John Tsarpalas: Something that is both an art and a science in politics is figuring out who you are going to approach with your mail, with your phone calls, with your email, and with your door knocks. What are you going to talk to them about?
There’s been an industry that has been around for a long time. These are people that supply lists. Lists are extensive and deep. So today on Commonwealthy #56, it is Good Data, Big Data for Political Campaigns with Peter Anderson of Cobalt Media Group.
Today on Commonwealthy, I am going to talk to Peter Anderson of Cobalt Media Group. He’s the director of development. I am really excited about this because what he does excites me. I don’t know what it is about lists and good data that just makes me crazy happy and want to hoard.
I know that data has value and a good list can really provide a campaign with an edge. So, Peter, I am thrilled to have you here today. You come from Cobalt Media Group, which has 185 million files of voters in America. Is that correct?
Peter Anderson: 165 million. We have an overall file of 220 million U.S. citizen consumers in the United States, consumers, U.S. citizens, ages eighteen and up.
John Tsarpalas: That’s amazing.
Peter Anderson: Well, that’s the world of big data. I am not alone in the volume of the information I provide. There are a lot of places you can go to get that type and size of a database. But what makes us unique is the depth of our data.
We focus on the political arena. I personally am a political (for lack of a better word) junkie. I love the political sphere and political science. It is an art, a science, a history, and a lifestyle, which I have been involved in since I have been like five.
John Tsarpalas: I know outside of work you have some connections in the Republican Party.
Peter Anderson: I am quite proud of it. I don’t hide it. I put it on all of my literature. The Cobalt Media Group is deeply involved in Republican causes, candidates, and party activities, both here in the state of Florida and throughout the nation.
I am personally a member of Broward County Republican Executive Committee. We are a very outnumbered group in my county where we have 240,000 registered Republicans and almost a million and a half registered Democrats.
John Tsarpalas: Wow.
Peter Anderson: But this just goes to show I am surely not one to go with the flow and go with the crowd. I rather enjoy the opportunity to be a contrarian.
John Tsarpalas: I understand. I live in Cook County, which is Chicago.
Peter Anderson: Oh, same thing.
John Tsarpalas Same thing. We are just totally outnumbered here for forever. I am active in local party politics as well and have been for many, many years, and proud of it, too.
So let’s get back to the data. You guys buy lists, find lists, build lists, or a little bit of everything? How does a company like yours get that much information together?
Peter Anderson: Well, we have been in business for fifteen years. We started out for a data aggregator from day one. You compile your lists in various methodologies. You utilize whatever public information you have that is accessible. So voter registration data from the various Secretary of States, from the various states, IRS information for household income, and real estate information from the various state county registrars. And you start to compile it.
Also you have data partners. Our data partners include Yellow Finance. The Morningstar Report I have worked with personally for over fifteen years for financial and investor records. The list goes on and on.
We are always interested in partnering with any data provider to enhance our mutual lists respectively and do acquisition partnerships. That is the soul of how you acquire data. You do it by partnerships. You do it by outreach to especially other web-based organizations.
John Tsarpalas: Okay. Are you talking about doing some trading, that type of a thing, too? Swapping lists?
Peter Anderson: Well, usually it involves profit share.
John Tsarpalas: Oh, okay.
Peter Anderson: Someone will come to us and say, “I have a list.” See, we are not just a list company; we are also a direct email service provider with over fifty co-locations, one for every state. The capacity, not only do I have two hundred and twenty million emails, but I also have the capacity to deliver all two hundred and twenty million.
John Tsarpalas: Wow. Okay. So let’s kind of take this down to a local candidate. Let’s say someone is running for a county board, because I think that’s a simple situation. Things that I have looked at in county board races were I looked for gun owner files, boat owner files, and things that maybe someone would have to deal with the county to get a license or something.
And then we could target mail and email, although only recently have email lists finally gotten up to speed where you can reach enough people.
Peter Anderson: That is very true.
John Tsarpalas: Are these the kind of things?
Peter Anderson: I wanted to give you an example and I want to put in a plug for a personal friend, a fellow member of the Republican Party here in Broward County, Mr. Chuck Lanza. I could use him as an example. He is running for county commission in Broward County in District #5.
Now, Broward County as you can probably guess has an extensive population. District #5 is almost completely comprised of three western communities in Broward County. So I was able to put together an email list for him of ninety thousand people.
Now, when I am doing a county commission or a congressional race or a race that is nonpartisan, I recommend doing a saturation model. We utilize every record available in that district for the representative seeking the office. That way he hits everybody. We don’t want to just hit gun owners. We don’t want to just hit guys who drive Cadillacs. We want to have every voter in the district, especially in a nonpartisan race.
