Digital Strategy in a Recount: The Secret Ingredient Your Campaign Needs

How to Effectively Use Digital Past Election Day

IMGE Studies Marketing Strategy

You’ve planned your digital strategy from campaign launch to Election Day with everything hinging on a big win in November.

But if you’re in a tight race with the polls showing a toss-up, you have to prepare for the potential of post-election ballot challenges and recounts.

That’s just what IMGE did with the 2020 NY-22 race between then-incumbent Democratic Rep. Anthony Brindisi and then-former Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney.

Claudia Tenney

We already had a successful digital strategy for Team Claudia in the run-up to Election Day, but with the race looking like it could go either way, we shifted gears to post-election planning.

Because Facebook and Google banned political advertising, we couldn’t rely on our tried and true methods for raising money, building loyalty, and getting voters to the polls. Instead, we had to rely heavily on existing supporters to carry us across the finish line.

The good news? 2020 wasn’t a run of the mill post-election period. That gave us the opportunity to get really creative with our digital strategy. And you can, too.

Here are 3 ways digital can help keep your campaign humming during post-election battles, even after the polls have closed on Election Day.

1. Don’t stop talking

Your supporters stuck with you throughout the election cycle, and they’ll continue to stick with you until every ballot is counted and a winner is announced. But only if you keep them engaged.

When the NY-22 race dragged on for months, our digital team got creative in reaching out to supporters. We wanted to keep them engaged without burning out our house file with endless fundraising asks. We sent petitions calling for Governor Cuomo’s resignation and issue surveys. Supporters were kept involved every day, so that when a fundraising opportunity arose they were already active.

Andrew Cuomo

2. Keep your messaging agile

During post-election campaigning, like recounts and runoffs, things can change on a dime or at a snail’s pace. The latter was the case in our race.

In NY-22, we dealt with long court delays and ballot recounts and canvassing that stretched on and on. Deadlines kept shifting, and we had to keep communicating with our supporters without continually saying “certification is coming,” because we had no idea when that might actually be.

We pivoted our conversations away from ballots and court challenges to keep our messaging fresh. Instead, we focused on the REAL matter at hand – the role Governor Cuomo had in creating this mess.

3. Expand your donor pool

Challenges, recounts, court fees…that all adds up pretty quickly. Especially when a campaign’s budget is designed to end on Election Day.

Keeping the relationship with your supporters strong can help you get those final five yards and secure a win, but sometimes even that isn’t enough.

We were overwhelmed by the strength of the Tenney campaign house file, which kept coming through for Claudia. But we knew asking for money day in and day out could turn them off from giving to Claudia at a time we needed them the most.

We were concerned about election fatigue with our house file. Without new donors from digital advertising, we knew we’d have to get creative.

After the House was sworn-in back in January, we were the only race left in the country. That left us in a prominent position to speak about the need for election reform and the problems in New York, problems which were not unique to New York in 2020.

Claudia Tenney NY-22

Using outside lists composed of donors known to support conservative causes and candidates like Claudia Tenney allowed us to reach new supporters. With fresh donors, we were able to build our donor base at a time when we otherwise weren’t getting new donors, since ads were off the table.

After more than three months of ballot challenges and recanvassing in counties across the district, the race was finally certified in mid-February. Claudia Tenney won her seat back and is once again representing the people of NY-22 in Washington, D.C.

Your Recount Digital Strategy Checklist

If you’re put in a position where you need to plan for a possible recount or runoff, consider this checklist:

  1. Don’t stop talking – continue to share updates and ask supporters for their help via social media, email, and texting.
  2. Keep your messaging agile – pivot conversations to the most relevant messages, don’t saturate your supporters with the same talking point every single day.
  3. Expand your donor pool – reach out to new audiences who are already primed and interested in issues related to your campaign platform. Relying only on your housefile for donations will cause burnout and could turn them off from donating all together.

If you’re in a tight race and are ready to invest in digital strategy, IMGE can help. We’ve been in tough situations, like what happened in 2020 in NY-22. Contact us today, we’d love to help.

Anthony Pileggi is Vice President at IMGE and leads IMGE Advisors, our general consulting arm.

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