Once upon a time, content marketers felt comfortable in the knowledge that the adage of “content is king” was both true and enduring. Then came the smash and attention-grab known as election year advertising spending, and things became a bit less secure and much less predictable.
After all, in the content world, it’s all about the eyeballs, right? But in the year ahead, there’s going to be the added challenge of remaining both relevant and on people’s radar when candidates and political action committees (PACs) are spending billions of advertising dollars to attract eyeballs to anything and everything related to their campaigns.
Learn some ways to rise above the political advertising scrum with our content marketing strategy tips for election year.
5 key election year marketing reminders for the 2020 cycle:
1. Prepare for the big spend.
Back in June 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that “Spending on political advertisements is projected to hit a new high in 2020, surging $3.6 billion above the most recent presidential campaign year.” The total predicted was a whopping $9.9 billion in 2020.
2. Expect record-breaking ad displacement.
During a presidential election cycle, there is a displacement of billions of dollars of ad spots by political candidates, campaigns and PACs. While some platforms, like Twitter, will ban political ads, television and radio stations have to follow rules set by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which can result in filling their schedule with more political ad spots than a station owner would otherwise choose to air.
With so much ad noise, and $9.9 billion of spots becoming unavailable to non-political marketers, competition for remaining premium ad spots (with higher costs due to higher demand) becomes as competitive and outrageous as snack food commercials during the Super Bowl.
3. Become an escape from election fatigue.
Before you despair, consider the fact that there is a line of logic that suggests content marketing will have higher ROI as an alternative for a segment of marketers and strategies. Along with that, there will be greater pressure to have higher-quality content to break through the noise of election season.
Content geared toward inbound and organic marketing channels might have better chances of circumventing the political noise and higher cost of paid channels. The upside of all of this is that people with election cycle fatigue will probably be actively seeking out everything from puppy memes to New Yorker cartoons, to your extremely brilliant and expertly marketed content.
4. Focus on what you do well.
So, how can you bring your A-game to your content and create your own sweeps-week feeling while the country is divided sharply into blue and red? By doing what you already do so well; allowing your content to continue to support your mission and entertain, attract and retain your most loyal audience.
Back in 1996, when Bill Gates coined the expression “content is king,” in an essay that ran on the Microsoft website, he wrote:
Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the internet, just as it was in broadcasting.
When Gates wrote that, most of us connected to the internet with a modem, but we connected to our audiences in the same way we do now — by providing consistently high-quality content.
5. Keep up on trends.
One added benefit of the election cycle is the added attention paid… to… every… dollar. From a marketing research perspective, the nuances of campaign spending — who’s spending how much, where, when, and to target who — can provide you with ample and free insights.
Articles on 2020 election year marketing:
- 2020 Political Spending Projections – Advertising Analytics/Cross Screen Media, via Politico
- ‘Digital Is the Test Bed’: Why the 2020 Election Is Focused on Online Advertising – Digiday
- As Election Year Looms, Consumers Look for Brands That Have Political Values – Adweek
You might need to adapt your content marketing strategy for election year.
Sure, the rules have changed a lot since Gates first predicted the rise of internet content, but perhaps the most enduring update to the cornerstone is that these days, quality content is king. Use the following ideas to help your content stand out when everyone’s eyes are on elections.
1. Avoid political topics (and keywords) entirely…
Some content marketers I’ve spoken with intend to try to game the system by peppering their SEO with political references. An approach like that might actually turn off consumers completely if done the wrong way.
“I really think, unless their organization’s mission and products and services are election-related, they should totally steer clear of election content. That’s a policy I adhere to for my own business,” cautions Gail Snow Moraski, principal/founder of Results Communications & Research who specializes in organic/technical search engine optimization (SEO).
You never know what clients’ or prospective clients’ political leanings are, and you never want to offend them. I think people will be so burnt out on political/election messaging next year that they won’t welcome getting any more info or content from organizations whose primary mission isn’t to share such content.
2. …Unless your readers are in on it.
If you do decide to be playful about the electioneering, let your clients know about it immediately.
As Moraksi says:
I like the idea of coming straight out and encouraging clients and prospective clients to visit one’s website via social media post and email/e-newsletter links to the site that are prefaced with some kind of enticing intro along the lines of us ‘take a breather from the election/political madness, by visiting our site to read about x,y,z.’ I think some very fun, engaging teasers along those lines could be written to introduce links to an organization’s website.
