Digital Campaign Planning in Local Politics
After our interesting first digital session “Campaign Planning” with the Chilean party Evópoli in June 2020, we planned a second virtual programme week with new and exciting interlocutors in January 2021. Evópoli is an active member of the foundation network RELIAL. They are part of the Chilean government. Since travelling was not possible, luckily, the technical achievements of online meetings, as well as the possibility to offer a simultaneous interpretation into Spanish in these meetings, enabled us to bring the Chilean and German experts together virtually.
Fortunately, we could win Dr. Monika Ballin-Meyer-Ahrens again as moderator and as expert for the introductory seminar to give a deeper insight into the planning and campaigning for local elections in municipalities. She is a political advisor, ran for mayor in the German city Leverkusen and thus, was a great asset for our programme.
Our participants received hands-on suggestions for their upcoming elections and helpful input how to strengthen their network and gain voters trust. Some key aspects for campaigning were mentioned in all meetings during the week – listen to the voters, be reliable and extend your social network.
Currently, we are facing a difficult situation due to the pandemic. Therefore, a digital campaign is getting inevitable and new strategies are necessary.
A digital campaign needs to be fresh and attractive, but following certain rules and techniques. We invited Dr. Julian Jaursch, Project Director of the Stiftung Neue Verantwortung (SNV), a Think Tank at the intersection of technology and society, to discuss about the Dos and Don´ts in Digital Campaigning. The digital world is offering many new opportunities, but is at the same time also hardly subject to restrictions. Voters can be influenced easier through a clever campaign and certain technical features, but a potential manipulation cannot be uncovered easily. Internet cookies and special tracking could be potential ways of manipulation and could increase the influence of parties and people with a higher financial backup.
After being introduced to some of the challenges regarding online campaigning, our Chilean participants were introduced to Thorsten Anders, the managing director of the Liberal Party state association of North Rhine-Westphalia. He showed us the different options and new technologies that the FDP, the Free Democratic Party (Germany), made use of during their different campaigns. All FDP members are able to create unique advertisements, but uniform in design, for their campaigns- all through one webpage. This uniformity would support the recognition of the FDP designs and at the same time increase the professionalism in the campaigns. Social media campaigns or posters and flyers would have a special design, but would be recognisable directly as FDP related.
The designs and the marketing of the FDP are organised by the advertising agency “heimat”. They held an interesting presentation with hands-on input, many examples of current and past campaigns and some advertisements that were fresh, cheeky and made us smile. The focus was on the local election campaign in North Rhine-Westphalia for Ms. Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, who ran for Mayor in Düsseldorf. The examples showed a modern and clever strategy to catch the attention of voters.
Our next guest had a landslide victory after his clever election campaign and was therefore a great interlocutor for our Chilean group, as many of them are still at the beginning of their political path. Enrico Eppner won against his CDU (Christian Democratic Party) opponent, who was in office for 26 years as mayor of a small town in North Rhine-Westphalia. He emphasised the importance of having a mixed work team with different ages, opinions, backgrounds and thus the opportunity to reach many different groups of voters through a manifold programme. An innovative campaign, also online and in social media, new ideas and especially an open ear for his community definitely supported his election results.
“The programme emphasised the importance of teamwork and offered lots of great ideas for building a political campaign.”
The last day of our Chilean-German online journey was concluded by Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann. As we were already introduced to her campaign and design elements through the advertising agency “heimat”, the group had many questions and was entertained by her examples from her experiences as a local politician in Düsseldorf. The funniest and most innovative campaign was a critique of the so-called environmental track (for commuters with more than three people in a car) in Düsseldorf. During rush hour, the road was reduced to two out of three lines, with one commuter line, which was supposed to decrease the traffic. Instead, of course, it increased the traffic jam. So, Ms. Strack-Zimmermann´s campaign put up a huge advertisement next to the road with a QR-code to a Spotify list including many famous songs regarding traffic, traffic jams and waiting time. As a plus she was standing next to the road with a sign “looking for commuters” to jump in and join cars with only two people, so they could use the environmental track with her and reach the city without traffic jam. It was a huge success and led to great discussions with the other commuters. Furthermore, she gave useful tips for a possible strategy to finance a campaign and clearly recommended to keep a personal contact not only to voters, but also to supporters. One aspect was to remain true to oneself and always be straightforward.
During the week, we met many really interesting and experienced interlocutors. The quintessence during the meetings was to connect personally and listen to the potential voters. However, the digitalisation is offering new opportunities and chances and future campaigns might be increasingly online, so why not using the current times to start into the digital age.
“Initially, I only participated for the constituent assembly. This seminar increased my motivation to run for Evópoli. For me, there is a before and after meeting the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.”
We would like to thank our great interlocutors, Ms. Ballin-Meyer-Ahrens, our project office in the Andean Countries and especially also our interpreters, that gave multilingual voices to our group.