Launching a GOTV Program
Expedia Group has a large group of passionate employees across all of its brands. Passionate about travel. Passionate about technology. And passionate about politics, too.
In 2020, the company engaged that passion, creating a nonpartisan voter education and registration program for its 14,800 U.S. employees.
“It is core to our ethos and our DNA as a company to leverage technology to help people experience the world,” said Global Director of Public Affairs Philip Minardi. “In this case, it was leveraging technology to help people engage a little bit more easily in their local communities.”
Expedia Group turned to Phone2Action to create a branded GOTV Election Center, providing candidate information, voter registration, polling place locations and other relevant information, all in one place. That center was visited by Expedia employees more than 8,000 times, with hundreds looking up candidates and registering to vote. Almost 150 cast a vote for the first time that year.
“Using [Phone2Action] as an anchor for our civic engagement efforts produced incredible results for our team, and for our teammates who were looking to get engaged in the election,” Minardi said.
Educating Around the Election
As a global company, Expedia Group does business through Hotels.com, Vrbo, Travelocity, Orbitz, Trivago and other wellknown brands. Its public affairs team is active on a massive range of issues, from technology regulation and travel policy at the federal and state level to rules around local short-term rentals.
“We take immense pride in engaging at all levels of government on issues that are important to our stakeholder base, and doing so in a way that’s collaborative,” Minardi said.
So, when it came to the election, the company did not stop at providing resources. It provided education as well. Expedia Group hosted a virtual election event in which CEO Peter Kern moderated a discussion on civic participation with Dr Michael Cornfield, a professor at George Washington University; Gary Locke, the former governor, ambassador and Commerce Secretary; and Ximena Hartsock, co-founder of Capitol Canary. More than 1,000 Expedia employees attended.
“We wanted to provide them an opportunity to hear from nonpartisan experts about the importance of getting involved in the elections and voting,” Minardi said. “It was very well received by our employee base.”
The company also partnered with Power the Polls, an organization that helps recruit poll workers all over the country. “We encouraged employees not only to learn a little bit more, not only to vote but to actually get out there and help in their community,” he said. Nearly 50 Expedia employees volunteered to work at the polls.
Expedia took one more important step to help employees cast a vote more easily: it gave them Election Day off.
How Expedia Group’s Advocacy Email Program Excels
Anyone looking for inspiration to improve email advocacy would be well-served to focus on Expedia Group.
The global travel brand, which does business in more than 190 countries, operates well-known properties like Expedia.com, Hotels.com and Travelocity.com. It also has a strong presence in short-term rentals such as Vrbo and HomeAway.
Expedia’s email performance is equally impressive. The average advocacy email program has a 16 percent open rate, according to the M&R 2020 Benchmarks report. Expedia’s average is a whopping 52 percent-and it doesn’t end there. While the average click rate is 2.8 percent, Expedia’s average is more than twice that at 6.3 percent. The average conversion rate is 2 percent. Expedia’s conversion rate is 3.5 percent. And their numbers often go far higher.
What is Expedia doing differently? There are several answers to that question. For starters, they are using Phone2Action’s advocacy Email Tool, which is built purposefully for public affairs professionals.
“Our success was possible because [Phone2Action] advocacy tools and emailer exist in the same ecosystem. This allowed us to move very quickly, because we were only focused on one program,” said Noah Stewart, government and corporate affairs specialist at Expedia. “Since we can move so quickly, we are able to be a lot more impactful in delivering timely information to our partners, which empowers them to take action.”
Stewart added that, “Capitol Canary delivers a lot of metrics that allow us to tailor our messaging over time and segment. We can target our advocates in different ways in order to be more effective.”
Targeted & Timely
Much of Expedia’s advocacy surrounds its short-term rental business, which is regulated by state and local government. That means bills move fast, and Expedia does too. “We are sending very timely, targeted local content to our advocates,” Stewart said.
The company also segments its list in different ways. For example, Expedia identifies Super Advocates, people who have taken action on all its requests, and then targets them with more advanced campaigns. In Arizona, where the company was facing bills that would regulate rentals, the results were dramatic.
In an email to all their state advocates, Expedia saw an open rate of 62 percent, a click rate of 10.5 percent and a conversion rate of almost 5 percent. An email to Super Advocates had an open rate of 76 percent, a click rate of nearly 48 percent and a conversion rate of almost 32 percent.
Super Advocates were willing to take all kinds of more advanced actions. For example, more than 100 showed up to rally at Arizona’s state capitol building.
“It was impactful for us to have these super advocates that we could reach out to and ask to show up to hearings at the capitol, meet with their elected officials and [conduct] thought leadership exercises, like writing an op-ed,” Stewart said. “These bills were both amended heavily, so we had success in this campaign.”