At the very least, the email will serve as name recognition. If the voter is not going to read the email, at the very least he will see the name pop up in the subject line. That name will be there in the subject line so that consumer, even if he is going to delete it, will see the name, ‘Chuck Lanza for Broward County District #5,’ before he hits the delete button.
Nine out of ten times they will go, “Who? Let me see who this is.” And they will open it up. I want to have that name in every subject line in every email we send out. So at the very least, it is name recognition.
An email serves a couple of purposes: branding, name recognition, to a lower extent sales and fundraising. That is not always such a great tool for those applications. But always it is a primary application that should be utilized for any branding or name recognition campaign in any venue, but especially in the political venue. You get the biggest bang for your buck.
John Tsarpalas: Right. Emails are inexpensive and you don’t have postage costs, etc.
Peter Anderson: This ninety thousand distribution is going to be well under two thousand dollars for Mr. Lanza.
John Tsarpalas: Wow, that is a bargain. That’s really cool.
Peter Anderson: Yes.
John Tsarpalas: You touched on for just a hair,I am going to take us off here and then we will come back to the campaign side. But you can get lists of donors, correct? And work your fundraising.
Peter Anderson: Oh, I have donor history. But getting somebody to make a donation would make a repetitious process.
John Tsarpalas: Well, with email, yeah. You’ve got to get sending it and sending it, correct?
Peter Anderson: You’ve got to keep sending it. I will recommend everybody take a look at Ted Cruz’s process. I am candidate neutral-
John Tsarpalas: In the primary.
Peter Anderson: – for the Republican candidates until a candidate has been determined in the convention, which, by the way, I will be a delegate for.
John Tsarpalas: Cool.
Peter Anderson: Yeah, this is going to be a historic event.
John Tsarpalas: This is huge. More power to you.
Peter Anderson: Yeah, it is going to be huge. It is going to be huge. That’s really true. Mr. Cruz, as I was saying, has done a superlative job in utilizing email as his fundraising tool. Anybody who has gone in and signed up on the Ted Cruz email has received four emails a day, every day since June of 2015.
John Tsarpalas: Wow.
Peter Anderson: Each of the emails have been from a separate person within the organization, but mentioning Ted Cruz in some aspect. Some are from his wife. So the email will be Heidi@cruzforpresident. The subject line is “Ted needs your help!” or “Ted event coming up” or “Did you see Ted last night?”. The Cruz campaign has made a casebook study of the utilization of email for political activities.
I am not directly involved in the Cruz campaign. I will say that the entity that is providing his emails did purchase their email data from our company.
John Tsarpalas: Oh, cool.
Peter Anderson: That is, I guess, a plug for my company through the third party aspect. I highly recommend anybody conduct a study of how Ted Cruz handled his email campaign operation and how it benefited his organization. It is really a textbook, even better than how Obama did it in 2008 and 2012, which up until then has been the standard in Internet activities for presidential candidates. Ted Cruz has done heads and tales greater by comparison.
John Tsarpalas: Kind of being premature, but I am dying until when the campaigns are over so that we can get some of that insiders story stuff back from campaign staff and campaign management. I have worked with Jeff Rowe, Ted Cruz’s campaign manager, in the past. I thought he was sharp then. What we did then, we did very well in the things we were working on.
I digress. So let’s get back to basic campaigning, because I like what you are doing for your friend in Broward County. I would like to hear more about not only email, but the other lists and things you can supply. You guys get into phone calls and mail I think.
Peter Anderson: We are an automated call provider. We only conduct this activity for the political arena. Other than that, it is a questionable activity, if not outright fineable activity. Only a candidate or an election-relation cause can do an automated call to a landline only with impunity. A landline only.
The pool of course is diminishing of the likely recipient. Do Not Call does not pertain to political activity. So all available landlines in any particular area or nationally can be utilized for automated calls.
John Tsarpalas: Do you guys get into text campaigns as well? Texting to phones?
Peter Anderson: No, the Federal Communications Commission has come down very strongly against any form of mobile device exclusive marketing. A mobile device can open an email, but the email has to be an email account, not a mobile only email.
John Tsarpalas: Okay. That’s interesting.
Peter Anderson: But like everyone else, I have my emails forwarded to my mobile device. And everyone else does. So it is the same as sending an email to a desktop or a laptop or a tablet because it will be opened on your mobile device.
The key there (and I am glad you asked me that question) is in today’s email marketing, you have to ensure that the email has contained what is called responsive code as well as the standard HTML code. Responsive code just means it can be formatted in a small screen presented by a mobile device. It is as simple as that.
John Tsarpalas: So mobile friendly. Okay.
Peter Anderson: Yeah, it is mobile friendly. A responsive code makes it mobile friendly.
