September 06, 2018

Winning Political Influence in the Digital Age: Lessons from Ayanna Pressley’s victory

With her stunning victory in the Democratic primary, Ayanna Pressley shows us just how rewarding it can be to aim high. Her campaign combined the zeal of the young with the experience of more seasoned organizers to build a grassroots movement fueled by shoe leather and grit.

Of the many lessons learned by this campaign, we, at our office, were struck by how her communications strategy prevailed over a more traditional approach. In this campaign, it was digital first. Voters in every corner of the district and a chorus of multicultural voices were mobilized through text messaging, Twitter and emails. Pressley’s traditional paid media strategy was limited, taking out TV ads only on Telemundo and Univision. She supplemented her visibility with other tried and true tactics like door-to-door interactions, phone banking, and earned news coverage. The Pressley approach serves as a reminder of the importance of building networks and influence through social media.

Pressley’s campaign focused on movement-building, including forging new networks of power among women. As Boston Globe columnist Joan Venocchi wrote, “Pressley’s support from elected officials came mainly from her female Boston City Council colleagues, and from Attorney General Maura Healey, who back in 2014 was endorsed by Pressley when the establishment wrote off Healey’s candidacy. That kind of woman power is new for Boston, and it’s exciting. The glass ceiling has been tough to break. But finally, it’s happening.”

Young women looking to build their own careers, political or not, can take meaningful cues from her playbook: build a strong brand online and in the real world; find allies who believe in your potential and leverage the existing networks of power to the best of your ability (and disrupt those existing networks as needed!). These are lessons I’ve been working to promote with my own colleagues and share with other “power chicks.”

If there is any need for additional proof that the tools of digital media can be used to influence hearts and minds, look no further than the margin of victory for Ayanna Pressley.

Geri Denterlein is the CEO of Denterlein and the author of the forthcoming ebook “The Power Chicks’ Guide to Influence in The Digital Age,” a road map for young women who want to be part of the conversation that drives our communities.