Dear Dr. Bob,
I keep getting mixed advice on whether to use campaign ‘robocalls’ or not. Some tell me to use them as an inexpensive way of getting quick messages out to voters. Others tell me that voters are having ‘robocall fatigue’ and they are net negative. What do you think?
Dear Robo Confused,
I get this question pretty often since the dividing lines of opinions seem pretty strong. My advice is to take the risk of voter ‘fatigue’ with the calls and do it…but do it properly.
Here’s 5 thoughts to consider:
1. Make your message personal, coming from you, the candidate. Right now there are tens of thousands of dollars being pumped through phone lines by folks who are virtually screaming at people with announcers. Not exactly the best way to make friends. And that is what the calls are about: making friends and getting them to vote for you. (Others might try to get voters to turn their backs on your opponent, but that’s not something for you to worry (or know) about.
2. Be polite. Say “Hello”, “Thank you”, and provide a telephone number people can call for more information.
3. Get to the point. Typically you’ll have about :30 seconds for your call including the disclaimer (Paid for by…). So have someone help you write and edit the script. Compress your language and combine thoughts to save time. Here’s an example:
Original: I’m running to put a stop to political corruption. That means banning all gifts, sports tickets, and trips paid for by lobbyists. And no favors for them either.
Combined & Compressed: I’m running to stop political corruption. No more lobbyists getting favors for gifts, sports tickets or trips they hand out to politicians.
It may not look like a big change when printed like this, but when read out loud it moves along faster…especially if you have someone who can do some quick audio editing to remove pauses.
4. For a few pennies more, you can also collect information by using a polling function. You’ve probably heard these calls before…”Press 1 for this, Press 2 for that” etc. You can use these for everything from generating a list of people who would like a yard sign to seeing how people are going to vote.
5. You can also use robocalls for functional purposes: “Hi, I’ll be in your neighborhood on Thursday and look forward to meeting you in person….” “Hello, I’ve sent you a postcard with a little information about me, my campaign and why I need your support….”
6. Don’t make the same calls over and over again to the same people. They will get pissed off. Generally speaking, that’s not a good way to win support from voters. And when you get a call from someone telling you to “take me off your *%^$#$” list”, do it right away, apologizing to the caller.
Additionally, there are a few ways of using robocalls tactically. One of my favorites is to generate a list of the opponents staff, big time supporters, neighbors, etc. Use that relatively small list to ‘communicate’ innocent information to the other side like where you plan to hold a meeting, why they should send back the postcard immediately, etc. Again, anything done like this should include nothing by innocent information that, when it winds up in the hands of a reporter, doesn’t get them all excited. You want them to respond with a “so what?”