Not sure if your grassroots program is actually worth the money and time? Then you might not be approaching your effort the right way. Winning campaigns boil their approach down to five key practices:
1. They focus efforts on the voters most highly predictive of success
Great grassroots operations no longer rely alone upon vote history to select targets. Instead, they enlist analytics experts like Evolving Strategies on the Right and The Analyst Institute on the Left to generate targets based on turnout propensity scores, persuasion scores, and now (new from Evolving-Strategies.com), essentially a “how engageable is this voter” score.
Prices for voter file scoring have dropped significantly, making these tools very affordable. Great grassroots efforts knock on the doors of those voters who indicate they are most likely to actually engage, demonstrate a predisposition toward voting, and will vote your way.
2. They’ve got the right people knocking on doors
Successful efforts have hiring processes that focus on recruiting, training, and deploying only the right kind of people. Traditionally, less successful efforts have a hiring process—especially on the Republican side—in which the general consultant (GC) hires a campaign manager in his or her own image after only a single personal interview. GC’s assess good fit/bad fit based upon their belief that they see something of themselves in prospective hires. This top-down, “hire-yourself” approach can be problematic in that strategists rarely have what it takes to be great tactical-level relationship builders.
There are cases in which this approach can work, but that requires the campaign to acknowledge and intentionally manage to this principle. More commonly, however, this phenomenon goes unnoticed, hampering productivity and flaring tensions within the team.
3. Their field reps spend at least 70 percent of their time listening rather than talking
Listening is hard, especially for political people. Winning campaigns flip the script and spend more of their time listening, rather than talking to voters. Normally, when the voter smiles, wishes them good luck, and closes the door at the end of the encounter, the field rep marks that interaction as a “successful contact,” while the voter thinks, “successfully got sales guy off my porch.”
Savvy campaigns invert the information flow, flipping conversation from 70 percent field rep talking to 70 percent field rep listening. Great campaigns understand that people want to be heard and validated—not verbally assaulted—when they open their doors or pick up their phones.
4. They view technology as a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Great campaigns understand that there’s no magic app that allows them to avoid the hard work of building one-to-one relationships. Canvassing apps are great, but if the content is flawed or the user disinterested, the likelihood of success is low. While apps like L2’s Ground Game have proven to be more useful than most, the reality is that no app is perfect.
5. They measure the things they can actually impact.
Great campaigns understand they always get more of what they measure. That’s why they measure the things that really matter. Measuring lagging indicators like mail-in ballot requests or votes during an early voting period is an exercise in futility. These numbers confirm behaviors, but don’t predict them. Successful field operations measure the small stuff—daily behaviors that predict future outcomes. They don’t track how many doors were knocked. Frankly that’s par for the course in good field operations—they track how many A+ conversations they’re having with target voters, not just people in the household.
Waging a successful grassroots effort is not easy. With existing advertising channels becoming increasingly clogged and person-to-person contact gaining in importance, a campaign’s ability to do grassroots right can make a significant difference.