When it’s time for a campaign to scale up and extend its reach beyond the current audience, it’s time to consider advertising. Putting resources into an advertising strategy is a great way to amplify your message and grow your supporters.
But organizing an effective advertising campaign can feel like a daunting task. To be effective, a strategy must incorporate several important elements such as target audience, messaging, channels, budget, and timeline. It’s hard to know where to start, and that’s why Campaign Gears developed this comprehensive guide to achieving advertising campaign success.
Clearly Define Your Goals
The first step is to define your advertising objectives. What are you trying to achieve with this campaign?
The two main objectives of most union and nonprofit campaigns are raising awareness and collecting contacts, and many do both. The key is to ensure you’ve pinpointed the details as precisely as possible.
Using the SMART framework when establishing your objectives helps to ensure they are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound.
Clearly outlining your goals helps establish the foundation for your campaign and guide your decision-making process throughout.
Understand Your Audience
Determine the audience for your campaign: who must you reach with your message? Consider each of the four categories of market segmentation to help you narrow this down as much as possible.
The Four Main Types of Market Segmentation
Location-based: Where do they live? Where do they work? Could also be from IP address or user-provided address.
Statistical data: What is their age? Gender? Language? Education level? Occupation? Life stage? Social status?
Values & interests: Who do they listen to and where — radio, TV, social media? What are their attitudes and opinions?
Actions: Which modes of transportation do they use? Which physical and online sites do they frequent? What do they do for fun?
Word of mouth should not be underrated. The people who make up your audience might also listen to politicians, influencers, and TV and radio personalities. Consider whether use of these voices would be a good fit for your campaign.
By the end of this step, you should have a very clear understanding of exactly who you are trying to reach. While you may feel tempted to skip this step, you really shouldn’t! Understanding your audience will help you craft compelling and tailored campaigns that resonate.
Set a Realistic Budget
Setting your budget in the early stages of the process allows you to allocate your campaign resources wisely.
A multichannel strategy uses a mix of complementary channels to increase the impact of your campaign. The goal of this approach is to connect with your audience in all the places that they are most likely to be found. To achieve this, plan to allow for a significant investment of your budget into at least three different advertising channels.
A good general framework is to designate approximately two-thirds of your budget to advertising costs and one-third towards production. Don’t forget to include your time in your budget!
Establishing your advertising budget is essential to the next step, planning your approach.
Design Your Advertising Strategy
Now that you know exactly who your audience is and how much you have to spend, you can plan an attention-getting strategy. The goal is for your campaign to show up in front of your audience often enough to achieve the perception that it is taking over. We want the target of the campaign to be concerned that people they care about are being influenced (voters, shareholders, customers, etc.).
Determine which advertising channels will help you achieve this. Will you use traditional mediums such as television, radio, print, and outdoor billboards? Or maybe you’ll decide to use digital tools such as social media ads, digital programmatic advertising, search engine marketing, podcasts, website takeovers, influencer sponsorships, or email marketing.
You’ll likely use at least a few of these to achieve a multichannel approach. Each has certain advantages. Traditional channels are often a cost-effective way to reach a broad target market. Digital channels offer the ability to target in very specific ways so that you’re not wasting money and time on those who are not relevant to your campaign.
The channels you choose will depend on the scope of your campaign and the insights you’ve gained about your audience. For example, if you know the general route that your target (say the boss at a hotel or hospital in your organizing arena) uses to commute to and from work, well-placed outdoor billboards and transit ads might be just the thing you need. If you understand their online behaviours, you can ensure the presence of your campaign and supporters in those spaces.
Cost Versus Targetting
*The reach and cost of podcasts and influencer sponsorships are variable.
Another factor to consider is your timeline. Different channels require different lead times. If you have a very short timeline, you will want to focus on digital options, which have the quickest turnaround time to go live. The process of printing and distributing campaign materials through traditional channels can take more time. Broadcast channels such as television or radio generally fall in the middle.
Leave Room for Escalation: A Case Study
A truly great campaign strategy will always include room to scale up, whether by expanding territory, increasing investment, or adding channels. Escalation increases our presence and thereby the pressure on our target to take the actions we want them to take.
