Scott Goodstein is the Founder and CEO of Catalyst Campaigns, an accomplished social impact agency focused on creating groundbreaking, effective digital campaigns. He is well known for his innovative ideas and is an expert within the corporate, technology, and political industries. Some of his work has included Rock Against Bush (2004), Artists for Obama (2008), Abortion Access Front (2015), Artists for Bernie (2016), and Artists United for Change (2020).
Scott attended American University, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications, Legal Institutions, and Economics & Government. He also completed his Master of Public Administration (MPA) focusing on Business & Human Relations from American University. He is honored to give back to his alma mater by teaching courses in digital campaigning at American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies.
Of the many positions he has held, Goodstein is most proud of the work he accomplished as the External Online Director for the Obama For America campaign in 2008. He was in charge of creating groundbreaking social media, mobile communications, and lifestyle marketing strategies that help reach the country’s young voters in new and creative ways. The campaign was a first of its kind to use digital media for political mobilization, issue education, fundraising and get out the vote activities. It was considered an overwhelming success and helped reach new levels of voter-engagement that were not possible in previous election cycles.
Following his time with the Obama For America, Scott Goodstein founded Revolution Messaging in 2009. The agency focused on evolving new technologies for grassroots fundraising, online organizing, and issue advocacy. It would go on to be named the Digital Agency of the Year in 2016 by the American Association of Political Consultants and the Best Global Presidential Campaign by the European Association of Political Consultants.
Today, Goodstein continues to work as the CEO for Catalyst Campaigns and is always looking for new, innovative ways for each campaign he works on. His focus is to understand how to utilize digital engagement on smartphones to help reach the next generation. Most recently, Catalyst Campaigns was honored with two awards for their recent work, which included Best Logo & Branding for Bootstrapped Campaign for their work creating SupportThePlayers.Net for the National Women’s Soccer League Players Association and Best Website for Public Affairs by the 2022 Campaign & Elections Magazine Reid Award for NoMoreSideHusles.com
What is your typical day, and how do you make it productive?
I believe in waking up early and reading all the breaking news and headlines from around the globe. I start this around 5:30 am or 6:00 am every morning. I subscribe to many news aggregators and tip sheets, have Google News alerts set, and have my morning coffee ritual while reviewing what is happening in the world.
I spend the rest of the morning working and doing client calls with NBC’s Today Show in the background. (Yep, I like to see what middle-of-the-road Americans are waking up to and talking about!)
My afternoons focus on client meetings, Zoom calls, and team meetings.
In the evenings, when it is quiet, and I’m not as interrupted by calls, texts, and email traffic of the day., I like to focus on writing.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Through the Internet! Most of my work is creating online campaigns that provide a unique website, branding, and narrative message to translate to work on interactive websites, online videos, posted audio clips, social media posts, email messages, and even text messages.
What’s one trend that excites you?
AI is quickly evolving and is starting to solve basic tasks. I see where it fills gaps in various industries – health and pharmaceutical research, marketing, and finance. I see great potential, but I know its influence over academia is something that will need to be dealt with as the technology evolves. Government and rules of use will need to evolve to ensure some basic guardrails and safety precautions are put in place as this technology advances.
What is one habit that helps you be productive?
Attention to detail. My nervousness / neurotic habits are super helpful in ensuring every campaign detail is thought through before launch something new. This nervous trait keeps me double-checking emails before they are sent to hundreds of thousands of voters or re-reading advertising copies out loud to ensure it flows naturally. I also keep a pen and paper on my night table to write reminders of things I need to double-check in the morning.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Stick with your passion, and don’t let others tell you not to be creative. I would also tell myself not to listen to folks that are try to push me towards a very specific career path. The planned career and finding a thirty to forty-year job with benefits and retirement is right for some people, but there is nothing wrong with paving a new way and taking a more entrepreneurial journey. While it will sometimes be frustrating and have challenges, it will be rewarding as you build this special path on your own.
Tell us something you believe almost nobody agrees with you.
Donald Trump used Twitter to mobilize people to take action better than any other politician. I wish the Democrats would use social media around the clock to energize our base. I wrote an article for the NYTimes about this in 2016 after he won the presidency, and I stand by it. Check it out here: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/14/opinion/campaign-stops/donald-trump-trolled-us-all-we-should-learn-from-it.html
What is the one thing you repeatedly do and recommend everyone else do?
Experiment and try new things! While not every experiment pays off, the ones that do, make a huge impact. I don’t believe that because a communications strategy worked on one campaign, it will work the exact same in future campaigns. I have watched many political campaigns make this mistake and assume that how they won their last election is the only way to win. These consultants forget that society is constantly evolving, changing their communications habits, watching new TV shows differently through different technology (streaming services), and on different devices (new iPhone or tablet). I never want my organizing model to become stale, outdated social platforms, or irrelevant cultural references. Otherwise, I would still talk about how awesome Barack Obama’s Myspace campaign was, blogging on LiveJournal, and making Ally McBeal “dancing baby” references.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business or advance in your career?
Take on pro-bono clients for causes you believe in! Maybe it’s good Karma or Beshert, but whatever the reason, working on a project you love almost always leads to good things. Whether it is business relationships, friendships, or just feeling good about your work, it is time well spent.
What is one failure in your career, how did you overcome it, and what lessons did you take away from it?
Ask for back-office help quicker! As businesses grow and scale, one needs to be honest with what you are an expert at and what you are not. I am great at managing time, understanding political campaigns, rapid response messaging, and communication needs, but I am not an expert on understanding where everything fits in QuickBooks, how to pull the right quarterly reports, or the best tax strategies for a business that operates in multiple states. Therefore, the smartest thing I can do is hire someone that is! I also learned over the years that you will need different experts as you grow. My lawyer is the best at letting me know what type of law he is an expert in and what he is not an expert in.
What is one piece of software that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
I highly recommend Grammarly. It is amazing software that I have been using for a few years now. Once a week, it provides you with your stats, reviews your common mistakes, analyzes your writing tone, and makes recommendations. The app is easily connected with popular internet browser extensions and writing software.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
A new pair of shoes! You can’t pitch a business in those horrible-looking shoes that you bought pre-covid. I’m the son of a haberdasher… and I understand good shoes, non-ripped jeans, a well-pressed dress shirt (tucked in), and a clean shave still matter!
Do you have a favorite book or podcast from which you’ve received much value?
Spectacle by Bruce Mau and David Rockwell. It’s a beautiful picture book that pushes the boundaries of what a genuinely memorable never-seen-before awe-inspiring event looks like. I use the book to challenge my thinking and to remember to go big and push the envelope when designing creative campaigns. political rallies and memorable events,
- Chart your own path
- Work on projects that you like and have meaning
- Work toward making significant change
- Always experiment and evolve the ways you communicate your message
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.