3 Key Elements of a Digital Campaign Plan
Editor’s Note: This post was originally posted on the NTEN Connect Blog and published on the EveryAction blog in November 2015. The information has been edited and updated in January 2021.
Putting together a digital campaign can be time-consuming and even costly. There are a lot of working parts to consider: email, other communication channels, donation pages, etc. However, your organization can compile its existing resources into a winning digital campaign strategy by focusing on three key campaign elements — campaign objectives, target audience, and key messaging.
The objectives for your campaign will guide all communications and outreach, and will serve as a baseline for measuring your success.
Summarize the context in which your organization is launching your digital campaign. This should be written clearly, in no more than two pages, and in an easily digestible manner. Describe your approach to crafting a campaign strategy that will accomplish your goals. Address your stakeholders, significant external influences, and any obstacles you can foresee. Also, highlight high-level advocacy priorities for the campaign, such as fostering relationships with influencers, engaging with your grassroots supporters, or lobbying on relevant and timely policy initiatives.
If you notice your campaign objectives are a little too general, remember that they should be SMART (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely). This should help you keep you on track and your objectives achievable!
The next step is to figure out who you’re trying to reach. Targeting a group as broad as “the general public” is far too inexact and can be a recipe for campaign disaster. Your digital campaign should target a specific, primary audience and its motivators.
Describing your target audience in terms of a fictional character that represents them in general can help you gain a better understanding of the groups you’re engaging with, and helps you better plan your communication with them.
Helpful questions to ask:
- What sort of job might this person have, and in what industry?
- What are their demographics? (age, income, location, etc.)
- How do they find, consume, and share content?
- What are their biggest challenges and how do they work to overcome them?
- What goals might this person have?
Get a deep understanding of what motivates an individual in your audience and the group as a whole to take action. Using this understanding, try to align your campaign goals around what these audiences care about.
Having the ability to target and predict donors eliminates all the guesswork out of list selection and segmentation, saving any unnecessary time, effort, and resources throughout the process. This can allow your organization to easily identify opportunities and raise more money, so you can optimize your programs for better outcomes.
After identifying your audience and what’s important to them, the next step is to think about how to frame the campaign messaging. One helpful step is to start by establishing a single, clear message you want to get across to an audience, and treat it as a core tenet of each part of your campaign. Then, craft a few “bylines” or sub-messages that can include specific wording you’d like to incorporate into your marketing collateral. These should be unique to specific channels, as well as specific segments of your audience.
We all know the importance of including CTAs throughout a campaign. It’s easy to forget though that each CTA should call for a specific, intentional action that aligns with your key messaging. As with your sub-messages, craft these CTAs for specific channels and audience segments.
All of the media assets at your disposal fall somewhere in the framework of what’s called a “converging media mix.” This represents all of the communications channels and outreach efforts you’ll use during your campaign. There are four key strategy areas to this media mix: owned media strategies, shared media strategies, earned media strategies, and paid media strategies.
Owned Media Strategies
Owned media strategies use the channels that your brand controls. This may include your website, campaign microsite, blog, videos, or other assets that you maintain as part of your content marketing strategy. (Events fall under owned media, too.)
- Pros: great way to create long-term relationships with existing contacts; usually the most cost effective
- Cons: take the longest to scale
Shared Media Strategies
Shared media includes any channel where you have some ownership, but not complete control. All social channels fall into this category because you “share” the media with those that choose to engage with you. Shared media is vital to creating a conversation around your campaign—it’s much easier to get earned media (coming up next) if there’s chatter online about your campaign.
- Pros: best platform to create a conversation; helpful when trying to get earned media
- Cons: while you control what you say, you can really only control one side of the conversation
Earned Media Strategies
Traditional PR, buzz, word-of-mouth advertisement, and blogger outreach all fall into the earned media category. Once you get a buy-in from key influencers in your sphere, they will then share your content with their audiences, greatly boosting your campaign’s reach.
- Pros: external endorsement from outside individuals and orgs; can significantly amplify the reach of your campaign
- Cons: hardest to measure because you have limited control
Paid Media Strategies
You guessed it: paid media strategies require payment to use a channel. The most effective ads will drive your target audience to owned media in order to create more earned, and shared media.
- Pros: harness the power and reach of social media (Facebook ads, Twitter promoted posts, Adwords, etc.); paid ad campaign opportunities are nearly endless
- Cons: it may take some time to establish a working knowledge of digital ad platforms
Finally, finish off your campaign plan with a two-phase timeline (setup and implementation), and a resource plan that explains how your project team will operate. Include each member’s responsibilities, staff time allocation, any resources you’ll need, and of course, a proposed budget. For more resources to help further your mission, subscribe to our newsletter.