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This blog offers an international look at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Indeed, campaigners worldwide are fascinated with American election campaigns. We observe relentless paid television advertising, straight-forward attack spots, sophisticated targeting and record-breaking fundraising. One cannot – and should not – simply copy paste American campaign techniques. However, campaigners out there in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia can get a lot of inspiration and specific takeaways from the most professional campaign in the world. This is the purpose of this blog.

Summer Press Conference By German Chanellor Merkel

So I’m reading that Chancellor Angela Merkel gave her last press conference before the summer break. I think she has reached a stage in her career that other presidents and head of government have reached: Voters don’t listen to her anymore. Germans have been seeing Merkel basically for almost two decades every evening in the news. She’s known commodity and people have made up their minds – positive or negative. Of course, a chancellor has always guaranteed (media) attention, but I think that voters listen to confirm what they think about her already, not with an open-mind to change their opinions. Her last opportunity to re-invent herself while in office was probably right after the last election and the building of the new government. From there on, her approval ratings might go up or down a bit, depending on the state of the economy and developments regarding the asylum issue. But right now, I don’t see what she could say or do herself that would substantially move then needle. I think it would take a clear break and plenty of time to change the dynamics.

Every Serious Election Campaign Should Start with a Baseline Survey

Every serious election campaign should start with a baseline survey. Period. I always tell my clients: "If you don’t know where you started, how do you know you’re making progress? Or making enough progress?" Yet, some want to “go around” first and spread campaign communication before taking a baseline survey. It’s like a pilot saying: “I don’t need the navigation system to start. I’ll turn it on once I’m in the sky and no longer know where I am.” Good luck with that!

New Trends in Political Campaigns: Digitalization is Changing Politics

As some readers of this blog know, I have long been skeptical about the influence of social media on election campaigns - especially outside of the USA. I noticed that somehow those who are so adamant about its effectiveness are the ones who make their living off social media. This being said, I have recently conducted an entire series of focus groups with millennials and confirmed that yes, digitalization is and will be changing campaigns. Nowadays, basically everybody is online, and an increasing number of people are more or less permanently online. This has important consequences on the speed of our communication and the diversity of channels and tools we use. Social media allows citizens to call their leaders out immediately, and to share quotes and footage. This can rapidly create a thunderstorm, that will spill over into the mainstream media. Social media is also a great tool to mobilize and activate the base, but we also have to realize that very few people change their opinion on social media (related to this is another trend I recently worte about: increasing polarization).