National Association of Manufacturers goes digital this election season

Jamie Hennigan VP of strategic communications at the National Association of Manufacturers on the NAM's digital campaign, #TruthOnTheTrail.

Jamie Hennigan
Jamie Hennigan

You ran a digital and social campaign around the political conventions instead of attending. What brought on that idea?

This was no ordinary election season and that was going to have a major impact on communications and traditional advocacy. We knew getting our message out with traditional strategies would be like whistling in a hurricane. If we were going to break through, we needed to use new tools and tactics outside our normal playbook.

The idea of #TruthOnTheTrail was driven by digital and social media and allows us to respond rapidly and engage directly with candidates, voters, and media. Our goal was straightforward: We wanted to counter info from candidates when we disagree, provide amplification on issues when we agree, and really promote our policy agenda.

This was your first big digital-first convention campaign. How did it go?

We used social media as a primary driver to engage with what was happening at the conventions using real facts and figures, with real stories and bottom lines. It had some really good hashtags, like #MakeAmericaTradeAgain, which the candidates found interesting.

This campaign really took off when Mr. Trump gave a speech at a metals recycling facility in Pennsylvania. A couple of high-profile reporters grabbed onto our boss’s tweet about the importance of trade to manufacturing, and tweeted it out. From there, it snowballed. We started getting calls, tweets, our CEO’s Twitter account was blowing up with messages from reporters. It was one of those moments you realized the strategy was breaking through and you were having a huge impact.

What does your future digital communications strategy look like?

We’ve focused on becoming a digital-first team and that's reflected in the strategy and success of this campaign. It's an exciting time to be working on behalf of the industry; you've got everyone from the president to presidential candidates to lawmakers wanting to talk about manufacturing.

The strategy and tactics are certainly indicative of how we’re currently approaching things and how we’ll approach things moving forward. Digital is one piece, but you can’t underestimate the importance of strong and compelling messaging and creative and amazing media relations. It’s combining those tactics, elements, and platforms that really result in a strong and effective campaign - and that's what we're focused on.

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