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What is canvassing?

Canvassing definition

A canvassing definition is not always easy as it means different things to different campaigns. Working on so many voter contact campaigns around the world we see every possible way that canvassing is managed. Depending on the type of campaign being run, canvassing can serve to get rich data on voters, learning what it is that concerns them and motivates them. Canvassing is also a great technical aspect of any campaign in the sense of being a way of capturing information and facilitating get out the vote strategies. But, for us, canvassing is really about the idea that politics can always be reduced to the indivisible unit of the conversation. Everything that a campaign needs to win is contained in the multitude of conversations that are had with voters and the media and their competitors, not only during the campaign but for many years before it also. In this sense, going to a dictionary to define canvassing, is utterly useless and it is only through doing canvassing that you will get the benefit of it. Here we look at some key elements in the process and provide a few pointers for your campaign - OG style!

What is canvassing?

In theory, it’s easy, you pick a house, knock and whoever answers you give them some bullet points on the reason you knocked in the first place. It’s something we do every day - holding conversations, engaging, being personable. But, that’s theory - in practice, it’s a different beast.

The return from canvassing can only be measured if we have our data organized. We need to note down the houses we hit, the people in those houses and our estimation about their likelihood to vote our way. Many bumps in the road will be unavoidable, what if you interrupt someone's dinner? What if you catch people in their pajamas? What if people are rushing out to work and they meet you at the door? All this can’t be learned through a manual, what can be learned, however, is best practice;

  • Avoid busy times
  • Greet people with a smile on your face
  • Keep it brief unless you feel you have peaked their interest
  • Have talking points (to help yourself stay on course)
  • Always listen
  • Know when to exit
  • Always ask for the vote

Why do we canvass?

People usually associate canvassing as a last-ditch effort to win votes, done in the final weeks of a campaign in the lead up to polling day and perhaps a chaotic endeavor.

This can often be the case but modern politics is changing and many more ‘good’ politicians are using canvassing as a means to connect and stay in touch with their electorate. It’s not just where the campaigning begins anymore, it’s where we see it thrive.

The canvassing experience is like no other when it comes to testing your campaign message at the door. You can really feel when a message resonates with a voter, you can also see when it doesn’t. This data is crucial if your ultimate aim is to represent a broad spectrum of your community. Remember, if it was easy, everyone would do it!

The future of canvassing

So now you understand canvassing in all its glory, we can take it up a notch and talk about where it goes to next.

For many years, politicians have operated offline, compiling notes upon notes about their voters, stored in a big filing cabinet in an office and perhaps referred to them once. Now we are all obsessed with technology, it only seems right that our voter files reflect your largely on detailed Facebook profiles. If my Facebook page says “I’'m voting Joe Brown”, shouldn't Joe Brown know that?

So how do we trap all this information somewhere convenient where we can constantly update and edit?

Mobile devices of course!

The Internet isn’t even necessary most of the time, we have seen various apps which will update and sync once you hit wi-fi these days. You don’t even need to be tech-savvy, all you need to do is be willing.

Type out important notes on each canvass you undertaking, you can have a debrief with the rest of the team then when you return to campaign HQ. Collaboration amongst team members makes the canvassing experience all the more important and you won’t believe the number of entertaining stories you guys will share. If you want to join the canvassing revolution, why not set up a free trial with Ecanvasser to explore the other benefits of going digital.

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