Liberal Party Organising: Integrating Facebook with Voter contact lists means GAME OVER for the Conservatives

I have blogged repeatedly on the Importance to the Liberal Party of ‘building the database’ and populating Liberalist with as many Liberal Party supporters as possible. That is step one of the critical three-step of Building the database, Engaging supporters more deeply, and effective Calls to action. Until about an hour ago, I thought that using social media like Facebook was a side-show. Basically, as far as I knew, you could do events, spread messages, and do a bunch of nifty things, but that it was a completely different data silo that was basically useless to the main task of enriching Liberalist with data about what truly motivates individual electors and supporters. BOY WAS I WRONG!

I was going to post about how I tracked back this fundraising email 10000 donors Apr26, addressed from Katie Telford, Co-Chair of the Trudeau Campaign. The email was an effective ask for $$, but it did not have any clickable html links to share with friends, to network, and help the Liberal Party to build the contact database. That was missing a great opportunity. Surely their email service providers could have provided these services for them? I wanted to learn more about the email servers, and back-end data management of the Trudeau Campaign, and by extension, what we can expect from the Liberal Party as the Trudeau Campaign spreads its influence at head office. With a little help from Google and GMAIL, I found myself on this website for NGP VAN, which is a Progressive / Democrat Party affiliated data and communications management firm based in the States.

As so often happens in the information age, following a lead put me squarely in front of something related, but un-expected. You see, I have been overly dismissive of the uses of social media for campaign purposes. Facebook is a great way to spread a message, invite people to events, and a myriad of vitally important campaign related stuff. Until about 1 hour ago, I thought that there was a fundamental problem that the data about social media contacts are isolated within a world effectively controlled by third party data vendors. In plain English, Facebook controls their users data. I did not see how all that wonderful data about the preferences, causes, friends of each individual supporter and contact could be linked directly to Liberalist. As I have posted repeatedly, engaging Canadians more deeply, and building an ever more detailed picture of what motivates our supporters allows us to target our communications, way more effectively. It is going to be an integral part of rebuilding the ground game of the Liberal Party by building up donor and volunteer lists at the National and EDA level.

So now I get to the point. NGP VAN has a social organising component that integrates Facebook friends and contacts with compatible Contact Databases! I figuratively drooled all over my keyboard as I watched the promotional video embedded below. If you are a Liberal Organiser, you need to ENSURE that your EDA has a nice Facebook page, because every like, every friend of every supporter can be quickly and seamlessly integrated into Liberalist utilising this tool. HOLY CRAP! The Liberal Party is going to freaking BURY the Conservatives in 2015! Imagine what will happen when 75% of Liberal voters are magically profiled and accessible to the local field organisers in the year leading up to a general election? The Conservatives have spent literally tens of $millions building a partial and spotty database on supporters and donors. The Liberal Party can acquire a much richer dataset in one tenth of the time. Don’t believe me? Watch the video below, and get to work with that Facebook page!

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Justin Trudeau ‘Anti-Attack’ ads released

OK, so I just got an emailed ‘ask’ to help pay for airing this 30 second spot. I am not an advertising expert, so I do not know how effective it will be. In essence, Justin tells us he is a Teacher and proud of it, Canadians deserve better than attack ads, and he is going to work hard. The budget so far is for $500,000 but the objecteive is to raise another $500,000 for a total buy of $1,000,000.

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The Liberal Party should stand FOURSQUARE behind the Unions on Temp workers

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

Where is the Crimson Permanent Assurance when you need it?

I just popped over to National Newswatch, and I read a CBC article there about the Royal Bank eliminating the jobs of an entire department, and replacing those employees with Temporary Foreign workers imported from India. To add insult to injury, the employees being replaced are spending the last few weeks of their banking careers training the foreign workers that are replacing them.  In British Columbia, there has been a long running battle between the Unions and a Chinese owned Coal mining company. The mining company does not want to pay wages and benefits consistent with Canadian employment standards for this dangerous and dirty work, so they fiddled their hiring requirements to make fluency in Mandarin a job qualification, and brought in hundreds of ‘Temporary Foreign Workers’ from China for minimum wage. Actually, according to some reports, those temporary foreign workers purchase their jobs in China from ’employment agencies’. If there is any truth to the assertions that they pay BIG fees to their employers, they are actually earning a LOT less than minimum wage, to perform work that thousands of unemployed Canadians are fully qualified to do.

I very seldom post about issues, except as they pertain to building and growing the capacity to fight elections. It is definitely NOT because I do not care about any issues, it is because there is no shortage of people blogging or publishing about political issues of the day. Now these specific cases are just the tip of the iceberg. The terms and conditions between employees and employers are being dramatically altered in Canada, at a very fundamental level. There is an ideological war going on, where the mantra of  ‘efficiency ‘ and ‘economic growth’ is being abused to force working Canadians into a weaker and weaker bargaining position with their employers, right across the entire labour market. I simply cannot enumerate all the measures being enacted by the Conservative Government that will have significant impacts on the labour market, but here are a few of the fundamental shifts under way:

Employment Insurance ‘reforms’: How much really needs to be said about these reforms? If I had to characterise them, I would say that the intent is to reduce the bargaining power of job seekers. Recently un-employed Canadians are normally in a financial pickle. They have lost their weekly pay cheque, but they cannot discard their family and personal obligations so easily. Every measure that reduces their cash flows while job searching, and compresses the time they have to secure employment before their stop-gap EI cheques run out is designed to pressure them into accepting employment on worse terms than they otherwise might have been able to secure. A growing pool of desperate people has a fundamental and broad impact on employment conditions for ALL working Canadians. It isn’t complicated. If you have a good job, but there is an army of desperate un-employed people lined up to replace you, just exactly how will you respond when your employer informs you that they are taking away your pension benefits? Do you feel any pressure to surrender your pension so as to keep the paychecks coming in?

