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DMC panelist points to channel integration as key to campaign success

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DMC panelist points to channel integration as key to campaign success
DMC panelist points to channel integration as key to campaign success

One would expect a panel comprised of Paull Young, director of digital at charity:water, and Stephen Geer, the former director of email and online fundraising for Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign, to be a duet about the power of social media compared to direct mail and other channels.

But, while charity:water is indeed a digital animal, Geer said his experience with Obama's wildly successful campaign showed that a harmonization of channels can bring the best results.

At a Direct Marketing Club luncheon yesterday, Young explained that the approach at charity:water is truly digital, with some incredible—and viral—stories supporting its mission to bring clean water to those who don't have access. Possibly most moving is the final fundraiser of Rachel Beckwith, who gave up her ninth birthday this year to raise money for charity:water and died in a car wreck a couple of months later. Her campaign, which was initially seeking to raise $300, is currently over $1 million.

“In big companies, social media is very hard to do well,” said Young, who said his focus since joining charity:water has been to connect social media across the organization.  

Back in 2007, Geer—currently vice president for new media at OMP Direct, a Washington, D.C-based political strategy and direct marketing firm—was plotting to join Obama's campaign, despite “many, many people” telling him it was “career suicide.”

“My background at that point was in political organizing and issue organizing and I got a tremendous education over the course of two years in fundraising.” He said that in addition to the email and direct marketing used in the campaign, the goal was to use social media to “empower people” to fundraise for Obama on their own.

Political campaigns have long relied on direct mail to solicit support, but as Geer joined Obama's campaign, online fundraising was beginning to prove itself as a viable and inexpensive option. Still, he said, people would never expected the senator to be able to raise a half a billion dollars online.

“Over the course of two years,” Geer said, the direct marketing and online channels “came closer together, and we realized that next time around, there's a lot of potential for doing things in harmony.”

Geer has taken this tack to his current firm, which has focused on direct marketing in its 25-year history. “Whatever the client is, it's not … just doing direct mail or telemarketing,” he said, but rather about “drawing them into a digital conversation as well as a direct mail conversation as well as an offline conversation.

“It's about organizing all the channels and seeing what the impact is overall.”
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