Zoe Amar: What charities can learn from Emmanuel Macron

Clever use of digital helped him win the French presidency, but the biggest lesson of all is to be bold, writes the consultant

Zoe Amar
Zoe Amar

Much has been made of Emmanuel Macron’s rapid ascent from his first ministerial post in 2014 to winning the French presidential election. He has achieved this without the backing of a political party, founding instead a new political organisation, En Marche, which deployed tech in its campaigns. Building a movement of supporters using digital is a pretty standard part of most charity campaign briefs, so I want to look at what made Macron so successful, and how this might resonate with your charity.

Think people first, digital second

Macron used digital to mobilise supporters on the ground. Drew Lindon, a policy consultant, says: "One of the key lessons applied in the campaign was to use data and digital tools to create opportunities for face-to-face conversations, and not use Facebook or Twitter as a substitute for them."

So before your charity launches that big digital campaign, make sure  your staff and volunteers are briefed, as Macron’s were, to make the most of every conversation they have with potential supporters in real life, as well as online.

Data modelling

The use of data to understand voter intentions is now standard practice, but Macron’s team collected data at speed (using a specially developed app) to gather information about voters’ views and pain points. Lindon says: "This helped to develop En Marche's messages and guide the conversations volunteers subsequently had with voters."

Could your charity get smarter about how it uses digital to gather and analyse data to uncover supporters’ motivations?

Artificial intelligence

Macron’s team used AI not just to analyse voter opinion, but also to maximise its own funds. Dmitry Isupov, founder of the AI agency Chattermill Analytics, says: "By uncovering and interpreting voter opinion at scale using semantic analytics, limited resources can be more effectively focused on the right areas."

Isupov says that if charities were to use AI in a similar way to understand supporters' needs, expectations and motivations, it has the potential to be "game-changing".

Move quickly

Francesco Petruzzelli, co-founder of the charity-focused search engine WhaleSlide, says Macron knew "his technological advantage wouldn't last for long. Success breeds copycats quickly in the tech world. If your charity spots an opportunity, grab it today or someone else will beat you to it."

The speed at which Macron used digital helped him to build up the momentum necessary to win. Look at how quickly CRUK moved on #Nomakeupselfie, which raised $8m (£6.2m) in six days. Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, the founder of Women in Leadership publication, describes Macron’s campaign as "a grass-roots guerrilla operation", so consider if your charity’s culture allows it to act fast and be agile enough to capitalise on opportunities online.

Expect to be hacked

Macron’s team were well prepared for an attack, creating fake email addresses and phoney documents. As I write this, the NHS is recovering from a hacking incident that forced hospitals to close A&E departments and postpone operations. What are your charity’s cyber security vulnerabilities? And how can you make sure you are ready if the worst happens? Get Safe Online is full of advice to help you prepare.

The biggest lesson from Macron’s campaign is this: be bold. Smart use of digital, volunteers and data is good, but ambition, chutzpah and strong messaging will help you win.

Zoe Amar is the founder of the digital and marketing consultancy Zoe Amar Communications

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