Member Communications: If You Endorse a Candidate Let People Know!

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Member Communications

Member Communications: Have a Plan for Endorsement Communications 

But, to do member communications right you need to plan way ahead. In this post we revisit an endorsement process and help define ways to promote and streamline goals for endorsements and recommendations.  

Many organizations recommend or endorse candidates – but often it is not clear, why and how they endorse or recommend. Make sure folks know the reason and process by which you endorse. A clear process gives your endorsement more credibility and authority. 

How will you promote endorsements: If your organization endorses but nobody hears it, you are not doing your job. Have a plan for promoting endorsements through social and free press. There are likely campaign finance implications on what you can and can’t do but you have a lot of leeway on what you communicate to members.

Telephone town halls: Getting members to connect with candidates virtually can allow for greater flexibility and engagement than having to go to a forum (zoom works too). 

Direct mail: Direct mail for organizational recommendations can have legislative scores, member endorsements and more organization specific information to engage members. 

Digital ads: Using platforms to specifically target members can reach members in an engaging and unexpected way. Try featuring user generated content with members talking to members.  This may also include Work site targeting, but check with legal – With many digital ad forms you can geo fence worksites to communicate with folks inside, please check with your attorney to see if this qualifies for member communications. 

Flyers to members: As folks go back in person, flyers to hand out or put on a bulletin board will come back in fashion – understand the worksite policy for this, but if you can do it don’t forget about this way to engage members. 

Email can help: Using email for member communication is under rated and underused when it comes to sharing recommendations. You have member emails, and this can be a powerful tool. 

SMS: Texting to membership is a clear and easy way to connect and communicate with members. 

Digital slate cards: There are some great tools out there to feature endorsement slates. 

Relational organizing: There are plenty of tools out there to help members engage with other members, make sure you harness your tools to engage members in the endorsement process and promote your endorsements. 

Collect assets for member communications: Know what assets you will collect beyond endorsement quotes from members and leadership about a candidate. Group photos and interviews can also help with your organization’s member campaigns and potential independent campaigns

Can your organization endorse?: Check your bylaws and ask your lawyer whether your organization can endorse or recommend candidates. Just because you are legally allowed to endorse does not mean you should.

How early should you start?: Being intentional about your endorsement process is critical. Start early with your planning. Executing a clear endorsement process means setting aside time to write questionaries, interview candidates, hold forums, endorse candidates, budget for member communications and having enough time to communicate your endorsement. 

Do you have an endorsement process? – **(if you have a great process feel free to skip to the end)

Having a written endorsement process is key for organizations to stay on track and build political power over time: Having a consistent process allows you, your team and your members to engage and help in the process every year, but many groups have had the same play book and have not mixed up how they communicate endorsements in a long time. Here are our ideas on how to up your game when it comes to communicating endorsements.

The basics:

Know the races you will endorse in: You do not have to endorse in every race. If a race does not matter to your organization, don’t endorse. Yes, as a community member you may want to endorse in every race, but if you do, make sure you have the resources, time, money and effort.  

Understand what your endorsement means: All endorsements don’t mean the same thing -make sure you know what the endorsement or recommendation means for your organization; what will you do to help candidates, and will you do the same thing for every candidate? If there is a tier, make sure you are clear internally and externally what it is. 

What is your organization’s goal behind endorsements?: Endorsers bring credibility and trust both for candidates and organizations. Make sure you communicate those goals clearly. 

Can you remove endorsements?: Yes - bad campaign behavior can lose candidates organizational endorsements. It is extremely rare for organizations to rescind endorsements as a last resort. Make sure you communicate how this could happen and be clear about this in writing.  

Non-endorsements & dual endorsements: I would advise organizations to make a choice, but in rare circumstances this is not possible. Orgs decide they don’t have the votes at all, or they pick a couple candidates they could support in a large field.  

Know what you will do with the questionnaire: Why are you asking for folks to fill out a questionnaire? - we have read too many questionnaires over the years that have lost their strategy.  Put real thought into the questions and make sure you know which questions will make a difference for you. 

How will you hold endorsers accountable?: Accountability has become a growing concern for organizations over time after having folks get endorsements, use them, and change positions, or not be true advocates for causes they say they believe in. Groups are more actively tracking where candidates go after they endorse. Think about how you will do that.

Don’t forget to promote your endorsements and recommendations: Campaign endorsements don’t promote themselves. The only way to get voters to know about endorsements is for you to tell them. Do not assume organizations or newspapers will get the endorsements out. You need your own strategy to do it.

Have questions about member communications? Drop us a note