We sat down with Arena Vice President, Steven Ostrow recently and asked him to share a few tips—for consultants, professionals who manage caucuses (e.g., executive directors), campaign managers, and of course politicians—on how to run a successful political campaign. Here’s what Steven had to say:
Arena Editorial Staff: What is the number one thing campaigns should be doing now to prepare for their next election?
Steven Ostrow: Winning in November starts with defining persuadable voter universes as early as practical. The bulk of campaign-spend goes to paid voter contact through print, digital, and broadcast advertising. The better focused a plan is on your key audience—likely persuadable voters—the more effective your advertising will be. Defining your target audience early will make your paid media plans more powerful when it counts most.
All politics are local. Every candidate from Governor and US Senate to local city council races are going to be talking about very similar issues this cycle; inflation, crime, parental involvement in schools, etc. Once you’ve identified your target audience, you need to hyper-localize the message with examples from your own community in a way that only legislative races can.
AES: What trend are you watching that could most impact 2022?
SO: Voters spend three times as many hours on the open internet — including channels like gaming, digital audio, and OTT/CTV — compared to the walled gardens of social media. Sure social media should be part of your digital plan and is a great source for relatively inexpensive leads for online fundraising, however its importance is diminishing. If your budget allows look into OTT/CTV, over 76% homes have a smart TV.
OTT/CTV is the topic de jour for ’22 and everyone wants in on the action. True OTT/CTV buying is purchased directly, and not through a 3rd party with complex software – similar to digital ad buying. Make sure your OTT/CTV is being purchased by a firm with actual and direct experience and has the receipts to prove their purchasing includes: a buying platform, ad certification/verification software, ad server, first-party data targeting, measurement tools to gauge reach, frequency and incremental reach. Buying OTT/CTV with all those features is the only way to ensure your ads are actually being seen on quality inventory while targeting your audience.
AES: What’s a lesson you learned the hard way that everyone should know?
SO: If you want to run a successful political campaign, KISS—Keep It Simple Stupid. Raise money, identify target voters, talk WITH—not at—voters and turn voters out. Sure it’s always fun to look for the latest and greatest piece of new campaign tech, however if you focus on the basic blocking and tackling, you’ll win a lot more races than you lose.
Steven Ostrow is Vice President of Arena LLC and manages campaign clientele across the country—specializing in places where the costal elites have forgotten. He is a seasoned campaign operative with a deep understanding of the national political landscape, having recently worked for the Republican National Committee as the Great Lakes Regional Political Director and as Executive Director of the Michigan Republican Party. Email Steven if you’d like to learn more about how he and Arena can help your campaign. To learn more about what Arena does, check out What We Do.