Eight Tech for Campaigns volunteers delivered strategy and assets for a digital advertising and SmartTexting GOTV push for Democratic candidate Rob Quist; Quist came within 6 points of flipping Montana's single at-large congressional seat, just seven months after Trump won the state by 20+ points.
When Montana Representative Ryan Zinke accepted an appointment as U.S. Secretary of the Interior in March 2017, the state's single Congressional seat was suddenly up for grabs. A special election was scheduled for just two months later, on May 25th, and musician and small business owner Rob Quist was selected as the Democratic candidate.
Quist had an uphill battle to fight, and most observers were quick to write his campaign off entirely. Montana's congressional seat has been held by a Republican for 20 years, and the state went for Trump by more than 20 points in November 2016. But Montana has also had a Democratic governor since 2005, and Quist knew his positions on issues like public lands, health care, and student debt would resonate with many voters -- if he could find the resources to reach them.
“Insights gained from our Facebook efforts helped inform broader strategic campaign decisions – e.g., which messages resonated the most with our target audience and whether to do negative messaging and how.”
-Aurelie Viriot, Marketing Strategy & Analysis Director at Netflix
The digital advertising team initially focused on amplifying the reach of public figures and other social influencers who had come out in support of Quist. The team built audience groups on Facebook and Twitter, tested messaging with each group, optimized their targeting, and shared insights to help the campaign tailor future outreach. As the project progressed, the team's scope expanded to include assisting the campaign with all of their paid social advertising, with the goal of driving fundraising, awareness, and voter turnout.
Meanwhile, the SmartTexting GOTV concentrated on getting students and younger Montanans out to vote, using the same type of text messaging software that the Bernie Sanders campaign leveraged so successfully during the 2016 primary season. The team wrote a variety of text message variations targeting different issues and voter segments, and analyzed the impact of initial sends to help the Quist campaign hone in on the most effective approach.
“When the Quist campaign embraced text messaging as a tool I felt like we made a real and meaningful contribution – one that can extend beyond just this one race.”
-Kate Urban, Copywriter at Coursera
TFC provided the Quist team not only with the support they needed to boost awareness, but also with powerful tools that they could scale for even greater impact. The designs developed and optimized by the paid advertising team proved so effective that the campaign adopted some of the creative across all channels; similarly, the outcomes achieved by the SMS team inspired the campaign to bring on a full-time staffer to run an SMS program in the final week leading up to election day.
The race was much closer than anticipated, and ultimately received significant attention both in the media and from the national Democratic party. Quist lost by just 6 points in a state that had voted for Trump by a 20 percent margin just a few months prior -- demonstrating that even districts once thought to be "safe" for Republicans could be in play with the right resources.
“Digital marketers should consider joining Tech for Campaigns to volunteer in a high-impact way. It's a great way to leverage up your efforts and contribute to something extremely positive.”
-Bistra Anguelova, Acquisition Marketing Manager at Thumbtack