Joyce Murray campaign is a FASCINATING example of how the Liberals can win the next election.

I have been preaching the virtues of the ‘new’ supporter category of Liberal Party ‘memberships’ ever since the Liberal Party announced it nearly a year ago. It is such an innocuous seeming innovation, but the implications are profoundly exciting. I am not at all surprised at the turn of events over the course of this Federal Liberal Party leadership race, in fact, I feel vindicated in my predictions of an enormous electoral juggernaut in the making, in the form and shape of Liberalist, the National contact database licensed from the Obama team.

I will quickly re-iterate my past arguments about the importance of a free, and simple way to register support for the Liberal Party, complete with name, email address, and postal code.

The starting point for any political database is the electronic register of all enumerated voters given to every Party, and contestant at the outset of an election campaign. The dataset provided by Elections Canada includes names, addresses, and poll numbers for the entire electorate. Please note that the Privacy act exempts political users of data from the prohibition against sharing personal and private data, so ANY DATA from ANY ELECTION or ( Municipal, Provincial, or Federal), or ANY ‘political purpose’, can be imported into a database like Liberalist. I mention that because, for example, a Municipal candidate in Toronto would also receive the residency status of each voter (Owner, Renter), as well as the School board affiliation where relevant. (Separate school board or Public school board). Someone like, say, Smitherman is perfectly entitled to hand over his database to the Liberal Party, and like magic (well, with a lot of back-end work), Liberalist now has a whole lot more actionable data on every voter in Toronto.

That data is enriched for free over the course of any election, as electronic updates are provided with the names of those who voted at advance polls, and people who register to vote during the writ period. Most political campaigns also dedicate a huge effort to enriching the data through telephone and door to door canvassing the electorate for voting intentions, and to a lesser extent issues of interest, willingness to accept a lawn sign, etc. So, over the course of an election, the database has a large chunk of people identified as voters in the advance polls. There are lists of people who are dedicated enough to take a lawn sign for your Party, (and the opposition). There are hopefully large numbers of people who have expressed the intention to vote for your Party, and a great many people have been identified as supporters for the other party’s as well. This is what I mean when I say the data is enriched. There is a growing level of detail about the electorate, built up for each and every voter.

I have argued that the KEY to winning elections is the ability to communicate directly, one-on-one with the electorate. The reason is that you do not need to rely on the Media to filter your message, and pass on half of what you want to say to every Tom, Dick, and Sally. You can control the timing of what you want to say. You can control the content of what you want to say. You can NARROWCAST a message to those electors most receptive to your message, provided you have sufficient data to segment your contests by relevant criteria. For example, if you have integrated all the free information provided to candidates at all levels in Toronto, you can create a list of Catholic home owners, who live in the polls adjacent to the Conservatives hypothetical new radioactive waste dump. Hmmm, I can think of a few political messages that could be delivered to such a list of people.

But the trick of it is, how do you communicate with those people once you have enough depth of data to segment? There are commercial data vendors who will happily sell the Party every phone number in Canada. It is cheap, and every political party shells out a few bucks to get this info into the database. But telephoning really large numbers of people is expensive, and time-consuming. That is why robo-calling is so popular, because it is a cheap way to reach out to loads and loads of people, even if it is not hugely effective. You can mail stuff to people, but that is pretty expensive too. It is much more effective than robo-calling, so there is definitely a place for the targeted mail-shot, but the major constraint is the availability of $. Then there is the magical, almost free medium of e-mail. That is the perfect political communications tool. It is so cheap as to be nearly free. It is perfectly suited to provide the means (hot links) to generate an IMMEDIATE response to your call to action embedded in an email. It can be adapted for huge mailings, or very small, highly targeted messages. In short, it is the shangri-la of organisers, and political field workers everywhere.

So this brings me to the exchange of value between the Supporter and the Liberal Party. Supporters are enticed to provide their name, email address, and postal code by the promise that they can influence the selection of the next leader by being given a vote. The value to the Liberal Party is that with those three pieces of information, they can match the supporters name to their list of electors, and attach the fact that THIS voter supports the Liberal Party, along with a virtually free means to contact them directly via their email address. Because of the nature of an electronic sign-up, it is also possible to gather a little more information about THIS supporter. When somebody fills out an online form, the page, or link within an email that brought them to the sign-up form can be traced, and attached to the actual data collected from the new supporter. So, for example, if a website that promotes electoral co-operation refers somebody to a Liberal Party supporter sign-up form (called a ‘landing page’), then Liberalist can be coaxed to make note of the fact that THIS supporter frequents electoral co-operation websites. If the referral came from a link in an email sent out by an organisation like, oh, lets say Leadnow, that fact should definitely be tagged in Liberalist. I know it doesn’t sound like a big deal to most people, but it is this added DEPTH of data that allows the database to be segmented for targeted communications.

