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Moving Your Political Communications into the Digital Era

by This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Managing Director, CampaignGrid and 
      This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
, Associate Director, CampaignGrid

In the political world where we grew up, candidates reached their voters through door-knocking, robo-calls, TV advertisements and direct mail pieces. But the world where these methods alone are effective has gone the way of the fax machine, the Berlin Wall and Milli Vanilli.

  In the new political era, as many as 13.2 million people watched the premier of the second season of “House of Cards,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, and none of them had an opportunity to get a message from your candidate.

  Google commissioned a survey earlier this cycle that showed that only 48% of voters watched live TV in previous week. Wouldn’t it be a drag to be running a Congressional campaign in the Chicago media market, spend a million bucks trying to reach 100,000 swing voters in your district on TV - $10 per voter - and have only half your voters watch it?

  Similarly, caller ID has made it much less likely that people answer phone calls from numbers they don’t recognize and nobody really knows how many pieces of political mail are being tossed in the trash without being read, and who tosses it more frequently.

  The good news is that Americans are migrating to a medium that is cheaper, quicker, easier to quantify and more targetable than those they are leaving behind. According to a study done by eMarketer just last August, the time adults spend online has increased 66% since the last mid-term election. Time spent on non-voice mobile has increased 588% since 2010.

  For the price of a direct mail piece, we can reach a voter about 30 times on their laptop, tablet and smart phone. Or to compare to TV, for the aforementioned Chicago campaign spending $10 per swing voter to splatter 1000 gross rating points of broadcast TV all over Chicago, we can deliver a precisely voter-targeted video to any of that voter’s online devices 343 times.

  Put another way, voter-targeted video is more than 34 times more cost effective than TV in the Chicago media market.

  The math works in smaller markets as well. Charlottesville, Virginia is the 168th largest media market in the nation, out of 210. Assuming 100,000 swing voters in a Congressional race, it would cost about 38 cents each to reach them ten times on broadcast TV. To target those voters ten times digitally would cost 29 cents each in Charlottesville.

  And to be clear, I’m doing this math assuming that 100% of the television ads are going to be seen by the voters for whom they were intended, rather than being fast-forwarded through by the more than half of voters are not watching live TV, as implied by the Google study.

              In this new era, the political benefits normally associated with a few big spending campaigns on TV are being democratized. If you are running the campaign to pass a bond issue in Scottsdale, AZ, where you can expect 40,000 voters, putting 1000 gross rating points on Phoenix television would be daunting.   In the past, you would not be able to reach voters using the rich and persuasive medium of video. Now you can now target all 40,000 voters on their computers, their laptops and their smart phones with ten views of video each for about $11,000.

  All that being said, don’t stop buying TV ads or sending out mail. The new reality is that a robust online strategy complements and amplifies the traditional way of reaching voters.

  Send online ads to the same people who receive your mail to reinforce your message. Use online video to plug the holes in your TV buy. All the data we have seen shows that the combination of media is more effective than the sum of the parts.

  So far, this has been a lot of “why to” on the “how to” page.

  A few thoughts for the “how to:”

  •   Think of an online ad campaign as if it were a mail piece. Going back to the 100,000 swing voters example, you can household that number to roughly 60,000 in a suburban district. Multiply that times about $.45 per piece of mail and you come to about $27,000 for a single mailing. Say it takes 5 pieces to burn in a particular message. You are a political professional and have your own number – plug it in. If we go with 5 pieces, that portion of your mail program costs $135,000.
  • Now take that same universe and target it online and on mobile. The exact same universe, because you can. Most of the data I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot) suggests that it takes at least 20 banner ad impressions to burn in a message. That comes to about $28,000, or about the same as a mail piece.
  • Cancel a mail piece. Add voter-targeted online ads. Expect better results.

 Overall, the concept is this: With the fracturing of a voter’s attention, you need to communicate with that voter through as many channels as possible.

 Your voter drops into Starbucks on her way to work, and sees your ad on her smartphone while she is standing in line. At work she clicks over to to try to figure out something new to make for dinner and sees your banner ad. When she gets home, she gets the mail and sees a mail piece from your candidate. After dinner, she picks up her tablet and goes to for some ideas on new exercises to do at the gym in the morning, and gets a 15 second pre-roll from your candidate in front of the demonstration video. Before she goes to bed, she turns on the 10 o’clock news and sees a 30 second commercial from your candidate.

And perhaps the easiest part of “how to” is reaching out to CampaignGrid to find out how you can incorporate digital into your campaign. We are at 202.544.5471 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Every Campaign's Guide to Getting Out the Vote

Every Campaign's Guide to Getting Out the Vote
by Joe Garecht, Local Victory

There is nothing sadder in all of politics than to see a well-organized and well-run campaign fail because it let get out the vote activities fall through the cracks.  Worse still are those campaigns that think that they have so much support from the public they don't need to work hard on Election Day to get out the vote.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Every single candidate and campaign manager should have this sentence printed on a plaque hanging on his or her wall:  An organized get out the vote operation is integral to the success of EVERY campaign.

