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In Conversation With A Campaign Manager

Recently, we decided it would be a good idea to talk to a number of campaign managers about the political campaigns they are involved in this year. In total, we spoke with 32 people who are actively campaigning and we tried to gain some insights into what they are concerned with this cycle.

Reaching voters

The number one challenge felt by campaign managers was centered around reaching voters. Whether it was a lack of funding to do outreach and advertising, or if the constituency was just geographically very dispersed, getting to voters with their campaign message was the difficulty. Meeting this challenge meant falling back on simple social advertising to beat the geographic spread of some campaigns and funding restrictions. The general consensus among the majoirty of the campaign managers we spoke to was that social advertising was cheap, has great reach, and can be highly targeted (certainly in the US). This was enlightening, particularly, given that it was far cry from the mega targeting that political reporting has focused on over the last few years.

Managing teams

Managing team members is a headache for campaign managers this cycle, as it always has been. However, on the conservative side of the aisle, it has also been a problem attracting people to the team with lower levels of engagement generally. Canvasser tracking, task assignment, and coordination of activities are all issues raised. Messaging apps, a number of people used Slack, are commonly used to do a lot of the heavy lifting here without having to pay for a team management solution. It was evident from our conversations that campaign managers weren't looking for anything too fancy when it came to coordinating their members.

Waning return on traditional campaigning

Campaigns have a perception that traditional campaigning methods have a better return compared to previous cycles. TV and radio spending come in for particular criticism though some are happy to hand over authority for this work to outsourced consultants (budget permitting). Phonebanking - particularly robocalls - were also the target of skepticism. However, door-to-door canvassing was still considered to be highly effective at building name recognition and turning people out to vote.

Raising money

Progressive campaigns reported strong donations across lower and higher levels this cycle not surprisingly. A donations button on the website, social and in voter contact situations was a must. Conservatives did not suggest it was as easy but reported a pick-up in donations in recent weeks. They struggled to get donations in when campaigning started and had to make certain decisions around technology they used and the scope of their campaign activities on the back of that poor fundraising potential early on.

The power of good data

All campaigns highlighted the advantage accruing from having good quality voter data. Surprisingly, a lot of campaigns struggled with up-to-date basic information like an address matching the voter, contact details and so on. Larger campaigns saw benefits from being able to afford to purchase lists from data vendors or getting access to party-data vendors. Good quality data helps speed up voter targeting and increases efficiency in email and direct contact.

The campaign managers we spoke to are highly conscious of the nature of this ‘wave’ election and are trying to ride the wave or defend against it depending on where they are situated. An emphasis on technology and data quality were good areas from them to focus on. Finding affordable tech solutions was something they felt would help them bridge on the good work they were doing from campaign to campaign.

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