Which brings me to the theme of this post. Joyce Murray is the Liberal Leadership candidate whose main claim to fame (for now), is that she is proposing a controversial measure for the non-Conservative Party’s to co-operate by selecting joint candidates in specific ridings. The intent is to ensure that the anti-Conservatives do not suffer from vote splitting, and get to boot the Conservative candidate to the curb. This electoral co-operation will be consummated when the next (presumably NOT Conservative government) reforms the elections process to mandate preferential ballots be used in Federal elections.

So how is that working out for Joyce? Well, I have no axe to grind, but I think I speak for most Liberals when I say that Joyce was not considered one of the front ranked candidates. That has changed in a hurry though, because she has done the ABSOLUTE BEST JOB of leveraging the supporter category to strengthen her campaign. She has crafted a policy message that resonates with many, many, thousands of Canadians. She has worked the phones hard, and drawn a number of third parties into the fray on her behalf. Leadnow, FairVote Canada, and a number of other electoral reform organisations have been targeting their huge memberships with emails, and communications encouraging them to join the Liberal Party as supporters, so as to support their dearly held beliefs. Last week, she even pulled an endorsement from David Suzuki, encouraging Canadians to join the Liberal Party as supporters. I know a lot of democratic reform

What motivates YOU?

What motivates YOU?

advocates from my Green Party days, and I can categorically state that they are HIGHLY motivated, and the turnout of her voters will embarrass the other candidates come time to count the ballots. ( I expect maybe a 20%-30% turnout of all Supporters in Liberalist, but Joyce will score better than 50%). That is because a general interest and affinity for the Liberal Party which most Supporters will evince comes nowhere near the motivational potential of a deeply held policy interest. I am pretty certain that Justin Trudeau will still win, because his campaign is signing up hundreds of thousands of supporters, but Joyce will probably surprise the hell out of everybody when the ballots are counted.

So that is Joyce Murray, the fascinating example. Now to how this example illustrates the coming Liberal election victory in 2015. The leadership race is fast approaching it’s conclusion, and with that the supporter category will come to an end.., or will it? I will ask a question, is the Liberal Party stupid enough to throw away the most important innovation in Canadian politics since the Conservatives created CIMS? Nope, I submit that the Liberal Party wants to WIN the next election, and they will figure out that they already have the tool in the drawer that will make this happen. The extraordinary results I anticipate for Joyce are a direct result of empowering motivated Canadians to support their policy ideals, within the ranks of the Liberal Party. In order to maintain the momentum created by the Leadership contest, it would take a pretty foolish organiser to ignore the demonstrated potential of a quick, free, and easy recruiting tool. A long time ago, I blogged that the Green Party could leverage the policy aspirations of Canadians, by creating forums, and vehicles for people who shared a common interest to gather together and share their passion under a Green Party umbrella. Well, the Green Party is toast now, but this is a far more viable proposal for the Liberal Party. Civil society in Canada includes a great many advocacy groups, whose values are not incompatible with the Liberal Party. With a little creativity, those advocacy groups, or more specifically THEIR MEMBERSHIP can be enticed into the Liberal fold by an offer to allow the public to help formulate policy for the Liberal Party to carry into the next general election. This is nothing new, but the big difference is that with a supporter category, the Liberal Party can inherit the contact data of advocacy groups, and assume direct access to large numbers of Canadians with an explicit understanding of their primary policy interest. The bargain that will have to be established should be fair. The post leadership Supporters should be granted a genuine opportunity to help shape the next election platform. Provided the sign-up remains free, and that the bargain is fair and open, it is not only possible, but it is likely that the Liberal Party will build the most comprehensive, and readily targeted political database in Canada over the next couple of years. Set a target of 2-3 million Canadian Supporters, and then make it happen. The improvements in money, volunteer hours, the high quality candidates, even the increased voter turnouts will  be significant. The competitive advantage will only happen once, because the Dippers, and Conservatives will follow the Liberal lead pretty darned quickly, but we can worry about winning in 2020 when we get to 2019. It will be a lot easier to contemplate after 4 plus years of a Liberal majority.

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Liberals Supporter category vital. What happens after the leadership race?