One great example of this was the “I Stand With Diane” campaign in southern Ontario in 2009. In this case, a hotel worker was fired after her involvement in a union organizing drive. The union responded with a campaign that put increasing pressure on the hotel to do the right thing: reinstate her job and accept the unionization of the hotel.
“I Stand With Diane” featured Canadian celebrities and politicians in support ads on billboards throughout the city, and grew to include one of the first digital email-a-target tools in Canada to focus on a unionization target.
The campaign was strong even before the hotel had been named in the campaign. When the union let the hotel know that naming them was coming soon, the hotel capitulated and the employer dropped all objections to being unionized.
This campaign has a special place in the heart of Campaign Gears President, Ethan Clarke, because it was one of the first times that he was involved in a successful union organizing job.
The success was only possible because the campaign started small and grew over time. This allowed the campaign to be rolled up upon victory, sparing damage to an employer that would have hurt the members. This is an important consideration! If you escalate too quickly, you risk doing more damage than necessary.
Finding the Right Balance
The key to every great campaign is finding the balance between cost and targeting. A significant investment into a minimum of three advertising channels is optimal, and with a large budget, this is generally not an issue. However, if your budget is less than $15,000, hitting three channels becomes much more challenging.
If your budget is limited, very precise targeting will give you the most effective results for your investment. Well-curated and segmented email lists can be inexpensive to create and effective to use. Calls to action sent via push notifications through app-based support networks can organize quick responses and reactions to developing situations. Rallies and community-building events don’t cost a lot to organize and are a great way to bring people together to work toward a shared goal.
If your budget is very small, hiring an organizer to do one-on-one outreach with supporters to raise money and build the capacity of your organization can end up being more cost effective than advertising channels.
There are many ways to maximize budgets; it just takes giving this step the attention and time to do it.
Content is Still King
And that brings us to the most important thing of all: good content.
Having high-quality content is the most important thing because, no matter how targeted you are with your messaging, if the content isn’t interesting, the campaign will not be effective. Arguably, what you are putting out there is even more important than who and how and where.
Your content should be concise, engaging, and memorable. Use compelling language and captivating visuals. Include a clear call-to-action prompt that inspires your audience to take the desired action. Ensure they know why the action will be effective. At the end of the day, the people engaging with your material should know they can make a difference.
Note that good content does not necessarily mean professional. Some of the most engaging content is very raw and authentic.
The AIDA framework is one tool to help craft compelling advertising content:
- Attention – Grab them with a compelling visual or a great headline.
- Interest – Keep them with messaging that shows how your issue is relevant to them.
- Desire – Offer something they want, i.e. the Theory of Change.
- Action – Encourage next steps with a clear and simple call-to-action.
Engaging narrative stories are always the most effective way to capture attention. Storytelling creates an emotional connection with your audience, shows why your issue matters, and inspires people to act.
What are the stories you want to tell? Which channels and voices will tell these stories in the most impactful way? To achieve your particular goals, will you get further with slick graphic design or with self-produced videos?
Measure and Refine for Success
A critical step that often gets overlooked is that of looking at key performance indicators. These metrics help determine whether your campaign is on track to meet your goals.
This is a significant advantage that digital channels have over traditional ones. When it comes to campaigning, analyzing data and knowing when to pivot mid-campaign can make a big difference in the overall outcome. Don’t waste the opportunity to gain these valuable insights!
Many digital tools have these features built into their products:
- Statistics such as open rate and click rate gathered from an email campaign can give you an idea if your message is resonating without the expense and time of running a focus group.
- Website traffic can be tracked: You can see the number of page views, find out where your visitors are coming from on the web, if they are unique or repeat visitors, and more.
Tracking on traditional media is also possible, though more difficult. You can include different website URLs in your traditional media, for example, to track how many people come to your website from your traditional ad buy.
Keeping an eye on metrics can help you determine if you are having the impact you are hoping for. If you are satisfied with your campaign’s performance, that’s great! If not, metrics can help you determine whether you need to modify, adjust, or add pieces to strengthen your impact. Not only does this increase your ability to reach your current goals, it offers learning you can take forward to your next campaign.
Check out our blog post on data-driven campaigning for more on why data matters!
If you need support planning your advertising strategy reach out to Campaign Gears. Our goal is to help unions and nonprofits plan and execute effective campaigns and win!