In case you hadn’t heard, the second oldest U.S. senator also happens to be one the best content marketers.
And, no, this senator does not come from some tech haven like California or Washington state. In fact, he lives on a farm.
This man is Senator Chuck Grassley of New Hartford, Iowa, and he and his staff have created a content marketing machine.
And there is a lot that professional services providers and really anyone interested in content marketing can learn from his practices.
Despite being in his 70s at the time, by 2009 Grassley already had a blog and active accounts on Facebook, MySpace (!) and Twitter.
Since then, Grassley has developed a highly effective content marketing program that makes sure his constituents and other audiences know not only his work and his positions on the issues but also his personal interests and style.
This blog post will highlight a lot of the best practices Grassley follows.
|Just as an aside – this blog post is about Grassley’s marketing practices, not his politics. This blog expresses no view or endorsement of Grassley’s politics or of his candidacy for U.S. Senate.|
Ok, with that disclaimer out of the way, let’s learn from Grassley’s practices.
The Multimedia Senator
Most members of Congress provide constituents access to news releases on their website and maybe an email newsletter.
Grassley goes way beyond that. Here is a comprehensive list of how you can interact with Grassley online:
- All news releases
- An email newsletter
- Opinion pieces that Grassley writes
- Video clips produced about once every two weeks
- A weekly audio interview with members of the press in Iowa
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
Engaging with Community
Like in professional services, a great digital media presence is no substitute for meeting with constituents in person. Grassley is famous for constantly meeting with constituents. In each of the last 35 years, Grassley has held town halls with constituents in all 99 of Iowa’s counties. And of course, he makes sure that constituents know about his meetings across all media.
Most senators’ communication offices content themselves with issuing a few press releases every week. Check out Sen. Harry Reid’s news page or Sen. Orrin Hatch’s news page. There is a decent amount of volume.
Now look at Chuck Grassley’s news page. He is blasting out a least a few press releases every day! Here Grassley blasted out 20 press releases over four days.
That level of output provides a wealth of content to distribute across multiple channels.
One of the challenges politicians have is communicating to voters that they are still one of the people. Grassley is well-known for talking about various parts of his personal life, which helps to reinforce the idea that he is a normal Iowan. Here are some examples:
Support of University of Northern Iowa sports teams
Usually I don’t hv brag abt UNI they are so gr8 BUT 2day men bb ended Wichita st43game winning streak. UNI beat #1#5#25 this season. Hoorah
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) February 13, 2016
Run-ins with deer on Iowa highways
Fred and I hit a deer on hiway 136 south of Dyersville. After I pulled fender rubbing on tire we continued to farm. Assume deer dead
— ChuckGrassley (@ChuckGrassley) October 26, 2012
This Instagram post is actually one of the finest pieces of marketing I’ve seen. Who wouldn’t vote for a senator that cleans the house with a beat-up vacuum cleaner that looks at least 20 years old?
Senator Grassley is a Republican and one of the most conservative U.S. senators. He serves Iowa, which is one of the most politically competitive states in the country. Over the past six presidential elections, Iowa has voted for a Republican only once, for George W. Bush in 2004.
Yet Grassley has not only won all his elections, but won them easily. Here are the results of Grassley’s six elections:
|1980||Grassley (R)||53%||Culver (D)||46%|
|1986||Grassley (R)||66%||Roehrick (D)||34%|
|1992||Grassley (R)||69%||Lloyd-Simons (D)||27%|
|1998||Grassley (R)||68%||Osterberg (D)||30%|
|2004||Grassley (R)||70%||Small (D)||28%|
|2010||Grassley (R)||64%||Conlin (D)||33%|
These are almost unheard of margins of victory in a politically competitive state.
Adopting social media has helped Grassley expand his reach. Here are a couple of quotes from an article on Grassley in 2009:
Town meetings are old fashioned. I still do them, but I can reach a lot more people in different ways.I’ve got 3 million constituents. And this is a case of me trying to show as many of them as I can that I’m a human being.
What these quotes demonstrate is that this elderly senator from Iowa knew exactly what he was doing with his digital marketing strategy, even back in 2009.
Professional Services Is a Lot Like Politics
Running a successful high-end professional services practice is a lot like running a political campaign. Here’s why:
- Many engagements are winner-takes-all. So you better be the best.
- Voters generally choose people, not parties (that’s why Grassley wins in competitive Iowa). Similarly, clients generally choose people, not firms. So don’t sell the firm, sell you!
- You need to demonstrate a mix of professional capabilities and positive personal qualities to win.
- There is a never-ending need for networking and meeting people.
- Awareness matters – the more people know about what you are doing, the more likely you are to win.
- You need to go where the clients / constituents are, and in today’s world, that includes both a face-to-face presence and a strong digital presence. If you think your clients do not spend time online, you are living in the 20th century.
So what’s different between Senator Grassley’s situation and yours? Well, Grassley has a three-person communications team. You probably don’t. So you have to make choices about what types of content you are going to publish.
A more important difference is that many professional services providers cannot advertise the work they are doing. Obviously, you cannot Instagram a picture of you and your client working together on a project.
But that is no excuse for doing nothing online. You need to create a discussion with potential clients, and part of the way you do that is identifying audiences, creating a marketing strategy and then consistently producing and distributing content.
Just like a politician, the more you are known, the more successful you will be. If an 82-year old senator thinks that town halls and digital marketing go hand-in-hand, you should probably consider adding a consistent digital marketing program into your mix of client development activities.
Photo Credit: Chuck Grassley. Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0. Photo has been slightly cropped from the original. https://www.flickr.com/photos/chuckgrassley/7043117657/sizes/c/in/photostream/