Navigating Your Political Campaign and Coronavirus
Political Campaigns and Coronavirus. How To Manage Both.
Political Campaigns and Coronavirus - It's a tough time for the world and political campaigns, We've written this guide to help you manage your political campaigns response to Covid19. Coronavirus is impacting large and small political campaigns. Political campaigns and groups have stopped door-to-door canvassing, in-person fundraisers and events. When it comes to political campaigns and Coronavirus, there are many elements constantly changing, and campaigns are reacting and planning ways to protect constituents, volunteers, staff, and candidates.
While the usual tips and tricks for political campaigns can help guide you through unfamiliar territory, not all of the classic options for campaigning are available right now, so we’ve put together a list of tips for political campaigns to use during this difficult time. This is a post we will be updating as more information becomes available. Please check back regularly or feel free to drop us a note on what your campaign is doing and how we can be helpful.
Communication is key
Create a plan and let folks know what you are doing as a campaign. Be decisive; it is better to make quick decisions on the basis of safety than to make no decision at all. Here is what you should be communicating regarding political campaigns and Coronavirus:
- Up-to-date and factual information about Covid-19
- Information on how to help your community
- Information on where to get help (medical Care, groceries/essential purchases, etc.)
- Steps you and your campaign team are taking to address the political campaign and Coronavirus
Canceling rallies and fundraisers
Campaigns have canceled/postponed rallies and in-person fundraisers and you will see this continue to happen. We recommend that you:
- Reach out to donors and check in virtually or by phone
- Have virtual meetings around your political campaign and Coronavirus
- Use email and other channels to share helpful information
Impacts on campaign fundraising
Coronavirus will impact fundraising. With a projected 20% unemployment rate, donation rates will drop. In 2008 during the economic downturn, we saw a 6% drop in charitable donations. It’s hard to estimate the exact impact at this time, but it will be significant. It is important to have a continued outreach plan to donors even if it means just providing information.
Direct mail and mail delivery
Impacts on mail delivery
So far, the postal service has not changed domestic mail delivery even in the hardest hit areas, but this could change, and you should monitor information from The United States Postal Service. You can find more info here at the USPS website.
- How is USPS delivering mail under shelter in place declarations? The Postal Service is classified as an essential government service operation, which allows them to continue operations.
- How safe is the mail and mail transport equipment? Current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) guidance indicates no evidence the virus is spreading through mail. According to WHO, the likelihood of an infected person contaminating mail is low, and the risk of catching the virus from a package that has been moved, traveled, and exposed to different conditions and temperatures is also low.
- Is the USPS experiencing capacity issues due to reduced airline routes? There are no domestic air capacity issues at this time. The Postal Service continues to work with contract air carriers to keep mail moving.
- What about secondary shippers? Secondary shippers move a lot of mail. FedEx freight may reduce delivery in specific states and other secondary shippers could follow suit. We will continue to track this.
Impacts on printers and mailhouses
Most printers and mailhouses, as of the publishing date are defined as essential services. They have not changed delivery schedules and are continuing to hit drop dates, but that could change. Make sure your mail consultant is working with you to provide up-to-date information. It may also be worth reducing the complexity of programs to make them easier to execute.
Impacts on paper supply
Paper has increased in cost over the last few years and this will likely increase the cost of mail.
Primary election dates
At the time this post is being published, Louisiana, Georgia, Ohio, Maryland and Pennsylvania have postponed their primaries. More states are likely to do the same. Some statutes make it extremely difficult for states to postpone elections. Other states will be increasing vote-by-mail, moving early voting sites, and finding more folks to staff voting locations.
Vote-by-mail and no-excuse absentee voting will increase exponentially in 2020. Planning for VBM for political campaigns and coronavirus will likely continue to evolve. More states will allow voting on days other than Election Day and people’s behavior will change to avoid crowds and human contact. Campaigns and organizations should change plans to focus on absentee voting and early voting as a resource to voters. Consider adding a proactive absentee ballot chase direct mail program (i.e. mailing likely absentee voters so a piece lands in their mailbox around the same time a ballot lands). Since the universe of absentee ballot voters will expand greatly, you will need to be proactive and do more than chase applications.
