Why More Campaigns Should Follow Trump's Lead with a Digital Manager

Republican practitioners working in digital have applauded President Trump’s decision to appoint Brad Parscale manager of his reelect. But it begs the question, why don’t more campaigns have their digital consultant serve as their campaign manager or GC?

Ask around and you’ll find most digital consultants agree that the time is right for them to take that leadership role on – whether it’s as GC or manager. After all, most federal campaigns are doing the majority of their voter contact now online. Moreover, digital is the only space on campaigns that collaborates with every department.

How do you show grassroots enthusiasm? Post pictures of volunteers on your social-media pages after a successful canvass or phone bank. When you do a voter contact mail piece you should be chasing that same universe online. When you go up on television, you should be reinforcing it with video preroll.

Your digital vendor will work exclusively with your data vendor to make sure you’re communicating with your targeted voters. Your digital team will create a website to drop opposition research and hits on your opponent. I could go on.

Hiring a digital manager as GC is also a chance to break with old strategy. Conventional wisdom is to hoard your money until you can go up on television. But who knows best how to do more with less than the digital team? Vendors in the digital space are used to working with small production budgets while watching the lion’s share of the candidate’s hard-raised money go out the door to their traditional media or mail teams.

Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars on focus groups testing your creative. But you can more cheaply run A/B tests online and get real-time analytics on how receptive your audience is to your message.

Digital occupies the only space on campaigns that requires real-time adaptation. Facebook and Google are regularly putting out new reports on updates, enhancements and best practices for their platform. The current disruption in television of moving to short ads, 6- or 15-seconds, have been a mainstay in the digital space for some time.

The digital consultant often spends the most time of anyone talking with the campaign manager. Those conversations range from updates on their social media engagement plans to acquisition campaign strategy or pre-roll spending projections. And maybe more importantly, to justify every dollar being spent on the digital effort.

When that call is done, a few hours later, we then are bombarded with questions from the GC who had just talked to the manager or candidate and wants to be brought up to speed for their next call. By thinking ahead of the curve and having your digital consultant as the campaign lead you will cut down on redundancy.

Campaigns we’re working with this cycle certainly have a better understanding of digital. To their credit, they’re asking more of their digital team, and also putting more resources in their budgets on digital.

As campaigns continue adapting and learning how to fully integrate digital into their strategy, it only makes sense that more digital consultants will be asked to take larger roles in their campaigns.