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Text Banking Politics: How Can You Start?

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Published: Jun 13, 2023

In the fast-paced world of politics, communication is key. And in today’s digital age, harnessing technology is crucial to reaching and engaging with voters effectively. 

The challenge lies in breaking through the noise and reaching individuals where they are most active—on their smartphones. In a world where attention spans are dwindling and traditional methods are losing their impact, text banking offers a captivating approach to political outreach.

It addresses the problem head-on, providing a direct and immediate channel of communication that resonates with voters. You approach thousands of supporters directly while still personalizing their experience.

With the ability to 

  • Send personalized messages
  • Engage in real-time conversations, and 
  • Mobilize grassroots support, text banking empowers political campaigns to forge meaningful connections and inspire action. 

Let’s dive deep into text banking for politics and explore the exciting possibilities.

When is text banking important in politics?

Text banking plays a vital role in crucial moments during political campaigns, such as the Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts. A nationwide field experiment examined the effect of text message reminders on voter turnout. 

The study found that sending text message reminders to eligible voters increased turnout by 3%.

There are many other benefits to using text banking in politics. 

  1. It is a cost-effective way to reach a large number of people. It costs 3.4 cents to send an A2P text!
  2. The average person opens and reads their text messages within 90 seconds of receiving them.
  3. A study found that political text messages have a response rate of 4-18%. This means that nearly one-fifth of recipients actively engage with the messages they receive, indicating a willingness to participate and get involved in the campaign.

There are many examples of how text banking has been used successfully in politics.  

Barack Obama was the first presidential candidate to take advantage of the new “text-to-donate” option, marking a significant shift in campaign strategies.
Bernie Sanders’ campaign achieved significant success by connecting directly with millennials, who often feel disconnected from presidential candidates. 95% of his rally attendees were informed about the event via personalized text messages. 

The campaign’s personalized interactions prompted three specific actions from recipients: 
1. Registering friends to vote, 
2. Inviting them to volunteer or attend campaign events, and 
3. Encouraging them to install the Bernie Messenger app. 

As a result, the campaign gained over 50,000 mobile subscribers.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign recognized the potential of SMS early on. In 2015, their “Texts from Hillary” campaign gained viral popularity when GIFs and memes were shared during the GOP debate. 

Clinton’s top digital strategist, Teddy Goff, acknowledged the effectiveness of texting in influencing voters, fundraising, and organizing volunteers. Text messaging played a significant role, even to the extent that Clinton announced her choice of running mate through a text message to her supporters!

The Clinton campaign employed innovative tactics.
1. They launched an SMS bot that sent subscribers Donald Trump quotes. Recipients could engage in conversations with the bot and even request the source of the referenced article, video, or transcript by replying with the keyword “SOURCE.” 
2. Clinton utilized SMS to gauge voter sentiments on important issues, deliver personal messages regarding endorsements, and launch attacks on Republican contenders.
3.SMS became a battleground for gaining voter support as the election drew closer. Clinton’s campaign established an SMS hotline dedicated to protecting Spanish-speaking voters, allowing them to report instances of voter intimidation and suppression. The hotline connected voters to poll observers and attorneys within 24 hours. 
4. In line with relational organizing, they developed an app to help supporters influence their friends’ votes, synchronizing iPhone contacts with Facebook friends and sending personalized text messages.

Text banking is typically used in politics for:

  • Voter identification
  • Broadcasting information, updates, and news
  • Voter persuasion
  • Mobilization
  • Collecting opt-ins for specific campaigns (e.g., a fundraising drive or rally)
  • GOTV

Defining text banking

Text banking is a way for political campaigns to communicate with their voters and supporters through text messages. In its early days, text banking was a strategy. Now it is a commonly embraced practice among political campaigns. 

On the organizer’s end, text banking involves

  • Creating a list of target voters
  • Designing a communication plan and deploying text banking channels where appropriate
  • Devising a strategy to get opt-ins and consent, segmenting the audience, and re-engaging voters throughout the election cycle
  • Recruiting agents for text banking
  • Creating scripts and workflows for text messages.

