A communications database needs to be a part of the overall infrastructure from launch. After the crowd leaves, have a plan in place to constantly add and update individual contact information on a daily basis. Given the day-to-day demands of a competitive race, that’s not easy.
Here’s my best advice for streamlining database maintenance.
Draft initial lists ahead of time.
Democratic congressional campaigns, which are my specialty, should gather lists like the follow: The candidate’s family, friends, supporters, volunteers, donors, colleagues, Facebook friends, targeted likely voters; national, state, regional and local labor union leaders. Include Democratic County, township and ward chairs; local Democratic precinct committeemen and first-time Democratic local, state and federal candidates. I could go on, but you get the picture.
Itemize contacts by position and include at least an address, phone number and an email address. Research will need to be done to gather and verify contact information on each individual accordingly.
It’s a massive data-entry project, plan accordingly.
Management should recognize that the development of the campaign communications database is a time-consuming project. Ideally significant staff and volunteer resources should be assigned to the project during the campaign infrastructure set up.
Entering and coding all the individuals and lists into the campaign communications database is the next step.
All the individuals and lists to be entered into the campaign communications database must coded accordingly. For example, if an individual is added that contact must be coded into an appropriate category that the campaign determines. If an excel file list is uploaded, it will need to coded accordingly. For example if it is an excel file list of Democratic County Chairs it would be simply coded “Democratic County Chairs.”
Coding individuals and lists makes it easy for a campaign to target email messages when necessary to a specific group of individuals — a press release to the “News Media” list, for instance. Naturally the campaign will be able to send an email to the entire list with the good news and progress of the campaign accordingly.
Trust but verify information.
Since the campaign will be gathering various lists of individuals, we cannot count on the information on each individual in those lists to be up to date.
The campaign will need to verify the contact information especially email addresses on all the individuals in the campaign communications database. Some information will simply need to be tracked down the old fashioned way by calling an individual to get their email address for example. If a phone number is needed, then research will need to be done to get a phone number.
Initially volunteers could be used to reach out to individuals to verify and update contact information. At the same time the volunteer is on the phone verifying and updating contact information they could also ask the individual to follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter and to sign up for text messages.
Hire someone to update information on a daily basis.
The campaign should develop a plan to constantly add and update individual’s contact information on a daily basis. The best way to do this is to hire a database manager or appoint a volunteer with excellent computer and organizational skills to manage the database.
Ken Christensen, who works in U.S. Congressional Democratic politics, is the CEO of Christensen & Associates Inc., a Washington, D.C.–based Democratic national fundraising and political consulting firm.