Metrics without message is meaningless

Voter contact metrics are one way campaigns, issue groups and caucuses use to show how much progress is being made toward victory.

“We have 7 field offices up and running!”

“We knocked on 10,000 doors this week!”

“Our volunteers completed 2,000 calls tonight!”

Those are wonderful metrics. It shows the campaign is working hard. What it doesn’t show is whether anyone has been persuaded to actually vote for your candidate.

All the door knocking, phone calls, and other voter contact metrics are meaningless unless those metrics relate to actually delivering a persuasive message that helps convert those being contacted into committed supporters for your effort.

You might think this is simple common sense. But look at what most campaigns are doing in their door-knocking/precinct walking/canvassing programs.

Most campaigns are either basically knocking on a door to hand the resident a piece of literature, while

offering to answer any questions the resident might have. Or they’re trying to collect data from the voter. Some try to do both.

Some might mention a sentence or two of “policy” like “Orrin Boehner is running to cut taxes” with no specifics or localization to make it more than an empty platitude. Then, most also ask for the support of the resident who may, even after this contact, still have no clue who the candidate is nor have a compelling reason to vote for the candidate.

It’s a ton of work for next to no reward.

We believe that’s why even extensive voter contact programs often don’t register in initial polling. The numbers come back and name ID/image often remains weak even though the campaign has knocked on thousands of doors and made thousands of calls.

Campaigns are often surprised by this, but what else can be expected when voters receive these almost messageless contacts that give them no reason to remember the candidate or their campaign or the cause. The contact said nothing meaningful to the voter to demonstrate that the candidate or campaign understood them or their concerns.*

To get full value from voter contact efforts, a campaign must deliver a strong, specific message at the door or on the phone that is relevant to the person being contacted.

In today’s campaigns, where so much data on individual voters is available, there’s no excuse not to walk or phone with specific, targeted messages. Most campaigns should be able to walk up to a door and talk about their campaign to the voter in somewhat specific and personalized terms.

Even if your campaign is working from a raw voter file with limited additional data, you can at least use geography to localize your message for a call or a door knock.

For example, if your campaign is talking about property tax reductions, you can look up average assessments for a neighborhood you’re about to walk to figure out a rough amount your plan could save homeowners. If you’re talking about education, you should be able to mention the local school and possibly how your education plan affects it.

This takes added preparation by–and training for–staff and volunteers. Someone has to do the research and prep the talking points or script each time. But this is the work that turns the metrics into votes. It lets the person being contacted feel like the candidate knows and understands people like them and has a real plan that will benefit them. At the end of the contact, the voter knows what is in it for them if they vote for the candidate.

That’s real persuasion. And it results in a voter contact program that wins votes, not just meets metrics. After all, if you’re going to make the monumental effort to rack up these massive metrics, you might as well get some votes out of it too.

In an upcoming blog post, we’ll talk more about how to shape the message to turn metrics into votes.


In all fairness, even these lame contacts pay some dividends when paid advertising starts. At that point the voter can connect the message they are receiving through the paid media back to the previous contact they had. But that initial contact could have been so much more effective if done with a strong messaging plan rather than to simply meet a metric.

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