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Lessons Learned from the 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections



Browsing through my Mac, I came across a report I had written about the 2004 U.S. Presidential Election. I must say it was a good read. I want to share my 2004 views and some abstracts of this report with you. (7 days to go)

Lessons Learned from the 2004 U.S. Presidential Elections
A brief review of Internet Political Communications

E-democracy
E-campaigning
Politics and the Internet

The U.S. Presidential elections were held on November 2nd 2004; the two major political campaigns of the President, George W. Bush, and Senator John Kerry, started in early January of 2004, when the battle for the Democratic nomination was being fought.
An interesting fact to mention is that the online re-election campaign of www.GeorgeWBush.com launched on the 19th of August 2003.

Politics and Internet Communications

Everything started with Howard Dean’s campaign. Of course, political WebPages existed before, but Dean’s move to involve people, gather a huge email list, create Blogs, and empower voters to take part; formed a new channel of communications with American voters.

The buzz created from www.DeanForAmerica.com span a lot of publicity and TV coverage focusing on the “movement” involving young people coming together online. Some people would argue that the biggest change Dean made in connecting with people was to ask for their help, not just for campaign financing, but making people active and empowering new voters to be part of political change.

Dean’s future in the democratic primaries and caucuses was painted bleak; Senator Kerry was to be the Democratic Nominee. However, something had changed. All three Presidential hopefuls, George W. Bush, John Kerry and Ralph Nader had a lot to learn concerning future voters.

The Internet Campaign Strategy

The internet has changed the way we get news and are aware of Politics. The opportunity of online campaigning is being interactive and being able to campaign through email and interactive websites.

• Emails where integrated within the 2004 U.S. Presidential campaigns; it costs less than direct mail and fund raising phone calls or fund raising events, while giving the opportunity to communicate in different ways.

Email is a way to speak directly and immediate to grassroots supporters; since it can be viewed as an online constituency that is as important as traditional media.

• It gives the people that receive the email a sense of being an insider.
• It is unfiltered and One to One.
• It is immediate and interactive.
Moreover, it can:
• Reach online communities.
• Target undecided voters.
• Promote online ads and interactive ads.

By utilising the medium of technology, in order to gather information about people and donors; demographic data and other information can be gathered in order to better understand the voting public in their priorities and beliefs.

Perhaps one of the most important contributions that the Internet has made is to focus the campaign strategy around issues, rather than general ideas and vague policies.
One aspect that makes the Internet particularly intriguing as a campaign tool is that, unlike television it gives people a heightened sense of connection to campaigns and even a degree of empowerment.
The Multi-Tasking Voter - Consumer

Traditional advertising media planning has assumed that people are just doing one thing:

• Watching TV
• Listening to the Radio
• Surfing the Web
• Reading a Newspaper
• Etc.

However, in this day of age all these are interconnected/ linked and networked. In addition, people do two or more at a time.
Therefore, email and the Internet can provide vital links to the campaign and the other channels of communications.

By acknowledging this fact, the campaign can shape its communications and create interactive services, in order to communicate its messages much more efficiently and direct.

Permission Marketing Communications
The people that subscribe to the emails and are part of the online campaign are being lured by permission marketing techniques. Permission marketing is about building an ongoing relationship of increasing depth with customers or in this case, voters.
Permission marketing has been hailed as a way for marketers to succeed in a world increasingly cluttered with various communication messages.
It’s not just advertising, it’s communicating with people who are seeking information.
Permission is supposed to be anticipated, personal, and relevant. It is effective because the prospect is more receptive to a message that has been requested in advance and more cost efficient because the prospect is already identified and targeted.

The e-Communications Facts

According to campaign spokespersons, around 6 million people have subscribed to the www.GeorgeWBush.com website. Around the same high number of people are subscribed to the www.JohnKerry.com website. www.RalphNader.org did not disclose any formal numbers.

The money that has been raised through the internet from supporters has not yet been fully known. However, in some of www.JohnKerry.com email updates, we get some information that includes:
• 20th of April, 2.5 million raised
• 16th of June, 100 million raised, 75 million from grassroots fundraising
• June 25th, www.JohnKerry.com disclosed that 49 million was raised by the email list in 90 days. Also on the same day 1 million dollars was raised through online supporters.
• July the 1st, the Kerry Camp disclosed that in two days 50.000 Americans contributed 5 million dollars online.
Internet Tools

• Howard Dean asked its core supporters which ad (from a selection of 3) to air in battleground states in an email before the Wisconsin primaries.

• An Online calendar for Bush related events’ happening around the country has been at the www.GeorgeWBush.com website from the start of the campaign.

• Party for the President was an excellent idea to bring people together; on the 22nd of March, an email informed all the President supporters that on April the 29th it would be a “National Party for the President” Day. Including What Where When and Why to take part. 5000 parties across America were held according to a www.GeorgeWBush.com email alert. Also, www.JohnKerry.com started parties for Kerry shortly after.

• Both the www.GeorgeWBush.com and the www.JohnKerry.com websites encouraged their e-members to come together and see the Republican and Democratic National Conventions as well as the 3 debates due to held until the end of the election.

• Webmercials, a www.GeorgeWBush.com series of commercials exclusive to the Internet.

• On March the 30th www.GeorgeWBush.com created the Kerry Gas-tax calculator, so voters can find out exactly how much Kerry’s gas tax would cost them at the pump. In addition, people could plan a trip, get directions and see how much the Kerry tax would have cost them at the same time.

• On 16th of May. The Journeys with John tool was launched at www.GeorgeWBush.com that allowed supporters using the Kerry travel tracker to learn the real issues (according to the bush camp)

• Do you have a story? On July 16th www.JohnKerry.com send out an email entitled “We are listening”. Kerry supporters were urged to share a story that would be of help to the campaign.

• Virtual volunteering by www.GeorgeWBush.com . On June 30th the Bush team mentioned in an email that the net has changed the rules.

• Flip-Flop Olympics was a Flash game created by the Bush Team at www.GeorgeWBush.com and launched through email on the 18th of August.

• Nader and Audio Clips. Listen to Ralph emails originating from www.RalphNader.org were a great idea to hear Ralph Nader speak exclusively to online supporters.

• Downloads are utilised as a great tool to involve people and create relationships with voters.

• Merchandising is another issue that is also a major funding tool.

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