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Six Steps to Yes-We-Can Marketing

From its foundation in carefully-planned strategy (vs. McCain’s “just doing it”) and building the right team, through pinpointing key audiences and measuring effectiveness at every juncture (with lots of course correction), the Obama campaign exemplified a powerful communications strategy. After all, what else is a political campaign than a highly-dramatized and personalized communications strategy.

The Obama campaign followed these critical six steps to victory. Follow in its footprints to win big with your communications.

==> Have a Concrete, Measurable Plan and Stick to It

No matter what, the Obama team kept its eye on its crystal-clear goal: To elect Obama president. That single-point of focus, to be achieved via unusually measurable objectives (2,025 delegates for the primary win; 270 electoral votes needed to become president), shaped the flexible framework of the Obama strategy.

Even in the down times, when delegates were slow to come or swing state electoral votes were iffy, campaign strategists stuck with the plan to make the right decisions. A key one was to campaign in 18 swing states, not just the usual handful. You know the outcome.

Once your organization has a well-conceived strategy, that’s solid enough to guide your efforts but flexible enough to bend with changes in the environment in which you work, you’re good to go. Don’t deviate from it.

==> Allocate Enough Resources, and the Right Ones

The Obama campaign hand-picked a team that was focused, skilled, disciplined and innovative. Obama needed a balanced group that could bring the strategy to life, despite the dramatic ups-and-downs of campaigning. He got it.

Even in the down times, when delegates were slow to come or swing state electoral votes were iffy, campaign strategists stuck with the plan to make the right decisions. A key one was to campaign in 18 swing states, not just the usual handful. You know the outcome.

Similarly, the aggressive campaign strategy required a generous budget. Since the campaign had tracked every inch of its primary fundraising success, the team was able to make a reasoned decision to forego campaign financing. The rest is history.

Don’t undermine your chance for success by holding back on what it takes to make it real.

==> Know Who You Need to Engage and How to Reach Them *Where They Are*

The Obama campaign IDd youth and other first-time voters as key targets, and made sure to reach them where they are online. That decision, married with the campaign’s commitment to empower its base, equipped a huge number of Obama supporters with the ability to share their passion with a click.

Your target audiences may be different. Whoever they are, you need to learn everything you can about them so you figure out where your org’s work and impact intersects with their interests and needs, and engage them via channels they already use daily.

==> Craft a Brand that Connects Your Goals with Those of Your Base

Hope and change — the emotional and inspirational lynchpins of the engaging Obama brand — created a powerful platform for his policies and messages, as all good brands do. Brand Obama met squarely with the dreams of the base. Yes we can!

When a potent brand is joined with a compelling mission, nothing is impossible. Most importantly, the campaign consistently demonstrated its commitment to its brand, introducing change from the bottom up in its open invitation for participation from hosting house parties to forming local groups. This brand was so honest, and such a motivator, that a group of volunteers created Obama’s iPhone tools (which prioritized who in a iPhone user’s contacts were in swing states and needed to be contacted first) on their own. They knew the door was open (change), saw the gap and stepped forward to fill it (hope).

Obama is making good (so far) on his promise of tangible results if elected. Take a look at this feedback loop on, Obama’s transition web site.

Beware though, authenticity is a must. If you can’t carry through on your brand, don’t make the promise.

==> Use Web 2.0 Tools to Scale Up Your Communications, and Empower Your Base to the Nth Degree

Obama’s team saw that online social networking was just another take on traditional door-to-door organizing. So the team moved quickly to put these tools front and center of the campaign, hiring Facebook creator Chris Hughes to run them. Yes, McCain had a web site with click-to-give and social networking tools, but there was nothing much more to do there, so no community ever grew around it.

Meanwhile, (MYBO) grew into an active social network of its own but, even more importantly, the campaign seeded the message in multiple online forums where its base was already active, ensuring that the base would spread the word. Not only could the campaign easily connect to its base this way, and the base evolve into an engaged community, but the base was given the tools it needed to exponentially grow its own ranks!

==> Track, Track, Track and Correct Your Course as Needed

The Obama campaign tracked its every move, using the data to make the right strategic choices along the way.

For example, supporters who signed up on MYBO but didn’t get involved were rarely engaged in follow-up communications while those who were more active were reached out to much more often. Because many volunteers’ involvement was trackable through the site, the campaign knew where to focus.

And when canvassers reported back to HQ with info on which Democrats had outstanding issue/platform questions, those needs were entered into the Obama database and followed-up on promptly.

Data was a life source for the Obama campaign, as it should be for your nonprofit marketing agenda. Without it (and only 37% of nonprofits track communications impact), you’re driving blind.

Are there additional Obama campaign strategies that can be put to work to increase nonprofit marketing impact? Send your ideas to me and I’ll share them with other Getting Attention readers. Leave a comment below.

Nancy Schwartz in Strategies and Campaigns | 0 comments

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