Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Voter Contact – More than Just Field

In political circles, voter contact is not just when a candidate shows up at your door or an idealistic young volunteer calls you up. A “voter contact” also includes when a voter gets one of your direct mail pieces, sees your ad on television or hears you on the radio.

When a consultant is talking the need to have multiple voter contacts, they don’t mean obsessively calling the voter up, over and over (though there is an element of that) – they mean multiple contacts over multiple media: a phone call, a knock at the door, several pieces of mail, and your ad playing on cable in their zip code (hopefully during a television they like to watch).

It is possible to have a long, philosophical argument over whether paid phones are a form of paid media or field (political campaigning, as a profession, is not immune from a certain amount of balkanization). As a rule, I would put them into the field column, but I will give my thoughts on them.

Live phone calls, wherein you hire a phone vendor who has a boiler room somewhere an underpaid college students make calls, using a script you provide and deliver message, often ending with some question gauging the voter’s level of support (or lack thereof). You can skip the ending question to shave a huge percentage of the per call costs, but you also lose the opportunity add important data (like if someone is going to vote for you – very important to know, if possible) and you lose a lot of the value of the whole process.

Robo-calls are what you do when you can’t afford anything else. I won’t lie – I’ve used robo-calls, which is to say, I’ve been broke. I can even recommend a very good vendor, if you like. But robo-calls really don’t do a lot of good. They have only value – they are a cheap way to GOTV voters who are already on your side. They are not just a bad way to get across a persuasion message (in other words, trying convince an undecided voter), they are borderline useless. If someone recommends using robo-calls when are you are not so broke that you don’t have bucket to piss in, you should ignore that person. Forever. Seriously – because they have no idea what they are talking about. They probably ate paint chips as child.


At 7/21/2009 01:19:00 PM, Anonymous Gary said...

I just started following your blog - good stuff. I grew up in FL myself and have worked on campaigns in MD, PA, and VA at all levels. And I'm curious to know more about your take on robo-calls.

While you admit that robocalls have a limited place in politics, it seems like those who eat the most paint chips are the ones that dismiss them entirely, saying "they don't work (period)." Of course, I haven't ate enough paint chips to expect them to persuade a voter to consciously support a candidate. At the same time, the campaigns that I've worked on have used them for candidate intro/endorsements, support/volunteer ID, and GOTV/crowd building. In those instances, they seemed to work to a degree. I guess the worth of the work depends on the affordability of alternatives. Any more thoughts?

At 7/21/2009 01:27:00 PM, Blogger Campaign Manager said...

My opinion is that they are not an effective method of distributing a persuasion message - things like endorsement messages typically are more GOTV oriented. Same with crowd building - you're not going to undecided voters, you're going to supporters.

I don't believe in robo ID calls, though I do use live ID calls.

And I admit I have used them as a signal of intent - a way of sending a wake up call to the world that my campaign is active and working.


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