This past week was very politics-focused for me. Luckily, not the normal office or club politics of my life, but “real politics.” I took a deep dive into what makes local politics tick in Orlando. And the consensus among everyone running: advertising and social media are super critical to their campaigns.
In my Leadership Orlando class, I was introduced to several candidates across the spectrum of local and state politics who are endorsed by Business Force, the political arm of The Central Florida Partnership. Mike Ketchum, the president of Business Force, asked the panel what media they’re using for their advertising and what’s working.
Everyone on the panel said that first and foremost it was the grassroot activity of knocking on doors that had the greatest results. This is the ultimate form of social media. They knock on doors, learn what their community needs, and sometimes even get more volunteers to help them knock on more doors! Viral!
Lou Damiani, running for a seat on the county commission, said that direct mail is a great tool for fundraising. Marco Pena, a candidate for the Florida House, said it was important to quickly get the word out to his party. And Geraldine Thompson, who is now running for The State Senate, uses direct mail to specifically reach the “no affiliate to party” voters.
Scott Plakon, who is in a highly contested House Representative race up in Altamonte, has to also use TV heavily in order to reach the masses with more content. He still walks the streets and goes door to door, but he stresses the importance of having a way to combat the “air war” as well as the “ground war.” He also does phone calls. Surprising to me, he says he gets great results with the phone calls.
Pam Gould, who is running for School Board in Orange County, attends club and committee meetings to talk politics as well as focuses heavily on social media. Facebook and Twitter are her tools to express her opinions about pressing topics.
But social media can be a slippery slope. I was invited to attend a fundraising event for Sheriff Jerry Demmings this week, and he told the story of how his competitor posted on facebook that he was pulled over for drunk driving in his neighborhood, but the cop let him go because he was the Sheriff. The news media picked this up and it found its way to a headline in the Orlando Sentinel.
The problem with this story is that while the event did occur in the Sheriff’s neighborhood, the Sheriff has been dry for years and it was actually one of his neighbors that got pulled over for possibly driving under the influence. But because of the post on Facebook, it cost the Sheriff lots of time to save his reputation with the rest of the world. So free media can even be costly.
I’ve been getting a lot of direct mail these days. Are you keeping them and reading them? I also watch a lot of Hulu TV and am getting slammed with national political ads almost every commercial break, but nothing local. Have you gotten phone calls? Have you noticed that most signs only say “elect” instead of “re-elect,” even if they’re an incumbent? Do you follow any candidates on Facebook or Twitter? Do you find their tweets useful or a waste of time? Inquiring minds (me) want to know.