May 9, 2017

Swampy Awards Case Study: Gross Happiness as the ROI of Your Advocacy Campaign

Executive Summary

The creatures that inhabit the Washington, DC political swamp are a special breed: we like to work hard, play hard, and win awards. BitterDC’s first annual Swampy Awards were satire designed to cross partisan lines and recognize achievement in what Beltway creatures do best: make noise, promote stuff, and get attention.

Our goal was to increase happiness in Washington, DC and get our colleagues, friends, and frenemies to have a good time together.

Background on the Swampy Awards Copied from Our Website

The Swampy Awards were founded in 2017 by a group of political hacks known as BitterDC and are designed to cross partisan lines and celebrate what we do best: make noise, promote stuff, and get attention.

2017 award categories included:

  • Most Popular
  • Lifetime Achievement Award in Internet Trolling
  • Breakthrough Performance in Internet Trolling
  • All-Around Sexiest Beltway Beasts
  • 30 Over 30 Who Never Changed the World But Still Have Time
  • Most Wonderfully Shameless Self Promoters
  • DC’s Most Likely to Nominate Themselves for An Award (Self-nominations only)
  • Most Arrogant, Colorful LinkedIn Profile Artists
  • Most Valuable P(l)ayer Award
  • The Most Lovable Nerds in Politics
  • Best Asshole Whisperer
  • Most Adored Political Blogger/Reporter
  • The Swamp Rat Award for Most Egregious Displays of Success on Social Media
  • Beltway’s Most Epic Bromance
  • Most Dramatic Performance in Online Politics
  • Most Lovable Nerds in Politics
  • Best Beltway Pets in the History of the Beltway Times Infinity Plus One
  • The Horse Shit Award for People Who Can’t Make the Swampy Awards Party Because They’re at Gold Cup

Swampy Award nominations were open to the public.

The awards were announced at the Swampy Awards Party on Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Benchmarks for Success

We determined that the following benchmarks would be used to measure progress toward our outcomes and help us evaluate return on investment:

  • Increase the amount of love people have for us/our companies/our clients/our issues.
  • Increase the amount of new people who love us/our company/our clients/our issues.  
  • Increase well being in Washington, DC as measured by
    • Internal laughter
    • Memes
    • A sense of community that crosses partisan lines
    • Feeling good about ourselves
    • Alcohol consumed


From the beginning, the BitterDC Swampy Awards team needed to address the following challenges:

  • Republicans and Democrats have different senses of humor. – Is calling someone a “cuck” funny? What about making fun of the adult children of famous politicians? We needed to be provocative and funny without pissing each other off.
  • Some people have no sense of humor. – At least three people complained to us online about the awards. Two people didn’t want us to email the political listservs they are on with updates about the awards. One person thought the awards were shallow and insensitive.
  • Workflow and Collaboration Had to Be Seamless. – Everybody has day jobs. Except Julie: she’s a housewife. We needed to find a way to use each member’s skills and expertise in a way that wouldn’t cause each person unnecessary stress.
  • Our ROI was weird. – Nobody in DC measures happiness as a return on investment. DC is about making yourself as miserable as possible on behalf of your clients. We had to built a system of measurement and metrics from scratch.


We built an a operational infrastructure that was agile, responsive, and able to drive success:

  • One Single, Consistent Standard in Decision Making – Does this make me happy? If it didn’t make us happy to do something, then we didn’t do it. We only deployed tactics that weren’t a total pain in the ass, and team members only did things they liked to do.
  • Collaborative Communications Technology – Nobody used our Slack, so we communicated by Facebook Messenger and used Google Docs, Spreadsheets, and Forms. Multiple people had access to our social media accounts, enabling us post and run ads while everybody else in the Beltway was commuting in bad traffic and stuck on the broken Metro system.
  • Immediate, Open Feedback Loops – We talked to each other a lot and agreed that humor must be approved by everyone before we deployed it in our earned media, paid marketing, and outreach efforts.
  • Minimally-Invasive Awards Party – Nobody in DC likes it when we’re slightly buzzed drinking gins and tonic, gossiping with our friends, and some annoying person shushes everybody for what seems like a damned eternity while they thank the sponsors and give out awards.
  • Hill Staff Get in Free.