What is Get Out the Vote?

Get out the vote operations (sometimes called GOTV) are those activities that the campaign performs to turn voters out on Election Day - those tactics and strategies the campaign will use to get supporters to get up, go out, and vote on Election Day.

Get out the vote campaigns need to be targeted - that is, you need to make sure you are getting your supporters, and only your supporters, to go to the polls.  GOTV operations are a waste if you are trying to move ALL voters to the polls, including your opponents'.

Simply put, every campaign, whether it is for the city council or for president, can and should implement a get out the vote effort.

GOTV Goals

The goal of your get out the vote campaign is to identify who your supporters are, and get as many of them as possible to actually go vote.  The GOTV team is not responsible for persuading people to support your candidate - that is the job of the rest of your campaign structure.  The get out the vote campaign need only identify who has ALREADY been persuaded to support your candidate, and then motivate those supporters to go vote.

Your GOTV effort should set a goal of ensuring that at least 10% of the voters you need to win the election actually go vote.  For example, if your campaign has looked at past election figures and realized that it needed 5000 votes to win the election, your GOTV goal would be to make sure that 500 known supporters make it to the polls on Election Day.

When to Get Started

You should begin planning your get out the vote strategy well in advance of Election Day.  Thirty days before the big day, you should have your get out the vote team in place and have your materials and systems prepared.  You'll need to appoint one person as "GOTV Chairman."  This person should over see your get out the vote activities in conjunction with the campaign manager.  The majority of your GOTV team can be volunteers, including members of your precinct, ward, and regional organizations and block captains.

The Two Phases

Get out the vote campaigns consist of two phases.  The first is the identification phase.  During this phase, your campaign should seek out and identify supporters.  This list will be used in the second phase, the motivation phase (sometimes called "The Voter Blitz.") During the motivation phase, which occurs in the few days leading up to the election, your team will try to motivate the supports you identified to go to the polls and vote for your candidate.

Identification, Please

The identification phase basically lasts the entire campaign, with the exception of the last few days before the election.  During the entire campaign, as part of every activity you conduct, your campaign must be keeping a list of supporters - along with relevant information such as phone numbers and addresses.

Your list should start with your own volunteers and staff - the people who are working to make sure your campaign succeeds.  Add to that list anyone who contributes to the campaign, people who attend your events, people you meet going door to door who say they are for you. In short, add everyone who says that they support you.

You can also add more people to your list of supporters by using classic voter identification methods.  By using voter ID (such as calling voters to ask who they plan to support), you make adding names to your list an objective in and of itself.

Your goal is to build a list that contains a number of supporters equal to at least 10% of the total votes you will need to win the election.

Contact and Re-contact

Several days to one week before the election, you are ready to start motivating your list of supporters to go to the polls.  Your ultimate goal is to make sure that every single person on that list actually goes to the polls on Election Day.  Of course, you probably won't get 100% to go, but you definitely come close.

The week before the election, you should contact each supporter to remind them when the election is, where their polling place is, and again ask for their support.  You should contact each supporter at least once.  If possible, contact each supporter several times. You can use several different methods to contact your supporters. They are listed here in order of descending effectiveness: . Door-to-door visits . Phone calls . Direct mail . Literature drop / door hangers

Election Day!

Your Election Day activities require organization, organization, and more organization.  Again, your goal is to make sure every supporter on your list goes to the polls.  In order to do this, you have to have someone at each and every polling place in your district (called "poll watchers.")

Check your local laws.  There are various regulations regarding what your poll watchers can and can't do.  Generally, they are allowed to sit close to the election judges at the polling place to quietly observe the voters as they come in.  Usually, they are not allowed to conduct any electioneering, or wear any campaign buttons or hats. In some states, poll watchers are required to get "poll watcher certificates" from the board of elections before going to the polls - check with the board of elections in your state or county.

Because your poll watchers won't be able to electioneer, they won't be able to get your message out one last time to the voters arriving at the polls.  Many voters decide who they will vote for in lower profile races when they walk into the polls.  Your campaign needs to have someone at the door handing out literature and asking people to vote for your candidate.  This means that you'll need to have at least two people at every polling place (one poll watcher, and one person outside communicating with the voters).

You'll also need to have a staff back at headquarters who can make phone calls and keep a master list of who has voted and who has not.

Ok, We're Ready

Once your team is in place (and they should be in place before the polls open, with each position staffed until polls close), you're ready to put your GOTV operation into Election Day mode.  Here's how it works:

Every time someone comes into vote, they say their name for the election judges, who determine if they are registered and eligible to vote. In many cases, the election judges will repeat their name loudly for the benefit of the poll watchers.  Each poll watcher should have a list of supporters that your campaign has identified and who are registered to vote at that polling place.  Every time a voter comes in, the poll watcher should look for the person's name to see if they are on the list, and if they are, cross them off.