John Tsarpalas: Gotcha. And then you do mail lists as well, if people want to do targeted mailing. Do you do the mailing too or just provide the lists? What do you guys get into?
Peter Anderson: We provide the lists. We don’t want to compete against our friends in the direct mail fulfillment agencies and houses around the country.
John Tsarpalas: And that’s a whole other specialized trade anyway.
Peter Anderson: Exactly. One we respect and don’t wish to step on their toes.
John Tsarpalas: Right. Explain what NCOA means because it is important to know what it means. A data file that hasn’t been cleaned with that on a regular basis isn’t worth much. I learned that the hard way.
Peter Anderson: That’s correct. NCOA (National Change of Address) is information that is provided by the postal service. So whenever you are moving and you file that little pink card with the post office that is in effect for a full year, that is public information available to every single database house in the country. And that is called a NCOA.
We of course compile it every Monday. We update our list every Monday of every week of every month of every year. Monday is house cleaning day. We do our NCOAs both for our own general file and specifically for any client who has put in a data hygiene request.
General data hygiene is one of our fields. Our sectors are primarily political and automotive. We find a great, very simple crossover between the type of data we provide to the political arena to the automotive arena.
If you think about it, it is the same type of intricate drilling down of consumer information. We just replace voter preference with automotive preference. Household income will stay the same. Presence of children will stay the same. Number of pets will stay the same. You get an amazing crossover between the automotive market and the political arena.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah, I get that now that you started running through. Obviously age, gender, etc.
Peter Anderson: Yeah, age, gender.
John Tsarpalas: Interesting. I never thought about it. I know that they’ve used the types of automobiles that people buy to try to predict how they will vote. There’s the old adage that a Saab driver is a Democrat.
Peter Anderson: Is a socialist.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah. Volvo usually go heavily Democrat, too. But it has changed more to Saab lately. I don’t know why.
Peter Anderson: Yup, yup.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah.
Peter Anderson: And an F-150 driver is most likely a Trump supporter. A Cadillac Escalade will most likely vote for Cruz.
John Tsarpalas: Interesting. So where does one start? Does one start with trying to put together a plan and look at their campaign and what their key issues are? Or do they start by talking to you at the data house to see what kind of lists you have and then go the other way around? Or is it sort of a combination of both?
How does someone who is new to this do? They give you a call and then what happens? What should they be talking to you about? What should they be bringing to you? Accounts? Budgets?
Peter Anderson: Well, the first thing I say to them is, “Have you received all of your information from your state board of elections?” It varies by state what you are able to get. But once you are a registered candidate, you should at least get from your state department of elections the registration information of the last election. They will give you the list of the voters from the last election in your precinct, in your congressional district, or whatever you are running for.
Again, I’ll go back to my colleague and friend Mr. Lanza. He has a plain postal file from the Secretary of State for the state of Florida for Broward County, commission district #5. So that is all he has. He has some maybe two hundred thousand names that they gave him by alphabetical order and that is it.
He comes to us. He gives us that file. We will arrange it in precinct format and in walking list format. So the same format that the postman for your street does his route on is the way we will divide it up on a hard copy data file. So literally a walking list is what it is called; it is a walking list for everybody on Main Street.
Then on that walking list, we will designate for the candidate by number twelve on Main Street is a Republican voter. Number fifteen on Main Street is a Democratic voter. Number four on Main Street is an independent voter. Number eight on Main Street is a citizen, but not registered to vote.
Of all of those selections, I would knock on that door first. “Hi there. I see you are not a registered voter. Would you like me to give you information on how to register to vote? By the way, I am running for county commission. I hope you will become involved this year.”
I tell all of my candidate clients you can’t rely on the same usual suspects to win this election this year. It is a different year. It is a totally different year. Thanks to Mr. Trump, there is new blood being injected into the political system in mass.
But there are still some stragglers who are still not motivated to get into the political process. Reach out to those people. Just by the basis of you reaching out on a personal level may influence them to register to vote. And then by the fact they have met you may be the reason why they will vote for you.
John Tsarpalas: So are you ranking people in a likely to vote, least likely to vote based on prior turnouts and all of that kind of a thing?
Peter Anderson: We have voter history from the last twenty years actually.
John Tsarpalas: Wow. Are you able to track people when they move to keep their files so they know how they voted although they are at a different address?
Peter Anderson: Yeah, because of the NCOA. We will provide that voter information in any NCOA that we do.
John Tsarpalas: Oh, okay.
Peter Anderson: National Change of Address, yup. Everything that we’ve got goes along with it.
John Tsarpalas: Okay. So you are keeping people together so to speak or whatever. I get it. And then when you are thinking about mailing, you are thinking about households. But when you are thinking about email, you are thinking about individuals I would assume.
