Two Candidates Walk Into A Bar

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Is this a joke?

No. In fact, if you are running for office, it is very serious. Our hope is to briefly explain how digital strategy and field strategy no longer operate in separate “silos”...and how the campaigns that best merge the two will be more efficient, effective and ultimately, more successful.

So back to our two candidates. They both walk into a bar and inside are 100 people who live in the district. Obviously, they both want to do the three jobs of a candidate; meet voters, secure votes and raise money. The challenge is that they only have 30 minutes. 

One candidate starts working the room introducing himself and, hopefully, listening to people’s concerns. That is traditional “field.” Candidate 2 [C2] knows that of the 100 people in the bar, only 80 are registered to vote. Given that they are running in a primary, C2 also know which of those 80 voters are members of their party and so can vote for them. C2 also knows which of those voters have voted in at least three of the last four primaries. C2 knows who of those 20 or 30 voters own their home, have a net worth over $500,000 and have donated to past political campaigns. C2 looks for those specific voters and starts implementing her strategy. That is effectively merging field and digital.

Who do you think used their thirty minutes most productively? The answer seems obvious. 

But how did C2 get that type of information? She set up a NationBuilder account and got a free voter file for the district. We used the Advanced Search to determine likely primary voters based on voting history. We did the same with likely general election voters. We appended additional data via an integrated commercial data provider to get a clear idea of what the candidate’s likely primary and general election voters “looked like” (e.g. age, gender, education, income, wealth, interests, home ownership, etc.). Since we then knew what our likely primary voters looked like, we ran that data against our likely general election voters to find who in that population the campaign should target to get them to vote in the primary.  

Now, instead of two candidates walking into a bar, imagine it’s 20 volunteers walking a neighborhood with lists created from the data we described above. C2’s volunteers are going to knock on 2,000 doors that day. All are likely primary voters and/or persuadables.

Part of the data we acquired included email addresses and phone numbers. With that information, we were able to create Facebook custom audiences and run ads by zip code introducing the candidate and letting people know that the campaign would be in their neighborhood on a specific date. Those potential voters we couldn’t reach with online ads were contacted by phone.

Because the volunteers are canvassing with mobile apps, all the information they collect is uploaded to the NationBuilder database in real time or nearly real time. That evening, the Digital Director analyzes the data the volunteers collected--eliminating the yes and no vote households--and compares those against our voter universe. He or she then adjusts the next day’s canvass targets, overweighting it for voters who match our confirmed yes vote demographic and underweighting our no votes. Those new, adjusted lists are shared with the Field Director/Volunteer Coordinator for the next day’s door-to-door canvass.

There is almost nothing more powerful than a one-on-one conversation with a potential voter. That is the definition of good field work. Deciding what doors to knock on, recording the interaction and utilizing that data is the definition of a good digital operation. Fully merging your campaign’s digital and field operation will create a “virtuous circle” where information is shared so it can be utilized efficiently and effectively through a defined and well-managed feedback loop.  


So a newly-elected State Senator walks into a bar…