How a Campaign Can Face its Big Data Fear

Technology is a helluva drug. Nowadays, the campaign industry is jumping from one application to another always searching for that next big thing that will give us an edge over our competition. Alfred the Butler told Bruce Wayne in 2008’s The Dark Knight:

“You crossed the line first, sir. You squeezed them; you hammered them to the point of desperation. And in their desperation, they turned to a man they didn’t fully understand.”

That’s where most campaigns find themselves today in regards to data. The Joker is “big data,” and many campaigns trying to get their fix of new technology attempt to implement something they don’t fully understand.

Over 98% of the campaigns fielded today never cross into the threshold of needing or applying the concepts of “big data.” Instead, if they would just focus on having a basic data program in general, they would reap all the benefits they need to win.

My good friend Justin Gargiulo of VoterTrove wrote an excellent piece about the unclear understanding of big data in campaigns, but I want to further clarify why you should stop thinking in terms of “big data” and start applying the use of “just data.”

“There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills”
Campaigns generate a ton of data. Maybe not enough to hire 1,000 data geniuses or have a basement filled with server banks and LAN parties, but enough to create intelligence to make great, winning decisions. The problem is campaigns are not effectively collecting, managing, accounting or creating actionable results from the data at their disposal. It’s not just about buying the best list or using gadgets for your data collection. The “gold” comes from doing those things and turning your efforts into things that can be measured for effective resource allocation and in turn acted upon by all phases of your campaign.

Have a Program, Not Just a Project
For a while now, campaigns have thought they were investing in a data program by having volunteers or paid staff use Excel and similar products to “do data.” If you’re close to the top of the ballot (and this is ever creeping downward), that is not enough. Many campaigns in today’s world have the capacity to generate enough data to swamp what these programs can process. Specialized firms like Cygnal exist, because they have more robust tools to perform analytics and house data in ways that make it most useful to your effort. We have the ability to take what exists and is being collected, house it in one place, and turn that data into something that enhances and measures all the campaign’s activities. Data becomes your measure of ROI, which helps you save time and money – the two things you never have enough of in a campaign.

Pretending is Wasting
If you’re not dealing with data correctly, you’re pretending and wasting a lot of resources. As with targeting voters – and who’s not doing that today – your efforts should be targeted too and using data effectively is how you accomplish this. Sure, there are dozens of tools out there that help work with data, and you may think using them alone is what leads to success. Truth is, it’s using the right mix of tools and having a partner on board like Cygnal to manage the program that makes your campaign most formidable.

We are believers in data…when done right. Time and time again we’ve seen the difference it makes in the campaigns we’ve worked. While the Joker is an agent of chaos, you don’t have to be afraid of him. Light the Bat Signal because you know who will come to your rescue.