People often ask me what’s new with phones. Nothing is really new with phones. You still speak into one end and listen from the other. Research conducted by political scientists continues to refine the most effective phone messaging, but let’s not pretend phones are the wave of the future.
It’s true—regulations like caller ID, abandon rates, and disclosure have diminished the use of paid phones by campaigns. But like many other mediums, phones are seeing a big push when it comes to campaign integration, and that’s where the real potential lies for campaigns in 2014. Here’s a look at what’s on the horizon:
There will be a symbiotic relationship between paid phones and volunteer calling. The quickest way to lose a volunteer is to have them make ID calls on behalf of the campaign. The emergence and availability of dialers directly to a campaign (the phone bank in a box) has greatly increased the efficacy of volunteer phone banking to the point that it has taken market share from paid phones over the past few cycles. Phone consultants were competing for their piece of the pie against volunteer phone banks. The consultants were concerned about inconsistent staffing and worried that volunteers couldn’t complete a high volume of calls. The volunteer phone banks were concerned about the relatively high cost (compared to volunteers) of paid phones, and inaccurate data.
One trend to watch is the developing of a symbiotic relationship between paid phones and volunteer calling, a balance that leverages the strengths of each medium and minimizes the weaknesses. Campaign plans in 2014 will have paid phones integrated with volunteer calling. Paid phones will do ditch-digging (surveys/ID calls and short turnaround work with high volume), and upload the data directly to the volunteer phone bank so the campaign can capitalize on the passion of a strong volunteer base to perform the persuasion and GOTV piece.
Phones will help campaigns win before Election Day. Early voting and absentee/vote by mail is now the norm. It means mail chase calls have become vital to campaigns. As much as campaigns want voters to see their mail pieces, they’d much rather contact them once they actually have the ballot. The value of mail chase robocalls will go up, as will interactive mail chase phone programs. There are a handful of states mulling voting rights bills, but early voting is trending. Take away those few states, and what you have is an electorate that is deciding who they’re voting for way before the general election.
In several states, Obama and Romney were very close in votes on Election Day. However, the president crushed his Republican challenger in early voting. Phones are widely regarded as the cheapest part of paid communications, but many campaigns are maximizing early voting by using phones to secure ballots early.
Smartphones will become even more campaign smart. One of the difficulties of running a volunteer phone bank is securing space and phone lines. The campaign dialers now available have minimized this problem. Another trend that will emerge in 2014 will be the prevalence of apps to turn the smartphone into a predictive dialing station. Scripts and phone numbers will be pushed out to volunteers so persuasion and GOTV calls can be made from anywhere. Several companies have already rolled this application out.
Social media will drive phone scripts. Another trend you’ll see in 2014 will be the use of social media to help improve phone messaging. Campaigns are using telephone town halls as a tool for early voter outreach much more frequently than last cycle. Telephone town halls yield valuable data to campaigns, and now Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” allow users to build “Look-a-Like” audiences based off of phone numbers.
Phones can now be synergized with social media. It’s safe to say if 10,000 voters listen to a telephone town hall for more than 10 minutes, they are likely to be very interested in the campaign. Facebook’s Custom Audience app allows a campaign to take those voters and match them against the rest of their district to find people similar to these voters and identify them with other Facebook users for ad campaigns. The precious dollars spent on social media ads can now be targeted to those with the most potential.
In addition, the emergence of Twitter monitoring apps will also be a trend to watch. These monitoring apps will highlight emerging social media topics that can be incorporated into phone scripts.
Chad W. Gosselink is a partner at Control Point Group, a Democratic communications firm.