Here Are Some Vanity Metrics for You to Skim

The BitterDC Swampy Awards team doesn’t believe in vanity metrics. Period.

  • Event Registration – 109 Beltway creatures signed up to attend the Swampy Awards Party — despite the fact that several major DC events (Gold Cup, CATO Institute’s 40th Anniversary Party, etc.) occurred the same day. This broke down into the following Beltway demographics:
    • 54% Regular People in Policy, Politics and Advocacy
    • 30% Policy, Politics and Advocacy Influencers
    • 10% Beltway Media and Influencer Publications
    • 3% Hill Staff
    • 3% Registrants named “Dickless Jack”
  • Bipartisan Media Coverage – The Swampy Awards built a press list of 24 of the most insider Beltway journalists and publications. The awards were ultimately covered by two online media outlets: the liberal site Left Action and the conservative site The Political Insider. Here’s what these two highly esteemed media outlets said about it:
    • “Hilarious take on DC awards.” – Left Action
    • A group of D.C. beltway insiders have nominated Huma for an award she most certainly can’t be happy about.” – The Political Insider
  • Cost Per Registrant – $18 per registrant, including the cost of advertising the awards and party, printing, buying supplies and trophies, and food and beverage at the party.
  • Social Media Participation
  • Drink Orders – People drank a lot of alcohol. This is an important measure of success because most people in DC need to drink to have a good time. The most popular beverages ordered at the Swampy Awards Party were:
    • “Swamp Punch” – 31
    • Bourbon – 9
    • DC Brau – 5
    • Jack Daniels – 5
    • Ballast Point – 5
    • Gin – 5
    • Soda – 5

Legitimate Results

Our goal was to increase gross happiness and feelings of community in the political swamp of Washington, DC.

  • Pre-Awards Buzz with Beltway Influencers At least three members of the Swampy Awards team had people come up to them at different professional, social, and political events in Washington DC to tell them how excited they were for the Swampy Awards.
  • After Action Group Think – The Swampy Awards team utilized cutting-edge communications technology to debrief the results of the Swampy Awards party. Our general consensus was that participants had a good time and drank a lot of swamp punch.
  • Word-of-Mouth Feedback – We conducted key word and sentiment analysis of  word-of-mouth feedback from both attendees and honorees. Our analysis suggests the amount of happiness we delivered in 2017 created a definite “value add” in the lives of our participants.
    • “This is the biggest night of my life.” – Christina Saull, travel blogger, writer and photographer at My View from the Middle Seat
    • “I won the Swampy Award for ‘Most Likely To Nominate Themselves For An Award’ by @BitterDC and it warms my heart.” – Tim Young, Political Comedian
    • “Easily the most hilarious set of awards ever given, at least in DC…” – John Hlinko, Founder of Left Action and occasional TV pundit
    • “Honored to win the award for ‘Most Wonderfully Shameless Self Promoter.’” – Erick M. Sanchez, the least famous person interviewed by Jimmy Kimmel
    • “Honored to make the inaugural Swampy Awards list for 2017. As I have always said, in 2004 I was named a Rising Star in American politics and my star has been fading slowly ever since.” – Brad Bauman, Co-Founder of and Partner at The Pastorum Group
    • “DC’s most legit bipartisan posse knows how to throw a party.” – Dana Karangelen, Businesswoman
    • “Oh wow I got mentioned in the DC Swampy Awards” – Matt B. Keller, Author
    • “Not sure honored is the right word. I’m on @BitterDC’s #30over30 list of folks ‘who never changed the world but still have time.’” – Karl Frisch, Executive Director of Allied Progress
    • “Had a blast at the BitterDC’s Inaugural Swampy Awards Party! Thanks for an awesome event Julie Germany and team!” – Shannon Brooks Chatlos, Vice President at Strategic Partners & Media
    • “Hope they’re amazingly awful!” – Patricia Simpson, Leadership Institute
    • “Sweet! We can definitely make some fun memes out of this.” – Brad Tidwell, founder of political web development firm Infrared Productions

Bottom Line: The Swampy Awards made people like us — except for the three people who complained. That’s over a hundred people. And that’s a win.