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“Pick up the phone” works in politics too

In the last few weeks I’ve been doing volunteer phoning for my political party. It could be called “cold calling,” but it’s not really cold because the list I work from has been developed with carefully considered algorithms. And seeing how the system works, with individual voting data (but not specifically who we vote for) supplied to the parties, I assume it’s not cold for either party and that both parties use available data in similar ways.

The election process makes terrific data available to both parties. They can see who voted in which primaries, along with age, address and phone. Every day data are updated to show who has voted, whether at advance polling places or by mail. (Yes, every day.) Then the parties apply their algorithms to create lists for specific contacting purposes.

Months ago it was about phoning broad lists to determine current party preferences. As we get closer to the vote, phoning is about contacting one’s own party to encourage people to vote, vote early, and even volunteer to knock on doors and make calls.

I’ve been working on the last—asking people to volunteer—for several days now. Most calls are not answered so this is slow work . . . and frustrating if you expect it to be easier.

But over time there is some success, and each success is important because our impact multiplies with each individual canvasser.

Leave messages?

The conventional wisdom—and the advice of campaign experts—is not to leave a voicemail message.

However, my boss allowed me to give message-leaving a try. And yes, he is getting callbacks.

Some ideas on what to say on these calls

Like all phoning, the goal is to sound unscripted, conversational. You don’t want to sound like you are delivering a rote message. Convey that you personally care.

Some of the most persuasive telemarketers have a pleading tone in their voices. It’s the audio equivalent of the family dog seated by the dinner table, eyeing each bite of steak as we raise the fork to our mouths.

At the same time, it’s important to respect the guidance of managing staff. Scripts and instructions have been developed for a reason, so we should do as we are told even though we are volunteers who have the freedom to walk off the job.

Here are some lines I like:

  • I am a volunteer and I am phoning from the local [name of city] office.

  • At this point, the contact lists are well developed. We are contacting people from our party. So this is fun!, not stressful. (I personally love the word “fun” because it was a word—and concept—that my parents scorned.)

  • I’m doing it too and we’ll be doing it together. More fun.

  • I’d hate to wake up Wednesday and find out we should have tried a little harder.

We marketers and communicators have the abilities and experience to support our political views. So let’s commit to getting the job done.

Originally posted 11-7-16

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