Loudoun County Board of Supervisors 2015 Election – Internet Digital Presence, Marketing, Social Media Advice and Lessons Learned, 2007, 2011
  Posted Saturday, January 10th, 2015 at 16:24

It’s time to once again survey the presence and reputation of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, particularly online in today’s digital world, as existing Supervisors and new candidates begin to jockey for position for this year’s (2015) BOS elections. Note a particular void in constituent presence will be created by the absence of Scott York, who will not seek a 5th term – though all other incumbent supervisors (except Janet Clarke) seem to be positioned to run for re-election (and a pay raise!).

We’re providing this summary insight, so that both the Loudoun BOS candidates can be sure to properly inform and educate future constituents (and market themselves better), and so that voters might become better aware of the marketing tactics involved (or not), the better with which to make apples-to-apples decisions on particular issues, subjects or candidate experience. Level-setting the local election information-sharing context, in terms of information-sharing and feedback, for all demographics.

In other words, this article addresses our review of the LAST Loudoun BOS election, in 2011, where the summary was “All campaigns…demonstrated an appalling lack of integrated, personalized and active social media outreach, across the Internet channels available (including the candidates’ websites)”. We’ve been examining Loudoun social, business and political digital presence since 2005 – and we started this election-oriented “digital saturation” type of review in fact after the 2007 Loudoun elections (in this case for VA State Delegates), where the results were not so much different!

How will our County’s leadership candidates fare this year? Let’s start with the current status – note that we certainly commend current office-holders in their focus and attention to current issues and work, vs. future elections; but the nature of marketing is both strategic/long-term, and tactical/short-term. We’ll try to highlight each Supervisor or candidate only once, in an equitable fashion.

In The Real World

First some perspective on non-digital, real-world presence….most current BOS members and identified candidates (so far) do regularly appear at community events, meetings, town halls, etc. – though some more than others. This continues to be very important – and online, email or media notification of attendance at these events (ostensibly enabling access to constituent and business feedback) should always be as pervasive as possible. However, finding events to be attended by your Supervisor isn’t too easy – whether via search, on the Loudoun Gov’t site, through media like the Loudoun Times, or other public and personal pages. Take Supervisor Geary Higgens – information is extremely sparse online regarding upcoming events or appearances, in fact there’s really nothing at all (as far as we can dig up). In fact, the first item that came up in Google for the search [ “higgens” loudoun supervisor event ] was our article from 2006!

Other notable real-world marketing that has (in our opinion) proven BOTH memorable AND somewhat unusual (at least in this County) – includes orange hats, full-car ad-wrapping and tax pigs, by Supervisors Delgaudio and local VA House Delegate Ramadan (just for an example), plus support of the Dulles Rail Tax Pig, respectively.

Even in Google search for images, using “Loudoun County Supervisors” – the hat stands out, and we’ll have to acknowledge it’s in the very same good taste as other orange-and-blue UVA paraphernalia we may own. We haven’t yet seen much else, like billboards, bus-wrapping (a la John Foust in Fairfax),

sports-field ad signage, t-shirts/giveaways, business posters (with or without QR codes) or newspaper/magazine ads – yet we already look forward with disgust to the ubiquitous road-median campaign placard and postcard spam, a bane on our environment.

Real world presence is extremely important, building the constituent base, connecting with voters, and proving connection with the community – and a lot more effort and activity can be accomplished in creative, inexpensive ways (doesn’t all have to be expensive advertising), that will reach the demographics not accustomed to interfacing with the Internet (a smaller and smaller segment each year). What’s important is a consistent, ubiquitous, sensitive, humble and useful message – do more – it’s fun, plus family-friendly!

In The Other, Digital World (Quite Real, For Many)

Search Google for “Loudoun County 2015 Board of Supervisors candidate”. Who’s making an impact, already, online? Nobody – except perhaps Andrew Resnick (D – Algonkian District Candidate); his Facebook page comes up on page 2 of the results (but not his website, understandably, since it’s not optimized for search (SEO) at all). Is it because he’s the closest thing to a Millennial, represented so far?