Secretary of States may be sending out vote by mail applications to more voters in the future, but localities may not be staffed to handle the volume of vote by mail requests so check with your local state party or Board of Elections to ensure you can provide your voters with the correct information.
What precautions can campaigns take?
You should not be doing grip and grins. Meet voters where they are, which may mean not meeting with them at all. Keeping voters and your team safe is your primary concern, especially if you are in an area with vulnerable populations. Strategize how to communicate to those communities to reach your campaign goals. This may mean calling, telephoning town halls, and texting.
Is there any way to do door to door canvas?
For the time being, no. Look at ways to keep the engagement going without doing it in-person. It is not worth the risk to you, staff, volunteers, and constituents to canvas.
What can campaigns do instead of canvassing?
Phones can still be a good tool for organizing. Landlines can reach older voters and using this as a time to be helpful and give information about vote-by-mail and primary date changes. Many platforms (NGP VAN, etc.) have built in calling that can be used by volunteers and staff, but be sure you are providing real value when you call.
Those pesky tele-town halls will make a comeback as a way to talk about issues during this time. A telephone town hall is a good, old-school way to reach out to your constituents and engage with them on important issues.
Creating supporter groups and virtual fundraisers allows your campaign to stay in touch with supporters and connect with each other around a common goa is important to get your message across about both your political campaign and Coronavirus.
I am surprised at how few candidates take advantage of this. Facebook Live is a good tool to interact with constituents. More tips on Facebook Live for campaigns are available here.
Getting supporters to opt-in to text alerts is a long-term goal for most organizations and campaigns. With Coronavirus, it is a necessity to find ways to communicate quickly without the option of meeting in person.
This is an old-school trend. Using your volunteers and organizers to leverage their personal or professional relationships, you can expand the campaign’s connections.
Zoom is a great way to meet with teams virtually, and the webinar function works well for large groups and trainings. There are a lot of tools other than Zoom: GoToMeeting (which currently has a free 90-day subscription), Google Hangouts, etc.
This is another way to communicate with large groups through both text and calls, it has push notifications and is easy to use.
Campaigns are using Slack to stay in touch with each other, do group calls, and track assignments. You can also use it to call staff and volunteers, it has a nice integration with zoom and push notifications if you cannot be on the app all the time. Slack can help you get the word out to your team about your political campaign and Coronavirus updates.
Add content to websites and make sure you are optimizing the content for search. Social media is important, but make sure you are putting relevant info on your website as well. Link video messages to your site as well.
You will likely need to communicate for a longer time period digitally than before. Work with your digital team to make a plan for how you will use a combination of paid and organic digital. Digital ad inventory will likely be affected this fall with some social platforms already out of the picture for political advertising. Campaigns should budget for and expect to see higher CPMs for digital. Approval time on ads (specifically Facebook) will take longer, so plan accordingly.
Campaigns and independent expenditures should expect high cost per points (CPP) for TV this fall. And, since the Coronavirus, TV ad buying has gone up. Voters are spending more time at home watching tv and staying inside, which gives you more time to spread your message to your target audiences.
Budgeting and planning
Be intentional about budgeting and planning for political campaigns and Coronavirus. Make sure you cut non-essential campaign expenses and delay programs that you can afford to start later. Make sure you create budgets at different levels in case your fundraising is slower than expected.
Polling and Online panels - Having real information around peoples attitudes is helpful for political campaigns and Coronavirus messaging. Most phone banks have moved to remote work flows making them still possible. Online panels allow campaigns and organization to hold virtual focus groups. You now can test creative and messaging without having to be in person.
Be helpful. Keep talking about health care and provide useful information to your community. Remember campaigns are about the voters, not the candidate. Make sure you focus on their needs and how the office you are running for is relevant to them. Be careful with tone and be sure to test messages on multiple platforms to see what is working and what is not.
Have questions about political campaigns and Coronavirus?
Drop us a note about what you are doing for planning around political campaigns and Coronavirus. Let us know if we can give you more information for your campaign or organization.