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Expert Advice: Telephone Townhalls

Voter Contact Tactics for Top Republican Campaigns

It’s an election year, and August is upon us. There are less than 100 days, and Congress traditionally adjourns for August Recess about this time, marking a turning point in the runup to Election Day.

But, 2020 hasn’t been a traditional year. As experienced candidates, consultants, and field staff all know, now is when Republican candidates and Victory programs kick voter contact into high gear. Field staff would be focusing on filling volunteer slots to fill call centers and knock on doors.

These volunteer activities are occurring in a limited fashion. Still, there are fundamental changes to the environment in 2020 caused by the coronavirus that creates real changes for campaigns, volunteers, and voters.

Digital political consulting firms, with The Prosper Group leading the way, provide multiple opportunities to overcome the voter contact challenges presented by COVID-19. We shared some approaches for addressing these challenges earlier this year in the PG post, 5 Strategies for Socially Distanced Voter Outreach.

As effective digital campaigns take a multi-pronged approach to engaging audiences across platforms, effective voter contact campaigns communicate with audiences across channels.

Expert Advice: Telephone Townhalls

In prior installments of our Expert Advice series, I asked top GOP consultants to share their insights on How to Hire a General Consultant and Making the Transition from Primary to General Election. In this installment, I turned to a top Republican expert to find out how to run a successful telephone townhall.

PG Guest Expert Nicole Schlinger

What is a Telephone Townhall?

As the name suggests, a telephone townhall is a virtual townhall that allows a large groups of people to gather in a setting similar to a conference call. The host of the telephone townhall has options for inviting participants and managing the flow of the conversation.

I think of the setup like a talk radio show, except the audience listens in on their telephone. The two-way connection provides an additional opportunity for collecting direct feedback.

Expert: Nicole Schlinger of Campaign HQ

Nicole Schlinger and PG’s founders Kristen Luidhardt and Kurt Luidhardt have worked on races together for over a decade. Campaign HQ, like The Prosper Group, is a top Republican agency nationally. While Prosper Group is a leader in GOP digital campaigns, Campaign HQ is a conservative leader for call centers and telephone messaging.

The people at Campaign HQ share the same commitment to their clients as our team at The Prosper Group, delivering hard work, customer service, and measurable results.

Nicole, thank you for sharing your expertise with our readers.

The Election is NOT Cancelled, Reach Voters with a Telephone Townhall

With most door-to-door and in-person events off the table this election season, telephone townhalls enable Republican leaders to safely reach thousands of voters with an exciting, interactive experience.

A successful Telephone Townhall consists of four steps:

Step One: Invite your target audience

The first step in a telephone townhall is reaching your target audience.

Start by contacting voters with a landline phone 24 hours in advance with an automated message to let them know the event will be taking place.

This serves two purposes.

Voters who want to hear from you will wait by the phone for your call the next day. We’ve found up to a 10% lift in live answer rates by using a 24-hour advance pre-call.

Numbers that are disconnected can be removed from your event dial-out to save money and focus your resources on voters with working phones. In the 2020 cycle, this can be up to 30% of your file.

Elise Stefanik Text Message

Voters with cell phones should receive a peer-to-peer MMS text message featuring a GIF (moving graphic) and message, delivered by one of our experienced conTEXT agents. The message will ask the voter to reply if they plan to attend, and our agents will respond to each one. The message will include a clickable toll-free number (no PIN required).

For those who reply “yes” or “maybe”, send a reminder message one hour before the event begins. Many campaigns have seen success by texting an even larger universe in the hour prior to the event.

Make sure you further encourage dial-in participation by sending email invitations and posting on social media in the days and hours leading up to your event.

Step Two: Plan an Engaging Conversation and Strong Call to Action

Getting your audience on the line is just the first step.

Your telephone townhall is only successful if it results in actionable data on which you can follow up and drive turnout. To be successful, determine what actions you want this audience to take and inspire them to do so.

Call to action examples:

Plan to vote

Press 1 if you plan to request a mail-in ballot
Press 2 if you plan to vote in person
Press 3 if you aren’t sure

Pledge to vote

Press 1 to pledge your vote to Donald Trump + the GOP Ticket
Press 2 if you aren’t sure
Press 3 if you are voting for Joe Biden

Based on your goals, your townhall provider should create and distribute a detailed line by line agenda for the telephone townhall.

Prior to the event, make sure you conduct a thorough training on how to use the townhall platform, watch your real-time results, and communicate during the event.

Step Three: Speak with your audience and gather valuable data

On the night of your telephone townhall, your landline audience will be invited to join with an outbound dial. Make sure to open the toll-free inbound line at least thirty minutes prior to the event for your cell phone / digital audience to dial in.

To further increase your reach, we’ve developed an effective guidebook to simultaneously broadcast your event on Facebook Live. If desired, our platform can also integrate directly with your website for audiocast.

With most door-to-door and in-person events off the table this election season, telephone townhalls enable Republican leaders to safely reach thousands of voters with an exciting, interactive experience. - @nschlinger

CLICK TO TWEET


Your audience will stay on the line longer, listen to your guest speakers, and take more actions by having a written run of show and detailed talking points for your speakers and moderator. The call to action must be passionately delivered numerous times throughout the event to maximize results.

You will receive data on every townhall participant shortly after the conclusion of your event. This will include how long each person remained on the line and their response to any poll questions. You will also receive a recording that can be used effectively post event.

Step Four: Follow up with participants and non-participants

Smart organizations immediately distribute the telephone townhall participant data to their field teams for follow up.

  • Undecided voters should get a persuasive volunteer or paid voter contact.
  • Confirmed voters should be added to either your early voting or Election Day GOTV list.
  • Opposed voters should be removed from further communication.

You should also plan to reach voters in your target audience who did not participate in the telephone townhall with one more persuasive, interactive voter contacts.

Ted Cruz Text Message

For landlines, ask your vendor to create a 60-second audio clip of your guest speaker delivering an inspiring call to action. Voters can answer the same question asked on the event, whether it’s Plan to Vote, Pledge to Vote, or something entirely unique to you.

For mobile phones, combine that same audio with an image to create a custom MP4 video which is sent via P2P text. A live agent will deliver the message and respond to each reply, returning even more actionable, valuable data.

We encourage you to use this audio and video media post-event to broadcast on your social channels and inspire even more organic participation.

Conclusion

In the uncharted waters of campaigning during a pandemic, spiking case numbers and open/closed communities, now more than ever, telephone townhalls are a powerful, effective way to communicate your message to an audience of thousands, over the phone and online.

This strategy allows for a meaningful connection regardless of who you are: a candidate, an incumbent, an advocacy group – or what goal you have in mind: reaching voters or hosting a forum.

Downloadable PDF: Campaign HQ | Telephone Townhall

Nicole Schlinger of Campaign HQ Nicole Schlinger
President and Founder
Campaign HQ
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Feedback

Send @ProsperGroup a message and let me know what you think. Also, send me questions you have or suggestions for future editions of Expert Advice.

About The Prosper Group

The Prosper Group is an internationally-recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis, specializing in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

The firm has worked in tandem with President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman Will Hurd, the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News, and many other candidates and organizations.

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