Text banking vs. phone banking

Text banking and phone banking have common goals of voter outreach, engagement, and mobilization but differ in their approach and execution. They are both typically done on a mass scale, and depending on the magnitude of a campaign, contact lists can range between 1000 and 100,000!

texting-banking-politics-infographics
Text banking (sending text messages)Phone banking (making phone calls)
CharacteristicsProvides a convenient and non-intrusive communication channel.
Allows for personalized and targeted messaging.
Enables peer-to-peer texting for grassroots engagement.
Provides direct and interactive communication.
Allows for real-time conversations, detailed explanations, discussions, and immediate feedback.
Requires more agents.
Political use casesReaching tech-savvy and mobile-oriented demographics.
Sending reminders, mobilizing volunteers, and driving voter turnout.
Building personal connections with voters.
Get Out the Vote (GOTV) efforts.
Engaging with a wide range of voters.
Detailed conversations and persuasion efforts.
Conducting surveys, identifying voter preferences, and addressing concerns.
Relationship-building and trust-building with voters.
Number of agents neededRequires fewer agents compared to phone banking.
Automated text banking platforms can handle large-scale messaging.
Allows volunteers to reach out to a larger number of contacts simultaneously.
Requires a higher number of agents to make individual phone calls.
Agents need to be available for real-time conversations with voters.
Human interaction can provide a more personalized touch.
TimelineAllows for flexibility in terms of sending messages.
Messages can be scheduled in advance for specific campaign events or announcements.
Provides an immediate and time-sensitive communication method.
Requires agents to be available during specific calling hours.
May involve longer call durations, which can impact overall outreach timeline.
Provides opportunities for real-time voter engagement.

While text banking offers convenience, higher response rates, and scalability, phone banking provides direct interaction and detailed conversations. They need not be mutually exclusive and can complement each other to cover different aspects of a comprehensive political outreach strategy.

How does text banking work?

Here’s how a text banking campaign typically works:

  1. Campaign managers create messaging strategies, define campaign goals, and identify target supporter groups. They establish guidelines, messaging templates, and desired outcomes for the agents.
  2. Campaign managers set deadlines for reaching out to supporters, meeting specific goals, or aligning with important campaign dates, such as voter registration deadlines or primary elections. The timeline can vary based on the campaign’s objectives and the specific events or milestones being targeted.
  3. Agents are assigned specific campaigns where they reach out to supporters via text messages. The supporter lists may be segmented based on demographics, geographic location, or other criteria. The ratio of agents to supporters can vary depending on the campaign’s scale and resources available.
  4. Agents log in to the text banking software and view the campaign information. The messages get sent as per the schedule. 
  5. Agents handle responses from supporters, answering questions, providing additional information, or redirecting inquiries to the appropriate campaign contacts.

Throughout the campaign, campaign managers and agents maintain communication to address any challenges, provide updates, and ensure consistency in messaging and campaign goals.

Who invests in text banking in politics?

Text banking in politics attracts various entities involved in political campaigns and advocacy efforts. 

Here are a few examples:

Example 1: State political parties activating young voters

The California Democratic Party organizes a virtual text banking event called “Text Young Voters Across California!” in collaboration with the California Young Democrats. The event aims to activate young voters and encourage them to get involved in organizing activities for the upcoming elections.

Example 2: Nonprofit organization gathering support for policy review 

Brady, an organization focused on gun safety, hosts a virtual text and phone banking event called “Brady Action Hour for Gun Safety!” The event aims to gather support for the reintroduction of the Assault Weapons Ban in the Senate and urge senators to bring it to a vote.

Example 3: State communities defending the community

HRC in Arizona is hosts a virtual text banking event called “Defend the Community Textbank.” The event aims to reach out to voters and supporters in Arizona to “defend the community against attacks from the legislature.” 

Example 4: Progressive advocacy nonprofit and political action committee for voting rights support

NextGen America organizes a virtual text banking event called “NextGen Organizing: Text Michigan Voters w/ NextGen America!” The event focuses on reaching out to Michigan voters to support the voting rights that Michiganders voted for in 2022 and ensure they are supported by the legislature and made into law. 

