Driving the use of technology and data down the ballot is one of the hallmarks of the 2014 election cycle, and political phones are no exception. While digital has an easier time garnering headlines, phone vendors say there is just as much innovation happening in their sector of the campaign industry.
One question they hope to answer this cycle: Would you be more motivated to go to the polls on Election Day after receiving a phone reminder from yourself? It’s one of many tactics phone vendors are testing ahead of Election Day. Marty Stone of Stones’ Phones calls it “catch and release.” Brad Chism of Chism Strategies labels it a “leave your voice” call.
“There’s a new gadget every election cycle, and it’s our job to test them out and see if they are effective and if the cost-benefit is worth it,” says Chism. The “leave your voice” tactic is one of three social science theories Chism’s firm is testing this cycle. The Democratic firm is also experimenting with optimum call times and social-pressure vs. issue-based calls.
The concept behind the “leave your voice” call is the idea that voters are more likely to turn out on Election Day if they are the person reminding them to go vote, versus an automated call that’s easier to ignore.
“The best person to convince someone to go vote is themselves,” says Marty Stone of what his company calls “catch and release.” Stone says it’s currently being utilized by clients like Planned Parenthood in North Carolina and New Mexico. The program calls GOTV targets and asks them to record their own voice. If they opt to, (Stone says up to 10 percent of targets are participating in North Carolina and 22 percent are participating in New Mexico) the call they get on Election Day has their own voice.
Another component of the strategy includes a more overt social pressure element: receiving a recorded call from a “neighbor” on Election Day. Stone anticipates as much as a 5 to 7 percent increase in voter turnout with groups exposed to the tactic.
“Digital is not the only place where new, innovative stuff is happening,” he says. Stone thinks tactics implemented by companies that utilize phones are effective in ways that social media aren’t thanks in part to taking advantage of knowing where drop-off voters get distracted: their smartphones.
“The electorate is younger, more distracted and less energized about politics than people were a decade ago,” says Chism. In order to actively engage with them, he argues, campaigns must pinpoint distracted voters and figure out the best way to effectively reach them in the medium where they’re more likely to respond.
“The biggest thing for phones is targeting voters, specifically drop-off voters in the midterms,” says Chad Gosselink who heads Control Point Group. “Drop-off voters are different than high frequency voters—we have to find them and feed them messaging where they are.”
Gosselink says his firm is utilizing cookie targeting to pinpoint where voters are most active. And using social media aggregators—Gosselink points to companies like Zignal Labs, which helps filter through the massive amounts of data on Facebook and Twitter—the firm can incorporate social trends and topics into its phone scripts.
It’s turning social media into campaign data, says Gosselink. That data is then used to augment the social media targeting efforts of clients. For example, a campaign can build look-a-like audiences on Facebook based on phone results.
“Voters are often more likely to look up a campaign on social media than check out the campaign website,” he says. “We’re taking advantage of the always-connected lifestyle.”