A few years ago the title of “video tracker” on a campaign would be met with the simple response: Huh? But in just a few short years, most notably beginning in the 2006 cycle when YouTube was becoming a presence in everyday Internet use, the video tracker has become a critical campaign position.
The importance of the video tracker is something that many consultants and campaign managers still fail to grasp. Those who don’t take it seriously though risk being on the losing side of election night. Currently, both the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) as well as their counterpart, the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) utilize trackers for tracking Members of Congress locally in D.C.
But while the Democrats have a huge majority in both houses of Congress, the NRCC has been far more aggressive in tracking vulnerable House Democrats. In fact, I would go so far as to say the NRCC is winning the video tracking war.
To get the best shots, film when the target is speaking or doing something with their body language that can be interpreted as angry or confused, (say a large hand gesture). These are the shots you can use for online videos and television ads. Look for chances to shape your campaign’s message. If the candidate is perceived as being out of touch than footage of the candidate ignoring constituents or refusing to answer a question can be used to tell that story. Know ahead of time the storyline your campaign is trying to tell about your opponent; then seek out opportunities where that story can be told through the tracker’s footage.
With regard to editing and filming, Final Cut Pro is one of the best options; it’s the least expensive and does great work. For shooting, many trackers use HD Flips, which are under $200. These cameras are small enough that you literally can fit them in your back pocket and they come with built in software. Sony also makes an HD video camera, The Bloggie, which like the flip is under $200.
By tracking you can get your opponent on the record. Go to every public event your opponent is holding and come prepared with questions. Silence however, can be used just as effectively. In 2008, when Virginia Democratic candidate Creigh Deeds fumbled his answer on taxes after a debate with now Gov. Bob McDonnell, the press swarmed. The Virginia Republican Party’s tracker was right there. The video was immediately posted online and later was used in a television commercial to paint Deeds as inconsistent and a tax raiser. Deeds later lost that race by 18 percent.
If there is one takeaway from video tracking it is this: Candidates always have to be aware of their surroundings. It doesn’t matter where you are or who you are with — someone is watching — and recording.