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Obama PR Team Recasts Victory as ‘Revenge of the Nerds’

President Barack ObamaIf you’re anything like us, you remember the 2012 election as a long, unpleasant string of joke candidates, gaffes, Twitter fights, terrible debate performances and attack ads. The Obama campaign’s PR team, however, would like the public to see the president’s re-election as a very modern tale of data nerds winning the day.

As Jason Zengerle’s essay in New York Magazine demonstrates, research and tech tools played an outsized role in ensuring that the president’s campaign apparatus raised more money and recruited more volunteers in ‘12 than in ’08—despite the fact that most supporters weren’t quite as enthusiastic as they had been four years ago. Since election day, the press team has worked hard to push this story by staying positive and emphasizing the importance of app makers and number crunchers in the re-election campaign.

So how did these nerds do it?

Analytics, micro-targeting and message testing—all crucial marketing strategies—helped the team determine which voters would be most enthusiastic about volunteering and which messages worked best in terms of mobilization and fundraising (turns out that starting an email subject line with “Hey” is pretty effective). Here’s a nice listicle on the marketing techniques they used.

Another important point: While a lot of the Obama team’s TV and radio spots amounted to attacks on Mitt Romney, the tone of its social media presence was overwhelmingly positive. This tells us that negative messaging doesn’t work so well on Facebook.

Will this new focus on data and digital strategy help everyone forget how annoying the election season was? Because that achievement would be an unqualified PR win.

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