Periodically, someone from the campaign should go around with a master list and copy down the names of those who have voted by crossing them off.  This master list should then be taken back to headquarters. The cycle should continue all day, with poll watchers crossing off names and campaign staff marking them off periodically on master lists.

(As a sidebar, you should also send around someone to give lunch and coffee breaks to your poll workers).

In the early afternoon, the campaign should begin calling supporters who haven't voted to remind them that it is Election Day.  If possible, the campaign should offer these voters rides to the polls if they need them.  If the campaign is flush with volunteers, it can also send volunteers out knocking on supporters' doors in targeted districts to remind them to vote.  If the person isn't home, they should leave a note on the door reminding the voter to go vote.  The cycle should continue into the night, with the campaign making phone calls and knocking on doors right up until the last minute trying to get supporters to go vote.

Of course, the whole time this is going on, the campaign has a worker outside of every poll handing out literature, asking for votes, and getting the candidate's name in front of the voters.

The Grand Finale

No doubt about it - the GOTV operation is the grand finale of the campaign.  It requires thoughtful planning, lots of leg work, and strong grassroots organization.  The time and effort get out the vote operations take are worth it, though.  A strong GOTV effort can put your campaign over the top, getting supporters to the polls that would never have gone if left to their own volition.  Take the time and create strong GOTV drive for your campaign.

Copyright 2002 by Joe Garecht

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Get Out the Vote and Super Voters

Get Out the Vote and Super Voters
by Ben Donahower, Get out the Vote

It seems that everything is in short supply during get out the vote. There isn't enough money; there isn't enough time; and there certainly isn't enough volunteers. Yet, traditional wisdom requires campaigns to treat tried and true partisans that vote every election in nearly the same way that we would contact a supporter whose voting record isn't as predictable.

As paid staff on a presidential primary in 2008, I got a robo call from the other candidate an hour before the polls closed asking me to go vote. It's likely that that candidate decided they had a little extra money and only enough time to tell their phone consultant to contact everyone that was likely voter as soon as possible, but this story made me reconsider the conventional wisdom revolving around super voters and GOTV.

Why contact a voter like me on Election Day? I haven't ever missed an election since I was of voting age. I'm going to vote. In a primary, the concern for campaigns as it relates to super voters like me is who I am supporting, and in the general election, candidates can safely assume I will vote and who I will support. See, frequent voters are also the ones who have their mind's made up. They are the most engaged, they have a political philosophy, and are partisan.

It's fine to contact these voters in the lead up to the election, but it’s important to make the communication meaningful for the campaign and the super voter. For the same reasons that super voters don't need as much contact they are also more forgiving of phone calls from candidates than others, so the traditional get out the vote won’t hurt your campaign but it won’t help it either.

The answer is simple: change your GOTV script! Super voters like me don't need to know where to vote. Likewise, the other election nuts and bolts that campaigns’ communicate to super voters during GOTV are unnecessary. There isn't a need to ask if super voters need a ride to the polls or to tell them when the polls open or close. These voters have voted at the same location, at the same time, by the same means of transportation for many years; they have it covered.

Instead, use super voters as a resource for the campaign and leverage their political leadership in their neighborhood. Ask these committed voters if they would be willing to make just a small number of phone calls, ten or twenty, on Election Day. Perhaps they would be interested in spending an hour at their polls. Even if you already have coverage, having a local person or second one at the polls will make a difference.

You could also ask questions about voters in their area or the political climate more generally. In the case of the former, perhaps the campaign hasn't been able to shake down the super voter's neighbor. Ask your super voter if they know where their neighbor stands or if he can twist his neighbor’s arm to support the candidate:

"Hey Jane Smith, do you know John Doe down the street? Great, you do? We haven't been able to figure out who John Doe is supporting this election, do you know? Okay, it's really important that we get everyone out to vote who supports our candidate, so would you please tell John why your supporting our candidate and offer to take him to the polls with you?"

How many times have you heard that you need to contact targeted voters six times, seven times, nine times, or more? These numbers, which are different based upon who you talk to, are at best derived from the average number of touches that you need to persuade a voter and get the voter to the polls. The truth is you don't need to contact targeted voters a specific number of times to win their support and ensure that they are going to the polls on Election Day; you need to contact them as much or as little as necessary to persuade them and get them out to vote.

The challenge is understanding groups of voters well enough to know what that necessary number is. It could be zero touches, seven, or twenty. Some of your targeted voters need a lot of attention and others, like super voters, you can skip your traditional GOTV calls and mail.

The same principle applies to your scripts and messaging. The better you understand each segment of your targeted voters, the better you can tailor your communication with them. In the case of super voters, leverage your communication with them by tapping into their political prowess and their connections in the community. It's almost condescending for someone to tell a super voter who has voted every election for the last thirty years that they vote at the local fire hall. They know that! Instead, tap into the intelligence that they can provide to the campaign and turn their interest in politics into volunteerism.

Ben Donahower is the editor and coauthor of Get Out the Vote to Win, a free"" ebook with strategies for campaigns to increase turnout and win their election.