Does phonebanking work?

September 18, 2017 - 6 minutes read

Phone banking remains one of the preferred strategies for communicating with voters. Even in the age of digital campaigns and increased engagement of voters on social media, campaigns still rely on phone banking to start a conversation with their voter base.

This is because personalized communication with the voter is always the best way to ensure they go out to vote. To run a voter-targeted grassroots campaign, you need to have a ground game. Running a political phone bank lets the voter come in contact with supporters they identify with – people they consider part of the community and who share their issues and emotions.

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There are different types of phone banks you can operate for your campaign. Based on your budget, you have to choose which type of calls are ideal for your campaign.

Types of phonebanking calls

Automated calls

These calls are suitable for sending event invites, quick updates or scripted messages for a specific audience. These calls can be performed by volunteers or you can use a prerecorded audio. It is a good allocation of campaign budget in comparison to one-way communication methods like TV, radio and direct mail.

Manual calls

Campaigns strapped of funds may not be able to afford a phone bank which does automated calls. They can still run a manual phone bank where staffers manually dial and interact with the voters. You collect their information, develop voter lists and engage them to convert. These calls can be dialed by the candidate or by volunteers. Both have their own advantages.

A volunteer can interact with the voters as a member of the community and give their perspective for supporting the candidate. Social proof is one way to get people to convert. A candidate making calls can get influential supporters to join the campaign which is a way to get through to bellwethers and major donors.

Uses of phone banking

There are a number of campaign tasks you can achieve through a phone bank. It is not just a system to blast the voter with messages. Here are a few.

  • Voter identification – Understand the candidate preferences of voters you target
  • Voter persuasion – Lay out a conversion funnel for undecided and swing voters
  • GOTV – Increase turnout for early voting and on Election day
  • Volunteer recruitment – Identify donors and supporters to come out and volunteer
  • Yard sign placement – Convince supporters to put up a yard sign in their property

How to make the most of your phone bank

Just setting up a phone bank is, of course, not going to flip things around for your campaign. What factors in here is figuring out what makes the process easy for the people actually running the phone bank. So you have you take your volunteers into account here. Here’s how you can improve the phone banking experience for your volunteers.

  • A clear script to stay on top of the conversation. New volunteers need to be able to navigate the topic and address the voter’s interests.
  • A healthy atmosphere where they get to voice their opinion and interact with the team. They should be allowed to choose what campaign activity to participate in.
  • A clean contact list to accomplish tasks faster. Volunteers dialing a lot of dead numbers lose their enthusiasm and feel like they wasted their time.
  • A measurable goal for phone banking activities. Analytics and leaderboards make them check their progress and engage in a competitive spirit.
  • An easy learning curve. Intelligence to campaigns lets you schedule the call based on location and past response rates. The volunteer’s focus should be on having a meaningful conversation with the voter at the other end.

Proof of phone banking advantages

Phone banking during the right period of the campaign and for the right goal would always benefit your campaign. There are quite a few scientific studies to validate the same.

Experiments on phonebanking calls (Nickerson 2006b; Arceneaux 2006; Arceneaux and Nickerson 2006) suggest that a proper conversation over a call can be as effective as canvassing. The results show that a dynamic person-to-person communication is more important in order to mobilize voters.

In another study by David Nickerson (2006a) comparisons were drawn between voter turnout for those contacted by professional callers and those by volunteers. The results are yet another surprise. The callers used three different phone scripts (civil rights, terrorism and generational solidarity) but there was little difference in turnout. This further establishes the fact that the manner in which the communication happens matter more in convincing the voter than the content of the talk.

Now with all the information and proof, we can finally answer the question. Yes, phone banking definitely works. So you should add phone banking to your next campaign strategy and plan funds for it.

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