Is your communication strategy built for 2022?
Every day, advocacy communications campaigns must navigate non-stop news cycles, a splintered media environment and an increasingly polarized public to “break through” and shift opinions.
But 2022 will be even trickier than normal. Next year’s decennial occurrence—mid-term elections coupled with redistricting—means that in addition to the local, state and federal elections, many politicians will be forced to run against each other and/or introduce themselves to voters in a fully, or partly, new district.
Further complicating things, experts are already predicting media spending to match or exceed 2020 presidential election totals – making it more difficult (and expensive) to reach your desired audience and achieve message saturation. Layer on the increasing cost of placing digital ads with Facebook’s CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) up 33% and Instagram’s up 23% compared to Q3 2019, and 2022 is shaping up to be a pricey year for PR and issue advocacy efforts.
So that brings us back to the original question: Is your communications strategy built for 2022? If you're not sure, below are five steps to consider when developing your digital advocacy strategy for 2022 to ensure maximum results while minimizing the impact of the impending federal, state, and local elections.
- Plan Ahead: Next year’s calendar is dominated by political and policy events ranging from the State of the Union in late January to primaries throughout the year, and election day on November 8, 2022. It is imperative to understand this schedule and how it may impact even the best laid plans. For example, if you need to execute a campaign for a client in Texas, your efforts should account for the primary on March 1 (scheduled) to avoid getting drowned out by the political chatter. Big spending campaigns means limited ad inventory, because even online quality ad space is not unlimited. This means planning ahead is even more important. Which leads us to our next point.
- Launch/Run Major Efforts in the First Half of 2022: Competition for digital ad inventory in 2022 is already heating up and will only escalate in the lead-up to Congress’ (likely) adjournment for August recess on July 29, 2022. By the time Congress returns in September its focus, and the national conversation, will be on the mid-terms and addressing pressing matters before going back out on the campaign trail. This means there are six to seven months, at most, to engage and influence policymakers at the federal level. In other words, don’t wait to get moving! Be prepared to launch your campaign in January before politics takes center stage. This does not mean you cannot, or should not, continue to execute communications efforts in the fall, but you should consider focusing the bulk of your efforts earlier in the year and reinforcing messages throughout the fall.
- Know the Local Issues and Politics: Understanding what issues matter most to your targeted geography can help you tailor your messages to build on the news cycle or avoid it entirely. In addition to understanding the local narrative, identify where you should direct your efforts (e.g., paid media placements) to ensure maximum impact. Direct Impact, BCW’s grassroots arm with a presence in every congressional district, understands which policymakers and influencers need to see your message and where they consume information. These local insights can help you refine your data-targeting and focus your message to the digital platforms, properties and newsletters these individuals rely on daily.
- Leverage Data-Targeted Advertising: Media sponsorships, influencer marketing, and other broad-reaching advertising are valuable, but their effectiveness risks being diluted by the deluge of political and issue advocacy advertising in the fall. Whether you plan to amplify those types of efforts through paid advertising or use them as standalone tactics, make sure your team uses data (e.g., employment, issue, first-party owned, available third-party) to target advertising and deliver the right message to the right audience. This will limit wasted impressions (those seen by people not in your key audiences) and ensure the most efficient delivery despite the expected higher costs of ad placements. In addition to executing communications efforts earlier in the year to avoid the political tsunami, many platforms and operating systems are phasing out some data-targeting options and/or may limit their options in the immediate lead-up to the elections in November. Therefore, launching earlier will also ensure greater data-targeting options.
- Know What Is Allowed: Don’t forget to check the ever-evolving guidelines and parameters social platforms set around political advertising and content. There is nothing available publicly yet that outlines new potential restrictions (e.g., no overt advocacy) on any platforms, but staying up-to-date can help you avoid a last-minute rework of your campaign.
The time to plan and secure inventory is now. The internet may seem infinite, but there is a finite amount of quality digital inventory to reach your desired audience. If you have questions or would like to discuss digital planning for 2022, please contact John Randall.
John Randall is an EVP in the Public Affairs and Crisis practice at BCW, specializing in digital strategy and execution.