Last week, I was invited to participate in a webinar panel on campaigning during and after this coronavirus crisis, organized by Regent University’s Robertson School of Government. Here are my main takeaways:
All campaign tools that involve personal contact are pretty much gone for the moment. Alternatively, campaigns can for example rely on phone banks, text messaging and WhatsApp groups. It is now common for presidential campaigns to have sophisticated apps (Team Joe, Trump 2020). Other high-profile campaigns can duplicate this.
This corona crisis is also an opportunity for campaigns to do what they should have been doing all along: build your data base. Campaigns should particularly reach out to elder voters. Many of them are online, but they need a little push to get more and further engaged. Everybody who runs an online business says the same thing: the money is in the (email) list. Translated for campaigns: The votes and the activism are in the list.
Phone, screen and radio time are all up. Therefore, campaigns should also reach out to radio stations, which in my experience are rather easy to penetrate. Campaigns can also do good old door hangers, robo calls and there is great technology out there to do live mass calls with hundreds or thousands of supporters. The good thing is that political leaders and surrogate candidates are not expected to be at meetings in person right now. As a result, they also have more time, which is no small feat. You could easily have your top surrogate on zoom calls in eight, ten places per day.
Political parties may also play a humanitarian role giving out aid or do food deliveries. I would however advise to be very clear about this. Don’t pretend you’re giving out aid when you’re actually campaigning. Do either one and be candid about it.
This being said, all these changes are of a tactical nature. The basics of campaigns have not changed. You still need – many of you will expect this – a message. Ideally, you tie it to the current situation. Don’t make noise for the sake of making noise. While voters are listening more than usual, they want to hear specific solutions.