7 ways to talk to voters (when you can’t talk to voters)

With the exceptions of the Amazons in the world, over the past year almost every brand that exists has had to develop new ways to communicate with their customers in order to stay in business. Without the normal kinds of in-person experiences, from window shopping to networking events to trade shows, to survive it became absolutely critical to learn how to reach people where they were – which, in many cases was sitting in their living room, stuck at home.

There are still many questions about what the world and interpersonal communication is going to look like going forward, and political candidates are not exempt from having to find alternative methods. While we all hope that “normal” politicking, such as door-to-door canvassing, “shaking hands and kissing babies” at events, and black tie fundraisers will resume at some point, the reality is that for the time being, those kinds of connections are off the table.

So, yes, there’s a vaccine, and, yes, there are masks. The problem is that when you’re courting voters, you have no idea what each one’s thoughts are on the last year, the virus, and their optimism for the future. There are many opinions out there, and you could conceivably connect with one person who gives you a big hug and says they don’t care, and then move on to someone talking to you through the protection of a bubble. You can’t interpret what you’re going to come up against, so the best bet is to play it safe.

That being said, you still have to get your message into people’s hands. So, here’s how you do it:

  • Social Media – You’re probably already pecking away at social media with limited success, but now it’s become more critical. Especially, because at the time of this writing, there is still a ban on political ads on Facebook and Twitter (we can’t even advertise The Campaign Coach!). So, it’ll take some creativity and, most importantly, when you post something, make it meaningful. Show your constituents value.
  • Facebook Groups – We like Facebook groups as a reliable way to keep in touch with your most avid supporters – in political campaigns, we’d call them your “base.” Getting in touch with voters is one thing. Staying in touch with them is something else. Think about starting a Facebook group for your campaign, and using it to keep your supporters in-the-know on everything going on with your current race.
  • Speaking Opportunities – For candidates, in real life these are often fairly easy to come by. But in the virtual world, not so much. Mainly because the events you might normally speak at just aren’t taking place. So, for the organizations you might generally solicit for a speaking role, you may have to encourage them to do something. The benefit for all things virtual, is that they can be recorded and replayed. Any time you’re on-screen talking to people is content for your web site, social media, et. al. Make sure you’re capturing it.
  • E-mail – In the post-COVID world, e-mail is the gold standard for communication. Actually, it was before, too… If you could get voters to give you permission to e-mail them, that was big. Now, even more so. Try to compile an e-mail list, and then use it to keep people up-to-date on your campaign. Don’t overwhelm them – just offer value throughout the year, and especially a reminder to vote at the end (with info on the various ways to do so). Also – use a service, so you have the record-keeping that comes along with it (we swear by Constant Contact).
  • Walking Around Neighborhoods, But Not Knocking on Doors – So, we know that not everyone wants someone knocking on their door right now, creating a real handcuff for local candidates. But once the nice weather hits and people start heading outside, there will be nothing wrong with walking neighborhoods and waving hello, catching people outside, and even striking up a conversation from a distance. Remember, the goal is to talk to as many people as possible.
  • “Living Room Coffees” – We’ve always been a big believer in a candidate having an influencer who supports them setting up a breakfast or afternoon cocktail at their home for a dozen friends, to give the candidate a few minutes to meet everyone and present their platform (and maybe even raise a few bucks). Well, there’s nothing that says that can’t be done virtually. In fact, as many of us are learning, it’s much easier and less time-consuming to do virtual calls. Ask your biggest supporters if they’d be willing to gather 10 friends virtually for 20 minutes to talk about your community and the upcoming campaign. Easy.
  • Old-Fashioned Cold Calling – Ugh! The one that nobody wants to hear. Picking up the phone and calling people. But… If there’s no other way to get to them, it’s a viable way to get to (some) people. We say some, because not everyone these days has a landline, “home” phone. So, the opportunities will be limited. But every vote counts, so get your list, get on the horn, and start leaving some messages for people. Short, sweet, and respectful of their time.

The last year has created significant challenges for almost all businesses, not-for-profits and anyone else who needs to do outreach. For candidates desperately trying to get your message into voters’ hands, the environment can certainly make you feel like the odds are against you. It’s time to put on your creative hats, and drop your line where the fish are.

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Need a shepherd to guide you through all of this? The Campaign Coach’s Virtual Campaign School has classes kicking off in the coming weeks. Our 7-week virtual course (one morning per week) covers grassroots campaigning, fundraising, messaging and everything else you need to win your election. Plus, you graduate with an actionable campaign plan. Sign up today!