The GOP's new approach to communication, campaigning

Sean Spicer, chief strategist and comms director, RNC, discusses the party's increased focus on digital tactics

What is the Republican National Committee doing ahead of primary season that is different from past years?
In the past, generally speaking, political parties raised a ton of money and hoarded it for the last 100 to 120 days when they would deploy staff and ads. What we’re doing now is as we raise it, we’re spending it on people, data, digital, and technology.

Before, you would get as much as you could and just flood the airwaves and the ground. This time, we want to have a permanent presence throughout the country, on the ground, collecting data, interacting with groups, and building an infrastructure that a nominee will need, starting as soon as they officially take the nomination in July 2016.

In the same way every business wants to know who their consumers and potential customers are, we need to know who our voters and potential voters are, and what people will never be with us.

How has the digital team grown and what are they working on?
When I accepted this position five years ago, we ended up hiring a very digital-savvy young woman who was really good – and that was the digital component.  

Today, we have a 50-person department solely focused on digital that is constantly trying to figure out ways to interact with folks and learn about the voters, interacting with them through petitions and different online tactics. It’s not just social media though – it is also email, the RNC website, advertisements, and figuring out what makes voters tick and what motivates them to take a particular action.

It is also manpower and talent. It’s one thing to have someone who sends out a handful of tweets, but it’s another to have someone who understands the science behind that and is really trying to get something in return – it’s not a one-way street.

Is there anything you are seeing now that you think sets the RNC apart from the Democrats?
There’s a vast difference in terms of how the two operate: The Democrats build infrastructures for individual candidates.

President Barack Obama built a very sophisticated data and digital program, but it ended with Obama and Hillary Clinton has been trying to replicate that. The difference is that we are building a plug-and-play operation so whether you are running for city council or president of the United States, anyone can plug into what we are doing and reap the same benefits.  

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