Linking phones and mail for maximum efficiency
The strategy of using telephone calls to identify a targeted universe, following up with mail to supporters and undecideds, and getting back on the phone with a GOTV call is an ideal way to maximize your voter contact efforts.
When you pare down your universe in the initial ID phone call and follow up immediately with mail, you solidify your base of support. You are then on your way to a successful voter contact program whereby the winner is often the candidate with the highest quality and quantity of contacts with the targeted voter using all possible methods such as door-to door, phones and mail.
Effective voter contact campaigns must be research driven. Selecting your targeted universe should be based on polling data and previous election history (if available).
Carefully question your phone, mail and list vendors before selecting them. Make sure the list vendor will be furnishing you with an updated voter file that has been recently phone matched. Be sure to ask what the percentage of voters with phone numbers is before you order the list.
Quiz the phone vendors to see if you will be charged for completed calls only, or per contact. Know what you are paying for. Can you monitor the calls as they are made? Can a change in the script be made immediately, if necessary, while the phone bank is going? How fast will you get results? Can results be modemed directly to a mail house or back to the campaign to expedite follow-up mail?
Targeting the Right People
All phone vendors using the latest predictive-dialing technology should be able to do everything mentioned above. We have worked for a number of pro-choice organizations to help them identify supportive voters and, at the same time, eliminate those voters who disagree with their position on abortion. There is no reason to waste valuable time and resources on mailings or further voter contact with people who do not support your candidates or issues. Once the ID is accomplished your voter file can be appended with the results and only supporters and undecided voters will then be targeted in the future.
One of the groups we have worked with is Personal PAC, an Illinois statewide pro-choice organization. They work extensively each election year to identify pro-choice candidates for the state legislature and Cook County offices by sending them questionnaires and conducting interviews on their issues. Personal PAC will then determine which races to target based on how the candidates line up on the choice issues.
It is extremely important to have a strong working relationship with the vendors involved. This has been the case with Personal PAC who chose Voter Contact Services as its list vendor, us as the phone vendor, and Terris and Jaye for the mail. Terry Cosgrove, Personal PAC’s Executive Director, makes it clear why teamwork is essential. “The actual timelines for these projects is so short, the deadlines so intense, that all members of the team must get along and work together well,” he says.
In late September and early October last year we made about 70,000 ID calls for Personal PAC. The survey asked the voter’s position on abortion as well as how they were going to vote in the targeted race for the legislature. The results were modemed directly to Voter Contact Services and appended to the Personal PAC voter file which already included data from previous phone banks. Personal PAC then received mailing labels from VCS of all pro-choice voters in each legislative district and mailed out a self-mailer in letter format from the targeted candidates. The letter itself (with signature) often stressed the differences between the pro-choice candidate and the opponent as well as giving the voter additional biographical information. It was a single fold self-mailer with the heading on one side in bold lettering A SPECIAL MESSAGE FOR PRO-CHOICE VOTERS. Each message, of course, was customized to the particular candidates involved and the issues of direct concern within that district.
Hard-Hitting Direct Mail
In addition, those voters identified as pro-choice in the original phoning and were supporters or undecided on Personal PAC’s candidates for the legislature – were sent a professional campaign comparison piece by the direct mail firm Terris and Jaye. These pieces were hard-hitting and well-produced and sent into districts where the polling showed the race to be close. These pieces of mail were sent close to the election to have the most impact before Nov. 8.
In several targeted campaigns Personal PAC asked us to pose a follow-up question to supporters to see if they would serve as volunteers on the campaign. These names were immediately sent via fax to the individual campaigns for follow-up. Also, each campaign received from Personal PAC a list of their supporters with which they had volunteers do their own GOTV phoning.
Terry is convinced that strong voter contact programs using phones and mail does win elections. “I know that over a period of several cycles of elections a well-thought-out voter contact program pays off. We now have a database with identified voters going back all the way to 1990 to build on for 1996.”
Don Powell is vice president of political sales at TeleMark, a telephone and direct contact firm based in Seattle.
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