Example 5: Advocacy and political lobbying organization for mobilizing and empowering communities

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is organizing “HRC Louisiana: Evenings of Action,” a virtual text banking and phone banking event. The purpose of this event is to provide important news and resources to the people of Louisiana during the 2023 LA Legislative Session. 

How can you start text banking?

To start text banking, you will need the following key ingredients:

1. A list of voters to contact

Compile a list of mobile numbers for the voters you want to reach through text messages. This list can include registered voters, supporters, volunteers, or individuals within a specific target demographic. 

Ensure the list is up to date and complies with applicable regulations and privacy policies. It must include mobile numbers to successfully deliver text messages.

Here are some tips on how to create a list of voters for text banking:

  • Collect contact information from supporters, volunteers, and other people who are interested in your campaign through online forms, phone calls, or in-person canvassing.
  • Use a voter file to identify voters who are likely to be interested in your campaign. A voter file contains voters’ names, addresses, phone numbers, and voting history. 
  • Segment your list of voters. This will allow you to target your text messages to specific groups of voters.
  • Clean your list of voters by removing those no longer eligible to vote or who have moved out of the area.

2. Volunteers to text bank

A team of dedicated staff or volunteers will serve as text bankers. They play a crucial role in engaging with the recipients, conveying campaign messages, answering questions, and fostering meaningful interactions. 

Recruit and train reliable staff or volunteers who are committed to the campaign’s goals and can effectively communicate the desired message to the targeted audience.

3. A script for your text bankers

Provide text bankers with a well-crafted script to guide their interactions.  While your first message in a P2P campaign will be common to all contacts, these scripts aid the conversation that follows. They are customizable.

It helps text bankers stay on message, address common questions or concerns, and maintain a consistent campaign narrative. The script should strike a balance between providing a framework and allowing for personalization to create authentic and engaging conversations with voters.

4. A CRM to document voters’ responses and noteworthy information

Have a reliable CRM to record voters’ answers and important notes. Capturing information such as voter preferences, concerns, commitments, or any other relevant details enables personalized and targeted communication in future interactions. 

It serves as a valuable database that helps identify trends, prioritize follow-ups, and measure the overall success of the text banking campaign. 

5. A text banking software

A text banking software offers a range of features and functionalities to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of your operations.

A text banking software allows you to:

  • Send mass text messages to a large number of recipients simultaneously.
  • Schedule messages to be sent at specific times, ensuring timely and targeted communication.
  • Personalize messages by including variables such as recipients’ specific details.
  • Track message delivery, open rates, and responses to gauge campaign performance.
  • Manage opt-outs and handle unsubscribe requests automatically, ensuring compliance with regulations.
  • Provide templates and tools to create and customize scripts for text bankers.
  • Integrate with other systems or databases to synchronize and manage contact lists seamlessly.
  • Facilitate two-way communication, enabling recipients to respond to messages and engage in conversations.

Resources for text banking for politics

Here are some additional resources for text banking in politics:

  1. Building a voter list: Learn about government voter lists, vendors, and techniques like Text-to-Join to build your voter list. 
  2. Volunteer recruitment: Discover strategies to attract and engage volunteers for your text banking campaign. 
  3. Script examples: Explore script examples and guidance for effective text banking interactions. See how to craft compelling and persuasive messages tailored to your campaign.
  4. CRM solutions: Explore CRM systems to efficiently record and manage voter responses and important notes. Check out how these tools help you organize and analyze data for more effective campaign outreach.

Creating your first text banking campaign

Let’s delve into the details. 

Create a contact list by importing a list of phone numbers from a CSV file or your CRM or by manually adding them one by one.

text-banking-politics-contact-list


Important notes:

  • Messages will only be sent to the phone numbers listed under the “Mobile Number” column.
  • The “Phone Number” field is mandatory. If you have only one list of numbers, duplicate the column in your CSV file. Map one column with the required “Phone number” field and the other column with the “Mobile Number” field.
  • Additional data can be mapped to default fields or custom fields.
text-banking-politics-mapping-contact-fields

Create a short and to-the-point script. It should include a greeting, your message, and a call to action. Incorporate personalization elements, such as merge tags to insert relevant details.