We’ll say it once – as we tell all our clients – online, reputable, believable, trustworthy, useful and widespread Internet digital presence is either (A) built up consistently, over time, or (B) purchased quickly for a lot of money – except with (B) you only get “online”, “widespread” and maybe “useful”.

Also – digital presence for an election will have to not only focus on the candidate as a person and public servant, but also on the messages for change/improvement/attention they have related to specific constituent concerns or local community/business challenges. That’s at least two separate, though linked marketing campaigns – that would be further optimized for specific demographics.

Some news has emerged regarding challengers for Scott York’s position, i.e. Phyllis Randall (D) and Charles (Charlie) King (R). Neither have yet started to execute their online campaign, outside of 3rd-party donation machinery (for Randall, by ActBlue). Both will have to generate significant new, positive messaging – to overcome or supplant many years of sometimes difficult political challenges and relationships regarding civic activism within County (this activity is called “Reputation Management”, which is generally a much-needed but often ignored element of the Loudoun political election process). LinkedIn is a great place to start – a brief search turned up only 2 contacts for each, with no significant presence, in this critical business-oriented social media community.

Reaching out to the business community is always a good idea, not only for vote support, but contributions, leverage of business PR/marketing amplification – Ralph Buona seems to have a bit of an edge on this, with a very strong LinkedIn presence (plus regular updates on other channels, albeit to small audiences).

A search in “SocialMention.com” for “Loudoun County Supervisor 2015” demonstrates the lack of social media presence with true reach, strength, passion or positive sentiment – the digital online canvass that’s findable via the search engines and social communities is entirely up for grabs, right now. Being “findable” in search engines is important to attract new voters and contributors – some current Supervisors are in fact very effective in maintaining contact with existing constituents, through somewhat “walled” communications media (i.e. community Facebook groups, email). Matt LeTourneau has been very effective and actively engaged at this (probably because of the very critical, high population-impact nature of the Dulles district’s transportation, school and land-use challenges) – which will likely drive an extremely important element of successful social marketing, the “share/referral/recommendation/trust” of community members.

If you’re a fan of Facebook – which nearly everyone is, online, particularly now among older and younger populations – LeTourneau is also “winning” in that presence – with his page/profile being “liked” more than 70% more than any other current supervisor – counting around 2100. Suzanne Volpe has in fact no FB presence at all (relating to her public service) – we’d suggest enabling the very invisible site suzannevolpe.com soon with more social dialogue services (!). Shawn Williams seems to be a busy poster on Facebook – but, as we counsel most business owners, this is a closed community and you don’t own the content – it’s a good idea to find a way to post all this great information first in public on your own website, where the search engines can get at it, and refer to it from Facebook (unless the message is specifically to your FB community).

Do you follow Twitter? Don’t bother, for Loudoun BOS 2015 candidates – yet, at least (this post will generate some).

Pinterest? Get your pic up right now, and own the field – and, we can post it to the Loudoun Board!

As a last bit of advice – it’s probably time to move your central website presence, from which you link to other social media channels and digital content, from the 1990’s technology to, well, early 21st century. ┬áTake Ken Reid‘s current site…here’s the HTML code underneath it, all of it – very simple 90’s tech (a simple “window” to a campaign site auto-generator, non-findable, non-responsive, time to upgrade):

Start now, get serious, with “organic” digital marketing, social media and real-world event planning & promotion – both the Internet and the absorption of it, by your target constituents, have improved considerably since 2007!

Let’s pose a contest – to the supporters (that’s you, social media millenials!) and campaigns of the Loudoun County 2015 Board of Supervisors election. If a search in Google for “Loudoun County Board of Supervisors 2015 Candidate” turns up your name first (candidate), highest in the search results, by the end of January (1/31/2015) – we’ll provide you (if you accept this challenge, online, by commenting here) – a free, unique, Loudoun County-centric Digital Media Amplified Press Release, available ONLY through KME Internet Marketing. Here’s a case study of this digital marketing process in action, with a recent Loudoun SBDC Business Plan Competition winner.

Good Luck!