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Archive for the ‘Government 2.0’ Category

Last week in Politico, Dave Gold, founding partner of the mail firm Bouchard Gold Communications, wrote that over-reliance on data models since Obama’s 2008 campaign has contributed to the epic fails of the Democratic Party: loss of 63 seats and control of the House, loss of 11 seats and control of the Senate, loss of 13 governorships, loss of over 900 state legislative seats and control of 27 state legislative chambers.

“We Democrats have allowed microtargeting to become microthinking. Each cycle, we speak to fewer and fewer people and have less and less to say,” Gold writes.

While you can expect that a mail consultant would argue for a larger contact universe, Gold’s argument for storytelling and focus on emotion is compelling, and Gold’s piece is worth a close read (it was shared heavily among my political Facebook friends, so there’s some agreement here). Gold also backs up his points with results from the difficult-for-Democrats Harris County, Texas, where an independent expenditure he advised “helped Democrats win every contested race in Harris County for the first time in a generation, including the district attorney, sheriff and 30 judicial races.”

I tend to agree with Gold that microtargeting efforts can cause more harm than good if they lead to contacting smaller universes. Micro-messaging – telling different voters different stories, can take the benefits of data and use them to drive increased turnout.

When it comes to voter outreach efforts, it’s accurate and complete data that really makes a difference. When you can only robo dial landlines, you need complete landline coverage. When you can text cell phones with apps like Hustle, Relay and Handstack, you need more cell phone numbers. And when you’re using Facebook ads or email to reach voters, you need phone numbers and emails for accurate custom audience matching.

And despite advancements in campaign tech, accurate data isn’t the easiest to come by. That’s where Accurate Append, one of my longest-running partners from NationBuilder and The Adriel Hampton Group, comes in. They provide data append services for campaign vendors and directly to campaigns, and their email append and verify products improve both ad targeting and delivery rates. If big data is killing campaigns, perhaps better data can help save them.

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Whether you’re running a marketing campaign, or a political campaign, data integrity and completeness is essential. I work for, and buy product from, phone append vendor Accurate Append because they’ve been leaders in data quality for decades. Data quality isn’t just having access to many sources – it requires innovative approaches to merging that data and good judgement in what to keep and what to throw away.

Data quality is a big problem for political campaigns. Poor data quality mars polling, stops folks from voting, and results in multiple records for each one of use in different databases in different regions, states and on different companies’ servers. Here’s where the highest quality data comes in handy:

Get more of your mail delivered. While you can often trust Gmail addresses as valid, records from voter files change – and emails addresses don’t change in sync with physical addresses. Good data hygiene reduces email bounces and improves your sender reputation with ISPs.

Email matching for your tech program. Accurate email addresses are critical to building strong custom Facebook audiences, reducing advertising costs. For political campaigns, they also increase matches with services like VoterCircle, which you can use to enlist supporters in peer-to-peer canvassing.

Reach more supporters with accurate cell phone numbers. Open rates for texting are a magnitude higher than open rates for email. Instant lead validation on entry for all of your forms (possible with Accurate Append’s Gravity Forms OSDI WordPress plugin) makes sure you have the right numbers for texting, and line typing ensures you’re differentiating between contact methods for home, work and mobile numbers. You’ll appreciate accurate phones at every step of your operation – there’s nothing that discourages volunteers or lead gen staff faster than wrong numbers.

Save on your mailing costs: Mailings can run as high as $1 each – that means bad addresses can cost hundreds or thousands in wasted mailings, and a heck of a lot of waste. Consumer and postal mail updates mean more of your targeted mail reaches the bullseye.

To use Accurate Append efficiently, remember my tip to first remove the Gmail addresses – until some other email service eclipses the efficacy of Google’s service, those are going to be golden and don’t need much cleaning or updating. If you need phone numbers beyond the U.S., Accurate Append offers Canadian phone append. Another way to save is to narrow your target universe before sending over your file – don’t waste time or money with an unwieldy file. Remember to source complete data that allows you to reach your supporters on the most reliable channels – email, phone, doors. You can also narrow your outreach by adding donor histories and donor models to your contacts as a custom service from Accurate Append. And if you’re trying to register new voters, try their consumer file filtering to identify likely unregistered, eligible adults.

