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Direct mail together with phones is one of the areas of campaigning that until recently had been left largely undisrupted by digital. But after years of dire warnings about its future, the sector is proving that it too can be a source of innovation.
Do-it-yourself (DIY) mail services for down-ballot campaigns have been available for almost a year, and opened up new territory for consultants.
Now, a California-based mail consultant is taking a different approach. Eric Hogensen co-created an app he hopes will provide a digital offshoot to compliment his existing firm.
“I look at this as part of the future of campaigns,” Hogensen, president of HSG Campaigns, said about this app, Ten More Votes. “To me, it’s a natural outgrowth.”
Hogensen began his career working field and managing campaigns before launching his own mail firm in 2007. That experience together with a friendship with developer Kelly Brunson, led him to develop Ten More Votes.
The smartphone app is meant to disrupt a campaign’s traditional volunteer call time, which is the bane of all field staffers’ existences.
“We built this to be a very simple, streamlined app,” he said. “You enter a code, then the screen becomes ten voters you can call.”
The app was beta tested during the California primaries in June and is now available to Democratic campaigns.
Its meant to simplify the reams of paper and data entry that usually accompanies volunteer call time at a campaign office. Volunteers can either come in with their smartphones and start calling, or do it from home. A script is embedded in the app and the campaign can upload any data file it wants for targeting of registered voters.
It’s a departure from what’s currently available. Campaigns have been able to stage remote phone banks for several years now, but the software requires a laptop or desktop. Hogensen’s app is mobile, and works on Android or iPhone.
“There really isn’t a direct competitor for this,” he said. “What we found is it doubles the efficiency of making calls.”
That’s partly through technical convenience, but also by reducing the psychological hurdle of a blank call sheet to 10 names. The canvassing app, Polis, works similarly where volunteers can opt to knock on just a few doors in their local areas, as opposed to taking on a full walk sheet.
“The simplicity is what appeals to people,” Hogensen said.
Many app-based firms are nonpartisan, Polis included, but Hogensen said Ten More Votes will only work with Democrats in partisan races. In nonpartisan contests, they’ll consider the client on a case-by-case basis.
The expansion from mail to a phones app isn’t without its own risks. Text-messaging platforms have been targeting that sector and increasing competition. Hogensen said he wasn’t worried the app was coming too late to get mass adoption because of the growing use of text. “There’s still a lot of people who answer the phone,” he said.