5 communication lessons from the presidential campaign

LDA Summitt 2015My team and I had the pleasure of hearing Dan Pfeiffer speak at the October 8th Louisville Digital Association Summit.

Dan shared with us his behind-the-scenes role as President Obama’s Senior Advisor for Strategy and Communications … from his 2007 preview of the iPhone with Steve Jobs to convincing President Obama that going on Between Two Ferns was good marketing for the Affordable Care Act.

Dan summarized his experience on the campaign trail and in the White House with 5 digital marketing lessons. While Dan’s direct experience is in digital marketing, I believe these lessons apply to anyone in a communications role – marketing, internal communications, HR, direct supervisor, CEO, the list goes on and on.

Dan’s 5 communication lessons …

1. Hire the right people. Hire individuals that have a vision and are excited about the future. New employees should bring innovative ideas to the team.

2. Be authentic. Your audience – whether a voter, an employee or a buyer – almost always has to trust you/your product before he/she will buy. Trust is established with authenticity. Now more than ever, being unauthentic is obvious and leads to immediate distrust.

Dan and his team were brilliant at establishing President Obama’s authenticity. They were successful in making the President very relatable with his appearances on Jimmy Fallon, Between Two Ferns, and Buzzfeed.

And just how did he convince the President to make such humorous and self-deprecating appearances? 1) Provide data to prove viability and 2) Show that it achieves a marketing objective. Between Two Ferns raised awareness for the Affordable Care Act with a very specific target audience – young males. Traditional PR would be seen by a fraction of the target. The appearance included the registration link and deadline, and they saw a huge surge in young people signing up for ACA. Advance your goals by taking calculated risks, and be consistent with your strategies.

3. Social platforms are a community not a tool. Have a strategy for each social media platform, not an overall “social media strategy”. Every platform is unique, as is its community. Speak with the community, have conversations.

4. Engage don’t broadcast. Run an engagement campaign not a communication campaign. There are 3 steps to begin engaging … 1) Know your audience – Understanding their likes and dislikes allows you to connect with common interests; 2) Have conversations – Interact and respond to your audience, comment and reply to posts; 3) Develop an emotional connection, you want them to share your content with their network.

5. Plan for the future, now. Otherwise you will be behind the times in 6 months. Make the effort to reach outward, talk to/follow people on cutting edge and ask them what’s the next thing?


Dan’s opening keynote set the perfect tone for a day of learning and collaborating with fellow marketers and influencers such as Mark Schaefer, Christopher Penn and Roger Dooley.

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