are actually coming here, they are not alone, there is a campaign that’s doing this, and they are actually very aware enough and worried enough that they are running ads for you, at the capitol. I don’t know if they were aware that we were geo-targeting the capitol or if they just thought that we were blasting this across the state, but we got comments from legislators that, “Oh I am seeing your ads I am getting your emails, please stop.” We actually had a couple of legislators that told us halfway through, people that we took out of the targeting list because they told us, “ok, I heard a lot of people called on this, I am a yes, please stop running ads I don’t want to get anymore emails.”

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