You can find a list of available merge tags for your campaign by clicking on the ‘Merge tag’ option. 

text-banking-politics-script

Important notes:

  • A standard SMS can contain a maximum of 160 ASCII characters or 70 Unicode characters. If you exceed this limit, you will be charged for multiple SMS messages. 
  • You can use different font styles such as bold or italics, and even include emojis to create a friendly and personalized experience for your recipients.
  • To use font styling in your SMS campaigns, select the “Convert message to MMS” option to avoid multiple segment charges. Enabling this option will result in a single charge for an MMS. Incoming messages will be charged according to standard SMS and MMS rates.
  • You also have the option to include survey questions in your messages to collect data from your supporters and voters. You can add multiple-choice, text, or numeric questions.
  • For efficient handling of incoming messages, set up saved replies. These pre-defined replies can be selected and sent by your volunteers to provide quick responses to contacts.

Connect the contact list(s) to your campaign.

text-banking-politics-contact-lists

Choose the number. CallHub offers different options based on your location:

For users in the USA:

  1. Rent a number automatically
  2. Existing numbers
  3. 10DLC numbers
  4. Adaptive Texting Block

For users outside the USA:

  1. Rent a number automatically
  2. Existing numbers
  3. Adaptive Texting Block
text-banking-politics-number
  1. Rent a number automatically: Choose the country from which you want to rent a number to send messages through your campaign.
  1. Existing numbers: If you already have phone numbers associated with your account, you can select one from the dropdown list to use as the sender ID for your campaign.

    Note: If the rented number you wish to use does not appear in the dropdown list, it means you already have a campaign running with the same number. In such cases, stop the existing campaign to reuse the number for your current campaign.
  2. 10DLC numbers: 10DLC numbers prevent carriers from blocking or filtering out your text messages.
  3. Adaptive Texting Block: The Adaptive Texting Block feature helps you configure your outreach rate, manage local presence, and effectively handle rented sender IDs.

Assign agents to your campaign by inviting them to your CallHub account or by creating a campaign and then sharing the link with them. Once you have assigned agents, they will be able to see the contact list, script, and status of the campaign.

You can add instructions for your agents to communicate your expectations for the current campaign.

To assign agents for the campaign, you have the following options:

  1. Assign all agents: This option will automatically add any newly created agent accounts to the campaign. If you haven’t created any agent accounts yet, choose this option.
  2. Select agents: With this option, you can manually choose specific agents to add to the campaign. 

Note: You can also skip the agent assignment step for now and assign them later.

text-banking-politics-assign-agents

Initiate the text banking campaign. CallHub’s Fast P2P texting feature allows you to send text messages to recipients at once.

Specify the start and end dates for your campaign and select the operational hours for each day. The system will examine the contact list and filter out contacts that are classified as landlines or VoIP numbers.

text-banking-politics-schedule

According to a survey by McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to acquire customers. Monitor the performance of your text banking campaign through CallHub’s analytics and reporting features. Track delivery rates, response rates, and other relevant metrics to assess the effectiveness of your campaign. 

You can view the results in the Overview section and export the list by hovering over the “Filtered” section. Utilize this data to make informed decisions and refine your strategy as needed.

text-banking-politics-analytics-overview

Advanced features for text banking for political campaigns

Text banking for political campaigns has evolved to include advanced features that enhance efficiency, engagement, and data management. 

Here are some of the advanced features available to political campaigns:

Auto-assign on P2P campaigns

Campaign organizers need to efficiently distribute contacts among volunteers. This can be time-consuming, create bottlenecks, and slow down the overall text banking process. 

With CallHub, you no longer need to manually assign contacts to agents. 

This feature enables volunteers to take ownership of text banking conversations by allowing them to auto-assign tasks based on their availability. This empowers volunteers to actively engage with voters at their own convenience. 

When volunteers log in to the agent console and join the campaign, the system automatically assigns 100 contacts initially. Once the volunteer sends messages to these 100 contacts, the system will assign contacts in batches. 

Relational organizing

The trust between campaigners and voters is limited when the voters don’t know who they’re interacting with. The communication becomes generic and impersonal, which also can lead to low response rates. 