3. Don’t try to game the system.
And in case you think you can outwit the Google algo by playfully inserting a tsunami of election keywords before pulling a bait-and-switch, you can’t.
As Moraski advises:
Don’t try to game Google by using high-volume keywords (search terms) in your website content just to try to drive target-audience traffic to your website. Google and other search engines will ding you from an SEO standpoint, and it’s also irritating/a turn-off to searchers when they figure out you are trying to manipulate them.
4. Take the opposite approach.
Remember that episode of ‘Seinfeld’ where George Costanza found he could succeed beyond his wildest dreams simply by doing everything the opposite way? Veteran TV financial journalist Vera Gibbons took a similar approach when she launched NonPoliticalNews.com (NoPo) “for those who are sick and tired of the political headlines.”
After years of reporting the news, Gibbons realized that, on some level, she wasn’t particularly thrilled with the quality of news she was receiving. “I started NoPo in 2018 for a couple of reasons. First, I was so sick of hearing about politics everywhere I went, and had had it with all the hostility, de-friending that was going on over politics, etc.”
More than that, Gibbons said:
I was also having a tough time finding news that was non-political. I wanted to know what else was going on in the world outside of politics (What was going on the housing market? What’s the latest consumer scam I need to be wary of? Why are so many people doing intermittent fasting? How come no one’s wearing makeup anymore?) and I wanted a break from 24/7 politics (and the media’s bias).
Enter NoPo. “Every day, night, and into the wee hours of the morning, my team and I look for the most interesting, unique non-political news stories within Consumer/Personal Finance; Health & Wellness; Fashion/Beauty; and Fitness/Diet. We then curate the content and the newsletter goes out to our growing base of subscribers, Monday-Thursday, 7 am.”
5. Know your audience.
More than simply providing an alternative to the political scrum, Gibbons and her content team are providing a valuable news stream and destination.
She’s also fine-tuned her desired demographic:
Our target audience is smart, savvy, educated women, aged 35 and up (Think: parents of the Skimm subscribers, so it’s a slightly older demographic), both conservatives and liberals who are interested in knowing what’s going on in the world outside of politics (many are news junkies) and are seeking an escape from the political bombardment.
6. Pay attention to an unexpected secondary demographic.
Gibbons offered a postscript to her primary demographic:
We do have male subscribers and they tell me one of the reasons they like NoPo, beyond the fact that we’re filling a void in the marketplace, is because it provides insight into the female psyche. Interesting!
7. Fine-tune your process.
If your content strategy for during the election cycle succeeds, you’ll have created a loyal consumer base of people eager to consume your content.
As Gibbons notes:
Every day, we find the right “mix” of nonpolitical news stories — some “need to know,” some “nice to know” and some “who knew?” within the respective categories we cover. An example of “need to know” would be a serious recall; an example of “nice to know” would be workout trends for 2020; and an example of “who knew” would be that recent story out of Miami Art Basel — the banana duct-taped to a wall that sold for $120,000 (whoa!).
8. Try out voice technology…
If you’re thinking of taking a new approach to your content, now’s the time for it, starting with voice technologies.
“Voice is going to explode and will allow for new opportunities for smart content integrations,” shared James Crolley, senior vice president, head of media at Ansira.
Again, as consumers seek to escape non-stop advertising, we see music, podcasting, and smart home hubs (Alexa, Google Home, Facebook Portal) [as welcome channels]. For our clients we are recommending more creative resources in audio.
9. …And find some new channels.
Crolley also thinks marketers are going to find new channels of advertising along with new revenue opportunities:
There is going to be a flight to only safe content. Marketers are going to increase spend on retailers’ sites (Target, Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon) and transaction sites (Expedia, Ticketmaster, Delta). Many more marketers are going to begin allowing advertising on their sites, including those in banking, health, and QSR.
Pro tip: Crolley also shared that, “For our clients, we are helping some become media publishers and helping arrange barter deals between clients.”
Now that you’ve got your election-year content marketing strategy in hand, you might want to think about what to do when the Olympics advertising influx starts this summer.
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