As regular readers may have gathered, I am very interested in effective political fundraising, data management, and communications strategy and tactics. I have had practical experience in it too, so I think my thoughts are worth the Liberal Party`s time to consider. One month ago, I blogged about methods to build the database, with some basic suggestions for the Liberal Party. The post was about how to use petitions to gather contact information from highly motivated citizens. You see, a petition is an extremely effective way to collect the names and verified email addresses from people who are self-identifying with a very specific issue. In the ‘New World of Electoral Politics’, the world where Big Data is both the objective, and the means to engage in political activism, success will depend upon the ability to:
- Build the Database with contact names, where they live, and most importantly their validated email addresses.
- Engage supporters on their terms, and enrich your data by identifying the issues that are of burning interest to the supporter.
- Employ effective ‘calls to action’ that harvest tangible benefits from those engaged supporters.
With that in mind, I decided to conduct a little test of just how effectively Canada’s Political Party’s utilise the data that falls into their hands through petitions, and I had a very surprising result. The test was as simple as could be. I signed a leadnow petiton to `Save the Parliamentary Budget Office`, that directed emails to the leaders of the 4 Party’s in Parliament, plus my local MP (who is that lame Conservative who unseated Ignatieff here in Etobicoke Lakeshore). I have preserved and briefly analysed the responses I received. To date, there are 22,295 petitioners who have responded to this specific call to action. It sounds like a very simple test, and most readers will dismiss this as a trivial pursuit question, but it is NOT. The responses are hard evidence of a serious failure of the Political communications of the three main Party`s Here are the results, ranked from worst to best.
The Conservative Party`s grade is F–: This result surprised me the most. For all of the Conservative Party`s vaunted expertise in Big Data, and the related communications tools, I did not even receive an acknowledgement of receipt of the email from either the PMO, the CPC, or most tellingly from my local MP. I mean, what the hell are they thinking? For all they know, I am a fat cat capitalist, rolling in potentially donatable funds, with a network of Conservative buddies who LOVE Harper, but are concerned about Parliamentary accountability. There was nothing from them highlighting whatever else they think they are doing to further accountability. My suspicions are that they did little more than forward my contact info to the RCMP and CSIS as a potential ` accountability terrorist `, lol. In short, the CPC and the local MP actually hurt themselves by failing to respond in any way whatsoever. They told me that they do not give a shit what I think.
The Liberal Party`s grade is an F: Unfortunately, this result did not surprise me. I received a polite response 2 full weeks after I signed the petition. ( Petition Response from Bob Rae ) It was a plain text email that was actually specific to the issue at hand, BUT…. The email was NOT signed by Bob Rae, but by an assistant. The formatting was primitive, without a single call to action. I am not certain what was done with the data I provided, but I suspect it is sitting in an outlook folder with 22,295 other contacts, NOT a kick ass database like Liberalist. The reason I suspect this? I have not received any communications from any Liberal Party entity at the test email address I provided. The Liberals did not actively hurt themselves, but they did themselves no favours.
The NDP`s grade is a D: Tom Mulcair responded personally (NOT- lol) on the same day I signed the petition. ( Petition Response from Tom Mulcair ) It was a bilingual auto-responder, with French first, then English telling me that boy, does he get a lot of email, and that I should perhaps follow one of the two links to either follow Tom on Twitter, or visit the NDP website to find out what they stand for. The formatting was a very freakin ugly font, and aside from the quick response, it said nothing whatsoever about the topic at hand. Auto-responders can be impersonal and a turn-off, and this one went out of it`s way to be an impersonal turn-off. The one small saving grace was that there was a call to action, those two links to Twitter, and the NDP site. By itself, this response gets an F, but one week later, I received a specific response from Tom Mulcairs office. ( Tom Mulcair follow up 1 ) This second response was pretty well identical in content to the Bob Rae response, with the exception that there was a clickable link to the Parliamentary website highlighting a private members bill on the Parliamentary Budget office. That link was not to any actual NDP site, so there was no attempt to harvest me for future appeals. It doesn`t really deserve a D, but I want to acknowledge that the first crappy response was timely and had some calls to action, and the topical response was late, badly formatted, but again had some kind of call to action, (even if it was useless). Based on what I have seen, I did not make it into an actual political database though, so that D grade is probably optimistic.
The Green Party`s Grade is a B+: Now this is how you work with Data! The initial response was personally signed, but it took 5 days to get to me. ( Petition Response from Elizabeth May ) It was specific to the issue, and it included a call to action to visit a page with topical press releases on it, BUT the links were plain text URL`s, so the only way to take action would be to copy and paste the links into the recipients browser. Kind of dumb, and a fail until you see what happens next. 4 days later, I received a very well prepared and formatted email. ( Elizabeth May follow up 1 ) In order to finish reading that second email, I had to click on a link to Elizabeth Mays constituency website. Follow that link, and you will see that hundreds and hundreds of Canadians were engaged in a discussion of the topic at hand, through a Disqus comments board. Very slick! The Green Party has thought through the value stream of voter outreach, and are utilising a cheap and effective tool to elicit further response and engagement with their contacts and supporters. The email is replete with calls to action. For example, this link invites me to `protect democracy robogate.ca`, which is intended to collect information on an issue that I may feel strongly about. The landing page was not created for nothing, it`s purpose is to find out more about ME, and what turns my crank. If I clicked on anything whatsoever having followed the link, that information would have been appended to my contact in the Green Party`s contact database, and I guarantee I would be receiving a topical email with an ask for money, time, or skills before too much time went by. There were links to social media, including the means to forward emails. Really, you should take a look at the email, it is a pretty damned good template for a very effective political communications piece. Two weeks later, Lo and Behold! I received a second very well formatted email, with all the bells and whistles. ( Elizabeth May follow up 2 ) The calls to action were shaken up a little, with similar objectives in mind, but different methods of achieving the same results. Two more weeks go by and there it is, regular as clockwork, another very well presented email. ( We Only Have Days to Stop the Canada-China FIPA ). Again similar, with one interesting difference. There is link inviting me to share the email with my friends, that directs me to this landing page at the Green Party website. That page is intended to harvest email addresses of my friends, whilst associating them with the specific topical call to action the original letter was about. So there it is, as a result of signing a third-party petition, I have now been fully incorporated into the Green party of Canada`s mailing list, and they are effectively using that list to build their mailing list, to engage supporters and citizens with the Green party, and to build up an ever more detailed picture of their supporters through well conceived calls to action. The reason I only gave them a B+ was because the initial response should have been stronger, and they failed to go above and beyond a business standard of good and effective communications. I am a tough marker, and I agree with my old University Profs that an A or A+ has to be earned by going beyond the course material, and introducing something new and pertinent to the subject at hand.
As far as the relevance of this trivial analysis to the broader picture goes, the Green Party was in deep trouble when the per vote subsidy started to dry up and disappear. Their reaction was exemplary, they adapted to their changing circumstances by focusing on what they already did pretty well in the fundraising sphere and beefed up their email campaigning. The results are publicly available at the elections Canada political funding database. Despite the loss of subsidy funds, they are actually improving their revenues, incrementally, quarter by quarter, and this is the mechanism by which they are doing it. Liberal Party take heed! Even from the humble starting point as of today, Liberalist should be easily generating $10,000,000 per annum in donations, and that should be on a permanent upward trajectory. This stuff is so freaking easy to do, all it takes is the recognition of it`s significance, and a concerted effort to make it happen. EVERY single tool exists within Liberalist and the Party, you just need to start treating emailed communications like the solid gold that they are. rather than an irksome task of responding to pesky petitioners and constituent inquiries.