Peter Anderson: That’s correct. A standard record will have number of households and then multiple emails per household. I always say hit them all. I am sure like yourself, you have an email that you use quite frequently, the most frequently for personal email and then another email that you use for business affairs only. You have business and personal emails.
John Tsarpalas: Right.
Peter Anderson: That’s the same for everybody. But if I’ve got them both, hit them both.
John Tsarpalas: I actually have one for things that I think might be spammy or junk, for when I am signing up for something that I am not sure about. I actually have a third one.
Peter Anderson: Exactly. That’s exactly what I do. For me, that’s my market research email. I sign up for almost every advertisement I can possibly get in a third email account. I use that just to create market research and, quite frankly, do lead generation.
John Tsarpalas: Yes. What about turn around time on things? How much lead time? Will they will be coming to you and putting plans together over the summer so they are ready to go in November? Or how quickly do things happen? How crazy does it get a week or two out from an election?
Peter Anderson: It is getting pretty crazy right about now. And this is the primary season now. Primaries are occurring in South Carolina on June 7th and in Florida on August 28th. The Libertarian presidential primary is on May 28th.
I get this question all the time: “How quickly can we get this done? I need this done right away!” Forty-eight hours on an email, four business days for a postal list in waking list format, a hard data file, a voter registration file, and an automated call in twenty-four hours.
John Tsarpalas: Oh, wow.
Peter Anderson: I can turn around an automated call if I have the recording in hand in twenty-four hours, or twelve hours in an emergency.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah, don’t make it an emergency though.
Peter Anderson: Yeah.
John Tsarpalas: Everyone thinks it is an emergency because they wait too long.
Peter Anderson: Emergency things never work out well, but it can be done in twelve hours.
John Tsarpalas: Wow, okay. And do you run out of capacity at some point?
Peter Anderson: No, really no.
John Tsarpalas: Okay.
Peter Anderson: We won’t run out of capacity. It will just take longer to accomplish.
John Tsarpalas: I get it. So people, you need to get your campaign plans together, figure out what you are going to do, and you need to get on the phone or email and talk to Peter. See what lists he has and how this can work. Talk with him and see what he can come up with to help you win.
Peter Anderson: Please, we would love to be of service.
John Tsarpalas: That’s putting it simply. So how do people find you? How do they get a hold of you? Phone numbers? Email addresses?
Peter Anderson: I invite everybody to review our website, which is CobaltMediaGroup.com. There is a Cobalt Group out there, but that’s not us. We are the Cobalt Media Group. That is our website.
You can reach me anytime (and I mean, people do call me at any time) at 954-734-7224. My personal extension is 405. Once again, I am Peter Anderson. Thank you, John, for inviting me to make commentary today. I appreciated it and enjoyed it greatly.
If you would like to email me or request information, please feel free to do so at firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Tsarpalas: And if you are driving while you are listening to this podcast, we have all of this information in our show notes at Commonwealthy.com. I would say talk to Peter. Even if you don’t have a real clear cut idea of what you need to do, he’s a resource. He can teach you. He can help you. He can craft things based on your budget.
I mean, let’s remember here we all don’t have infinite budgets. I am sure you work with people on their budgets all the time.
Peter Anderson: Oh, yeah. As I said, I was pleased to provide a really comprehensive to my colleague Mr. Lanza for Broward County district #5 for under two thousand dollars.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah, that’s fantastic. Well, thank you so much, Peter. I appreciate it.
Peter Anderson: Ladies and gentlemen listening to this, thank you for paying attention and for being involved. On behalf of my company, I wish to thank you and especially you, John, for allowing us to take this time to reach your audience.
John Tsarpalas: Well, thank you. As always we will have show notes and a transcript of today’s podcast at Commonwealthy.com. If you’ve got questions, you can reach me at email@example.com. I am happy to answer your email questions.
And if you need more help with your campaign, I am a candidate coach. What makes me different then a consultant? Well, I help you to formulate your plans. I can review your plans for you. I can help you with public speaking, fundraising, Get Out the Vote. I coach you.
And then I hold candidate accountable if they’d like that type of coaching. Many candidates will call me once a week or every other week and report in how many donors they talked to, how many phone calls their volunteers made, and how many doors did they knock.
Literally I hold them accountable. And they explain where they are having trouble and difficulty. I help them get through that and I keep them on track to their winning campaign plan, which I can help you formulate.
My first half hour of consultation is free. Often it runs a little longer than that. I don’t mind. I will let you know how I can help if you want to use my coaching from beyond that point. It is really helpful for most people who talk to me because I come up with some ideas and I get them on track in that first half hour.
So feel free to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please tell your friends about us. Let other activists and candidates know that exist. Thanks for listening.