Erin Dixon

Paid media has been in the news a lot lately, from Twitter announcing they’ll no longer allow political and issue advertising to Netflix’s documentary, “The Great Hack” providing an in-depth view of how data was used in the 2016 election to influence voters through social media and most recently, Google’s decision to end highly targeted political advertising. The debate over how and where campaigns influence voters in today’s digital society provides an opportunity to explore the power and relevance of paid media moving into 2020 and beyond.

If, how and when to use paid media is the question on every client’s mind. The world of paid media has never been more promising. At the same time, the complexity of paid media continues to increase.

For the last three and a half years, I’ve been honing my digital media skills here at Reservoir and have seen how important having a thorough understanding of pros and cons of the wide variety of paid media options is to achieving results. As we’ve honed our strategies, our targeted campaigns have seen significant increases that help strategically amplify our clients’ messages among target audiences. In a crowded media environment, this is no small “feat of strength” (for Seinfeld fans).

How we create an uptick in engagement. Rather than focusing on impressions and clicks, our strategy is aimed at reaching discrete audiences in Washington, D.C. and across the country with a vested interest in a given policy issue.

With budgets of varying sizes, we’ve been able to pinpoint influential publications on the national and state levels, place messaging on sites frequently trafficked by policymakers and their staff, and consolidate social advertising in geographies with the most active groups of voters. This approach allows us to serve customized ads targeting our core audiences, ultimately producing meaningful results well beyond impressions and clicks.

At Reservoir, we take incredible pride in our ability to tackle our clients’ most challenging problems. With our headquarters mere blocks from the White House and U.S. Capitol, a lot of our work focuses on advocacy. In this realm, I believe paid media is still a valuable asset, especially when critical legislative efforts are on the line.

What led me to this conclusion. Advocacy efforts require a deep knowledge of the legislative process and an understanding of key constituencies impacted by various policy issues.

Our clients come to us because we have a proven record of helping “move the needle” – which, let’s be honest, can mean a lot of different things depending on the client and the ever-changing legislative environment. With that said, when it comes to “moving the needle” a targeted paid media campaign can be a reliable tactic as part of a broader activation strategy, and one that we usually consider when presenting a strategic plan to a client. For many different kinds of projects, paid media can effectively reach a client’s core constituency, activate stakeholders and engage policymakers and thought leaders.

To that end, here are some recommendations for developing an impactful issue advocacy paid media campaign:

1. Focus on Your Targets: Rather than a “blot out the sun” approach, identify where media placements will have the most impact – sometimes this isn’t where you would expect, so do your research.

2. Create the Right Mix: Balance your media mix in a way that creates a surround sound with multiple touchpoints for your core audience – radio, social, digital, TV, print – it all can be fair game if it reaches your stakeholders and can carry your message effectively.

3. Provide Background: Outside of the D.C. bubble, constituents often need a refresher on policy issues, so be sure to include that background in your messaging or landing page.

4. Call to Action: Once voters understand an issue’s impact on their individual family, community and state, ask them to take action. Create a platform for engagement with options to reach policymakers through social media, phone calls, emails, or dare I say it…snail mail.

5. Create “Buzz”: A focused mix of targeted advertising among the right, engaged core constituency will get people talking and ultimately drive results. Just wait until you hear people talking about an advertising campaign you helped launch – it’s exciting!