Liberal Supporter GraphicI first realised that my old friend, the Liberal Party of Canada was on the path to recovery when they introduced the Supporter category early in 2012. Canadians were invited to formally become a supporter of the Liberal Party, and offered a vote in the leadership contest as an inducement.  As I wrote in June, the idea nagged and teased me. I clarified my thoughts with a post on the potential impact of an easy to use self-identifier that wins an email address and commitment from just about any Canadian willing to call themselves Liberal. It took awhile, but by the time the Leadership contest commenced in earnest, every campaign was grappling with the implications, and more or less successfully gathering supporters as quickly as they could. In December, I was treated to a series of fundraising emails from the Liberal Party. I had signed up as a supporter, and was really interested in seeing HOW the Liberal Party used the contact information I had provided them. According to the information I gleaned from those fundraising emails, the new supporter category was starting to generate many hundreds of new fully paid up memberships, and first time donors to the Liberal Party. I expected it, but it was still very pleasant to see my earlier conclusions about the game changing nature of supporters for Liberals being translated into irrefutable dollars and cents.

According to publicly reported figures, the Liberal Party signed up 55,000 supporters PRIOR to the start date for the Leadership contest. That`s a whole lot of people voluntarily giving over their contact information, and making an internal commitment to support the Liberals. Mind you, these are the supporters came forward before the Leadership campaigns were vigorously recruiting and proselytising. Since that time, we have seen campaigns like George Takach identifying a `key constituency` (online gamers), and delivering his message of a digital bill of rights through the medium of email. I don`t know if this will get him a huge following, but it is smart. He correctly surmised that emails, and linked sign-up pages will be the keys to victory, so he went after a constituency that spends all their free time online. Another entirely predictable outcome of the changed ground rules has been the use of third-party mailing lists, and issue advocates to recruit Supporters for candidates, and the Party. There were recent media reports about the Construction Workers Union emailing their membership lists, and directing them to  Justin Trudeau Supporter sign-up page on Trudeau`s website.  Just have a quick look at that Union sign-up page. It speaks to my earlier posts on enriching the Liberalist database with additional actionable information on supporters and members. Every Union Joe who signs up will be identified as a Construction Worker Union member, who has an affinity for Justin Trudeau. Can you say `targetted communications`? The third example I want to mention is really exciting, because it has enormous potential, and demonstrates just exactly HOW the Liberal Party is going to be able to prepare for, and win the next General Election in 2015.

Wow! Win the next general election? Is bluegreenblogger off his rocker? Well last week there were a number of media reports regarding a huge boost to Joyce Murrays campaign that rocked my socks off. Several electoral co-operation advocacy groups have, more or less under their own steam recognised the potential of the supporter category to advance their POLICY interests with the Liberal Party. Leadnow boasting approximately 225,000 members, Fair Vote Canada, and other electoral co-operation advocates have been urging their `membership`to become supporters of the Liberals. Put this into perspective, during the recent NDP leadership race, Leadnow and Avaaz rounded up over 10,000 members`to support Nathan Cullens leadership bid. Wow! Those are full dues paying memberships, a much tougher sell than asking for email addresses and a little personal information.

Don`t get me wrong. I have not changed my mind about merging the `left`, and I still think it is a non-starter. But I think my point is well illustrated by this example.  My point is that while affinity for the Liberals can certainly draw a whole lot of support (and money) out of the woodwork for the Liberals, issues and policy are really really powerful motivators. With very little effort on the behalf of the Liberal Party, I expect tens of thousands of Canadians are going to respond to an emailed invitation to join the Liberal Party as a Supporter in order to promote Leadnows and Fair Votes objectives. Which leads me to the entire point of this post.

The Supporter category has been an unqualified success in rapidly building up the numbers of contacts and supporters in Liberalist database. The Supporter category has also improved the quality of data (the depth so to speak) on many thousands of Liberals inclinations, policy leanings, and some third-party affiliations. The Supporter category has generated thousands of dollars of donations directly for the Liberal Party. The reason it has been so succesful is because it is very easy to join, there is no up front cost, and a small but tangible benefit (the right to vote for the Leader) is the reward. The problem is that this unqualified success is slated to come to an end next month when membership and supporter sign-ups are closed for leadership race purposes. How can the Liberal Party continue to re-build and re-organise at the current breakneck speed without anything tangible to offer Supporters? The answer is sooo simple it is scary. Open up policy formulation to supporters! Every supporter who signs up to vote for and promote their deeply held beliefs is worth a dozen people with a  more ,or less vague affinity for a leadership candidate. They will be stepping forward with their time as volunteers, with their money as financial supporters, and their expertise for policy formulation, if only we give them the chance. Now is not the time to sit back and cheer about a one-off success. The Liberal Party has a historic opportunity to vault into the pole position for the next Federal General Election. Such a teeny. tiny innovation has the potential to revolutionise the Party, so please Liberals, do not let the opportunity pass.

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