Monday, October 15, 2007

Robocalls have had mixed results during political campaigns. Poor implementations have caused major backlash from voters. In the last few years, many states have changed laws to enforce the do-not-call registry for political organizations. So, how can political organizations successfully use robocalls to promote their campaigns? Here are the top 5 ways to keep above the competition:1) Have a clear message and keep it short.Within the first 7 seconds of any call, a voter is well aware that they are hearing a recording. You want them to know your stance on the issue at hand without alienating them, so use a familiar voice for the recorded call. People will tend to listen more to a famous voice or the candidate himself/herself. So get the right talent to record the message.Don't squeeze too much information into a 30-45 second call. There are plenty of opportunities for a voter to find additional information about you, so use a caller-id and give them a web site, but don't speed-talk through 9 topics in 45 seconds.An example of a successful broadcast includes a campaign in which Hilary Clinton asked voters to oppose "a proposal to require minors seeking abortions to notify their parents or get waivers from a judge." (The Raw Story, article)  It was successful because it was one clear topic, and a familiar voice spoke to them directly.2) Don't annoy your audience.Don't call after 9pm and don't send the same message repeatedly. It's simple to touch upon new issues for each robocall campaign that is sent out. Change the voice, use multiple topics and space out your campaigns so your voters aren't bothered by your voice broadcast. This technology gives you a great opportunity to reach all of your voters, but it's also easy to abuse it and annoy them, rendering your campaign ineffective. 3) Use the right technology.Make sure that your technology can handle the capacity, time sensitivity and the statistical needs of your campaign. Many systems available today won't fully satisfy these needs. provides the following necessary features for your robocall campaigns:

  1. Scheduling of your campaign
  2. Live statistics as your campaign occurs
  3. Huge capacity to target millions
  4. Fully web based and complete control of campaigns through any browser
  5. Managed campaigns - If needed, CallFire takes care of all logistics
  6. Message Recording
  7. For the advanced: Full programming interface to work with your systems

There is a second part to the right technology: not all messages are best handled by robocalls. Sometimes, you need to leverage a phone bank effort and talk to voters directly. Using a system like the distributed GoTV agent technology, your volunteers can connect to voters from anywhere. The system is designed to allow volunteers to automatically be connected to voters and to collect full statistics of each call, including a web based form for questions and notes.4) Contact the right audience.This is simple. Get the right list for your campaign. There are many technologies available that will filter your audience to the exact demographic you need. Things to look for in your list:

  1. Geographically filtered to include areas that you want to target ( zip codes, city, longitude and latitude )
  2. Filter by demographic - find lists with single family homes or children - find the right audience
  3. Data that is new - old data has high amounts of disconnected and bad numbers

5) Follow the regulations.Many states have added new regulations for political calls, often including a stipulation that each message immediately inform the listener of who is paying for the robocall.In recent years, there have been drastic abuses in telecom for political advantages. For example, "Republican officials were convicted of campaign violations stemming from an effort in 2002 to jam phone lines used by the Democratic Party to get out the vote." (New York Times).In May 2007, the New York Times also reported that candidates repeatedly sent calls for the opposing running mates in the middle of the night, in order to agitate voters.Be careful not to abuse the technology. There can be great rewards in using robocalls effectively for a campaign.References

  1. New York Times, "Repeat calls spur a debate".
  2. Local Phone Numbers
  3. The Agonist, "Why robocalls are here to stay". 
  4. Stones' Phones 'Robocall' Mania.
  5. New York Times, "Dirty Tricks by Phone". 
  6. Political 'robocalls' generating controversy.