Combine ever-changing targets with overstressed and under-appreciated volunteers, and I think we can all agree the last six weeks of a campaign are mayhem.
This rings true especially for coordinated campaigns. Political action committees, caucuses and state and local parties manage the expectations of local leaders, allocate resources and ensure each candidate is getting exactly what they need to succeed.
The rest right after election is a crucial window to think about more than what could have been. It’s a time to use the data that came in during the whirlwind of the last election cycle to build the infrastructure for the future of your organization. What follows is an outline for state and county parties, PACs, and caucuses looking to use NationBuilder to build a long-term, lasting infrastructure – both in the field and online – to endure through 2016 and beyond.
1. Figure out square one
Your campaigns left you with all sorts of valuable information that can be incredibly helpful for building the foundation of a strong political infrastructure. Now is the time to start compiling what you have.
A lot of really interesting things happen during the campaign that, until recently, would have been lost in 2014 – but not anymore. NationBuilder’s Twitter bio keyword searches and tagging Facebook posts changes everything. Now, you can keep track of the posts your supporters like and share on Facebook, and the things your followers are telling you on Twitter. Did a person like a candidate’s posts about education? Did he mention in his Twitter bio that he’s a teacher? If so, we are just one direct message away from a new issue-driven leader.
You collect a ton of information outside of social media, too. Those lists of emails, donors, and volunteers should be imported into your nation immediately. And I hope you were using our new scannable walksheets during GOTV, because your volunteers collected great information that wasn’t utilized during the mad scramble of October. Survey responses and petition signatures are a valuable starting place in rebuilding, especially in districts where candidates lost close races. New integrations with data vendors can allow you to instantly layer in outside data and analytics, providing for even more precise messaging.
2. Ask local leaders to lead
Done right, a well-run coordinated campaign gives local leaders the resources of a massive statewide campaign, and offers the central establishment real-time insight and individual relationships that can only be fostered locally. But coordinated efforts – frequently headed by state parties and leadership PACs – tend to struggle with the balance between local leadership and centralized power.
NationBuilder’s new tag sharing can help strike the right balance. Local leadership – whether in the form of state representatives and senators or town parties – can build their own nations, grow their own relationships, and create their own communities. Then, they can choose to share specific information with central leadership. The opposite is also true: state party or PAC leadership can maintain an engaged group of active donors, volunteers and supporters, and share only information they want with local leaders when necessary. The technology is now capable of supporting the political reality, as opposed to forcing an all-or-none proposition.
Most importantly, the political off-season is a time to get everyone on the same page. The leaders and supporters you identified in the first section of this article are perfect prospects for trainings on best practices in using NationBuilder, establishing strategy, and crafting messaging. Create regional events and blast email invitations for training sessions to potential leaders in each community. This way, everyone knows their role and knows exactly what to do in the heat of campaign season next cycle.
3. Meet people where they are
You have compiled your resources and identified and trained your leaders. Now, it’s time to start rebuilding the movement. Not only does NationBuilder allow you to keep track of your data and identify the issues people care about, but it also helps you learn how people want to interact.
Until recently, there were just three ways to talk to people: in person, by phone and by mail. Technology has given us plenty more, and NationBuilder has allowed us to organize all of our engagement and feedback in one system. We can now craft content for websites, email, text, and direct message on social media, in addition to traditional communication. More importantly, we can keep track of how everyone responded in all those different manners.
The crucial next step is thinking creatively about how your people responded to your interactions and meeting them where they are. Do you have a universe of people who live in apartments and don’t have landlines? Append their email addresses or directly Tweet or Facebook message them. Do you know people who weren’t home when you knocked on their door during GOTV? Send them a “sorry I missed you” email and ask them to fill out a survey. The beauty of NationBuilder is that the entire infrastructure becomes fluid, intuitive and interactive. The time no longer spent merging lists and querying spreadsheets can now be focused on strategy, creativity and messaging.
It’s all golden, but make sure you are identifying what worked in 2014, what didn’t, and what you can do to fix it. The political infrastructure of 2016 starts with the seeds of 2014 – leadership starts now.