Relational organizing encourages volunteers to reach out to their own networks, leveraging existing connections to amplify your campaign’s messaging and mobilize support. 

Tapping into the social capital of your volunteers expands your campaign’s reach and influence. It also fosters authentic conversations and increases the likelihood of engagement, as voters are more receptive to messages from people they know and trust. 

This strengthens grassroots efforts and empowers supporters to become effective advocates for your campaign.

Mobile app for agents 

Coordinating and managing volunteers can be a logistical challenge. Equip your volunteers with a dedicated mobile app that enables them to conduct text banking activities on the go. 

With a mobile app, volunteers can join P2P text banking campaigns from their smartphones or tablets. This flexibility enhances their productivity and responsiveness, as they can participate in text banking efforts anytime, anywhere. 

The mobile app also provides a user-friendly interface and real-time notifications, ensuring your volunteers stay connected and can actively contribute to your campaign.

In-built text-to-join tools

Traditional methods of opting in, such as web or paper forms can be cumbersome and time-consuming for potential supporters. Also, when supporters opt in through non-instantaneous methods, there can be delays in engaging them. 

Text-to-join tools allow recipients to opt in to your campaign by texting a designated keyword. 

This functionality helps you capture contact information and grow your contact list. It eliminates the need for manual data entry and streamlines the onboarding process for new supporters. These tools also make it effortless for individuals to connect with your campaign.

You rely on persuasive messaging to engage recipients and motivate them to take action. However, you don’t know how many recipients are engaging with your messages and which links are being clicked. 

Without evaluating the effectiveness of your text banking strategies, it’s hard to know if your communication is working and achieving its goals.

A link tracker helps you gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of your campaign messaging. It allows you to track the performance of shared links within your text messages.

The link tracker provides valuable data on recipient behavior, helping you understand which messages resonate the most with your audience. With this information, you can make data-driven decisions to enhance the effectiveness of your text banking campaign and drive higher voter engagement.

However, when you use external link trackers, carriers filter out your messages.

Opt for in-built link trackers that have a good reputation with carriers. These trackers often have measures in place to ensure your links are not flagged as spam or security threats.

Survey importing with political CRMs

Survey responses collected during text banking campaigns may be scattered across various platforms, spreadsheets, or manual records. This leads to data fragmentation, making it difficult to consolidate and analyze the data effectively. 

Moreover, manually entering survey responses is time-consuming and can result in errors and inconsistencies. 

Importing survey responses from popular political CRMs like NationBuilder, NGP VAN, and others streamlines your data management. These integrations gather survey data directly within your text banking platform, eliminating the need for manual data entry and ensuring data accuracy. 

Importing survey responses also centralizes and consolidates valuable voter information, making it easier to segment and target specific groups for personalized outreach. 

Must-have features for text banking for political campaigns

Here are some must-have features for text banking for political campaigns.

Message scheduling

Text banking campaigns require consistent and timely communication to maintain engagement with recipients, especially when it comes to time-sensitive events, announcements, or important updates. 

You may also target recipients across different time zones. Without message scheduling, you will find it challenging to coordinate message delivery to accommodate different time zones effectively. 

This feature lets you plan your text messages in advance and schedule them to be sent at specific dates and times. It ensures your campaign messages reach voters at the most optimal moments. 

Automated account-level DNC list

Text banking campaigns must comply with regulations governing communication preferences and Do Not Contact requests. You need to stop sending texts to recipients who have opted out or requested not to receive further messages. 

Failing to do so can result in inadvertent violations of regulations and potential legal consequences including penalties of up to $1,500 per violation.

However, manually managing DNC requests can be time-consuming and prone to errors. 

An automated account-level DNC list helps you stay compliant with these regulations. This feature automatically adds contacts to an account-level DNC list and skips them in your future campaigns.

Merge tags

In the average marketing campaign, when the content is not relevant, it leads to a significant decrease of 83% in response rates. But, manually personalizing each text message for individual recipients can be time-consuming and prone to errors, especially when dealing with a large number of recipients. It limits the scalability of the text banking campaign and hinders efficient outreach efforts. 

To overcome this, personalize your text messages using merge tags. Merge tags are placeholders that can be dynamically replaced with recipient-specific information, such as their name, location, or other relevant details. 