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My growth services agency works with clients of all kinds, but our specialization is design and marketing for civic tech companies. My definition of “civic tech” is simple – technologies meant for the politics, government or nonprofit customer. I’ve helped companies expand into this market, and worked with folks who target this niche and it alone. My background in civic tech began as I worked inside the SF City Attorney’s Office and bean exploring ways that social media and other new communications and collaboration tools could forge new ties between government offices and an increasingly digitally connected public.

Today, one of my favorite clients is iConstituent, a DC-based software company that introduced the eNewsletter to Congress 15 years ago. iConstituent’s flagship product is robust constituent management software for managing incoming email (including form letters) and tracking issues through their lifetime. Can robust citizen engagement tools create a better government? We think so.

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For much of my four years at NationBuilder, I worked on email deliverability – either directly monitoring the results of our customer email blasts, or working with the delivery director on thorny deliverability issues and strategies and documentation to help our customers get more out of our email product.

I always look at bulk email delivery as an art as well as a technical challenge. While nonprofits and political campaigns want to get their message to as many people as swiftly as possible, internet service providers (ISPs) are devoted to keeping their customers’ inboxes as clean and relevant as possible. This means they have teams of engineers working to keep unwanted bulk mail out. In order to successfully navigate the inboxes of supporters and voters, you need to send relevant, wanted messages that will be regularly opened. And you’ve also got to avoid technical problems that signal to ISPs that your emails might be spam. When emailing, it’s not what’s legal (such as sending emails to a voter file list), it’s what the ISPs think of your e-blasts that ultimately matters.

One of the biggest things you can do to improve e-blast results is regularly eliminate bad and bouncing addresses from your sends. Thankfully, NationBuilder does much of this for you in an automated fashion. And while I was with the company, I developed a relationship with Accurate Append, a firm that specializes in verifying emails before you send to them. You can do this in two ways – in real time as emails are submitted on web forms – or in bulk with any list you haven’t been sending to regularly. It’s estimated that you can lose as much as 2% of your list each month due to changes in folks’ email addresses. That means if you’re running for office and using a list of personal contacts whom you don’t routinely email, 20-50% of your list may be bad. You can “clean” your list simply by running it through an inexpensive process with Accurate Append, and make sure you stay on the ISPs good side by sending to highly valid addresses where your messages will be opened, read and responded to.

If you’d like to read more email deliverability tips, NationBuilder has a good guide to email best practices. For campaigns and other outreach efforts, Accurate Append also provides email append and phone append products. I recently wrote up a guide to using appends to generate laser-targeted Facebook advertising audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about how Accurate Append can help with your data challenges, just give them a call or fill out a web form.

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Fortune

In 2011, Jim Gilliam had a difficult time convincing Silicon Valley investors that his startup company, NationBuilder, had a big enough vision. The company, true to its mission to build software for political organizations to manage their constituents, was only working with political clients. One problem: The political software industry hasn’t spawned many billion-dollar companies. (Actually, it has not spawned any.) Only the venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, which invested $6.3 million into the company in 2012, was willing to back Gilliam’s cause. Angel investors followed, and NationBuilder added another $8 million in funding the following year.

Indeed, 90% of NationBuilder’s clients are from the political and non-profit sectors, who use the startup’s software to manage and build communities around their causes. (They “build their nations,” as Gilliam puts it.) The company sells itself as the best way to manage communities across the fragmented social media landscape. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr…

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“There is no ladder”

Brad A Schenck

Last blog I introduced the concept of a Matrix of Engagement. I got a few rebuttals that sometimes you need a simple ladder. Maybe a Matrix works for thinking about organizational engagement but in the simple things we use the ladder for we still need the ladder. Maybe inside the Matrix there are ladders…

Well I would say this is right and wrong. Right in that we need to be able to distill a path of growth for people. Wrong in that the ladder still works as the analogy and should be used.

Breaking down further why to let the ladder go. When people think of the ladder, they in their mind imagine a pretty basic ladder right? It’s got a few rungs and you step up one step at a time. In reality that’s not even what people mean when they say ladder. What they really mean is…

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The League of California Cities didn’t participate in the global discussions that led to SB 1002, the California Open Data Standard, but it’s doing its best to gut or kill the bill, twisting the meaning and intent of the law to make a specious argument that government as platform advocates are somehow trying to rip off taxpayers. It’s a sad move from a lobbying organization that has done little to advance government efficiency and transparency in our high technology state.

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