Anyone who has worked with me, participated in a training or talk I’ve led, or reads my weekly Learn Test Optimize newsletter knows I’m obsessed with best practices and making sure that everything you do that touches the internet is done as effectively as possible.
Until somewhat recently, I was of the mindset that if you execute perfectly, success would be assured. And if we could only get other candidates, organizations, and companies to adopt best practices and execute perfectly, we could all be successful.
But that didn’t resonate with my own experience. After every
political campaign I remind myself and others that everything a winning
campaign did wasn’t right and everything a losing one did wasn’t wrong.
Early in 2018, I read Thinking in Bets: Making Smarter Decisions When You Don’t Have All the Facts, by Annie Duke. A former professional poker player, she articulates the idea that the right decision does not always lead to the desired outcome. Stated another way, just because you lost didn’t mean you did the wrong things.
Still, that’s cold comfort to someone dedicating their professional energy to fighting for a cause, working for a campaign, or advocating for a client
If academic studies like this one are to be believed,
“The best estimate for the persuasive effects of campaign contact and
advertising—such as mail, phone calls, and canvassing—on Americans’
candidate choices in general elections is zero.”
Even if we execute the best digital strategy, shoot the perfect TV ad, and say exactly the right things, it probably doesn’t matter! Most voters in most elections (or most constituents on most issues) already have their minds made up
The study did find instance where campaigns can change minds: “we
also find that campaigns appear able to have persuasive effects in
circumstances in which candidates take unusually unpopular positions and
opposing campaigns invest unusually heavily in identifying persuadable,
cross-pressured voters whom they can inform about these positions.”
When you do something unexpected, you achieve cut through.