Saved response templates

Text banking organizers often encounter common questions or inquiries from multiple recipients simultaneously. Manually typing out responses each time can be time-consuming and prone to errors when organizers need to provide specific information or details. 

Organizers may also struggle to maintain consistency in their communication. 

Saved response templates are pre-written responses for common questions or interactions that frequently arise during your campaign. It lets you quickly access and customize ready-made messages, saving time and ensuring consistency in your communication. 

MMS texting

Traditional SMS texting relies solely on plain text messages, which may have limited impact in capturing recipients’ attention or conveying complex information. Some messages such as campaign posters, infographics, or charts, require visual information to effectively communicate the message. 

Text messages alone may also struggle to evoke emotions effectively, especially when conveying sensitive or powerful messages. Also, traditional SMS texting imposes character limits on messages, which can restrict the amount of information that can be conveyed. 

MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) texting enhances your text banking campaigns by incorporating multimedia content. It lets you send images, videos, audio files, or other multimedia elements along with your text messages, which creates a more engaging and visually appealing communication. 

Mobile number verification

Mobile number verification ensures the accuracy and validity of the phone numbers in your text banking campaigns. This verifies whether a phone number is active and reachable before sending out messages. 

This improves the delivery rate of your messages, and increases the overall efficiency of your text banking efforts. 

10DLC registrations

Carriers have specific rules and requirements for text message senders, including political organizations. Unregistered text messages from political organizations are likely to be blocked, filtered out, or flagged as spam by carriers, resulting in recipients not receiving your messages.

You will also have lower message throughput limits imposed by carriers, restricting the volume of messages that can be sent within a given time frame. 

10DLC (10-Digit Long Code) registrations ensure compliance with carrier regulations and optimize the deliverability of your text messages. It is a standard for sending commercial text messages that helps improve message delivery rates and reduces the likelihood of messages being flagged as spam. 

Failure to complete 10DLC registrations can lead to non-compliance, potentially resulting in account suspensions, or legal issues.

Analytics and reporting

Limited visibility into the performance and impact of text banking campaigns can make it challenging to 

  • Assess the effectiveness of messaging strategies, channels, timeframes, 
  • Identify areas of improvment, and 
  • Make informed decisions to optimize campaign outcomes. 

You may lack insights into recipient behavior and preferences. This can result in lower engagement rates and less impactful communication with the intended audience. 

Analytics and reporting give you access to comprehensive data and analytics on your text banking campaign, including metrics such as message delivery rates, response rates, and engagement levels. 

Integration

Data fragmentation occurs when recipient information, campaign data, and messaging history are stored in different systems or databases. 

This leads to multiple problems:

  • It makes it difficult to have a comprehensive view of recipient interactions and campaign performance. 
  • It hinders effective decision-making, analysis and can lead to manual and time-consuming processes. 
  • Information scattered across multiple systems leads to miscommunication, duplicated efforts, and difficulties in coordinating campaigns. 
  • It results in inaccurate or outdated recipient information. 
  • Adding new tools, expanding recipient databases, or accommodating increased messaging volumes may require manual effort and customization. 

Integration helps you connect your text banking platform with CRM systems used in political campaigns, enabling streamlined data management and synchronization between platforms.

Two-way communication

One-way communication, where recipients only receive messages without the ability to respond or provide feedback, can result in limited engagement. 

Two-way communication enables recipients to respond to your text messages, fostering engagement, allowing for voter feedback, questions, and further conversations.

Compliance

Non-compliance with legal and regulatory requirements can lead to legal challenges, investigations, or administrative actions that disrupt normal campaign activities. It can damage an organization’s reputation and undermine public trust. 

Compliance tools help you adhere to these legal requirements, such as TCPA regulations and other relevant laws governing text messaging in political campaigns.

Take your political campaign to new heights with text banking

In today’s fast-paced political landscape, staying ahead of the game is crucial. It’s clear that text banking has the power to transform political campaigns and ignite meaningful connections with voters. 

Learn more about how CallHub can supercharge your political campaign through peer to peer texting

Featured image: Photo by George Dolgikh

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