Temporary Foreign Worker programs: Well, what do you call a program that pretends that it is about securing skilled employees from overseas, but then allows the employer to pay minimum wages for those supposedly

But its Good for Business!

But its Good for Business!

highly skilled employees? I once hired a skilled worker from Hughes Aerospace in California. That employee had skills that were absolutely unique in the whole world. I paid a fortune in re-location costs, legal fees, and the Salary was oh-la-la. But that was OK, I got a unique skill set that allowed me to manufacture products for the space industry. THAT is the good that can come out of hiring skilled foreign workers. But the current Foreign Temporary worker program does not do anything like that. It opens up a floodgate for very cheap labour market entrants, whose terms of employment are restrictive at best, and approach indentured labour standards at their worst. The Federal Government has claimed numbers as low as 250,000 temp foreign workers are in Canada right now. Other credible sources claim as many as 500,000. It would be nice if we could believe our own Governments statistics, but the days of truthful statistics from the Federal Government are long gone, and Canadians are reduced to guessing whose lies are the most truthful in this day and age. Suffice it to say that over a quarter million positions have been sliced off the supply of jobs for Canadians. What is the impact? See my discussion about EI reforms above. More and more pressure on Canadian wage and salary earners. Fewer and fewer options to earn a buck while searching for a better job, because the quick and dirty jobs that can ease you through a rough patch are all in the hands of indentured workers. More downwards wage and benefits pressure, boy those clever Conservatives are really fixing the employment market aren`t they?

Right to Work legislation: Once upon a time, industrial and clerical workers were abused, and squeezed into inequitable employment conditions. Labour laws were wide open, job security non-existent, and large and small employers alike could dictate whatever they pleased to their employees. Then something happened that shifted the balance in favour of workers everywhere. The Trade union movement responded to those bound by the worst practices, and predatory employers. Without going into the history of the labour movement in Canada, there was a continual pressure applied to employers to improve the terms and conditions of employment. Those who failed to respond found themselves facing a Union drive, and the mere possibility of unionised workforces obliged the not so dumb organisations to pre-empt a union with ever improving labour standards. The existence of Unions in about 10% of the workforce acted as a spur, and pay scales and benefits came close to parity between unionised, and non-unionised shops. These improved working conditions led to the longest sustained economic boom in history. Ordinary working stiffs took on mortgages and bought homes of their own. Ordinary Canadians saved their pennies, and sent their children to Universities, which truly opened the doors to ALL the opportunities that this great country had to offer. Canadians have forgotten about just WHY those unions are an important part of our working lives. Any egregious prick who is skinning his or her employees could eventually expect Union organisers standing outside their doors, signing up members and showing them there IS something they can do about it. This last and final refuge for abused employees is under attack at this very moment. The so-called `right to work`legislation that the Conservative Government is itching to saddle us with, is designed to drive the last nail into the coffins of working Canadians everywhere. While Foreign Temporary workers, and restrictive EI benefits are direct manipulations of the labour market, Union busting is on a whole other plane of existence. It is all about eliminating recourse, and directly intervening in the underpinnings of our labour market by taking away the right of workers to say `no`to their employers. This is not just an assault on organised labour. Oh no, the worst afflicted will be those people who face intolerable conditions, and are no longer entitled to respond with a Union drive. The impact will not be subtle. Over time, workers WILL face more danger for less pay, less benefits, and far fewer opportunities for themselves and their children.

Canadas Temporary Foreign Worker program

Canada’s Temporary Foreign Worker program

So you want to know what I think the Liberal Party should do about all this? I think they should grasp the nettle, publicly support the Union movement in support of a Union Registration drive on the Royal Bank. If the reports are true, then the Royal felt entitled to ignore labour law provisions, and replace skilled and well paid Canadians with imported workers that have minimal rights as employees. I mean, this stuff is really really fundamental to all of us. The equality of opportunity espoused by Liberals everywhere is being subsumed by an ideological hate-on for working and middle class Canadians. As much as the Unions are parochial, and self-centered, they have, without question, been integral to the rich and glorious way of life we all enjoy. When a truly massive employer such as the Royal Bank blatantly and conspicuously breaks the law, and employment standards to replace entire departments with indentured workers, something is seriously screwed up.

God, I can hardly believe what I am writing! Here am I, a fully fledged capitalist, red of tooth and claw urging union rights on my fellow Canadians! But you know something, I have children, as do my neighbours, and fellow citizens everywhere. A capitalist I may be, but I do NOT want to indenture my employees. I want employees who are proud of themselves, and proud of the good work they do. I want to bargain fairly with them, and I believe that their children should be educated to the limits of their abilities. I want them to be productive, and co-operate with me in delivering superior goods and services to our customers. I do not want serfs or drones, I want them to be PROUD CANADIANS. How can I possibly do this when all my competitors are paying minimum wage to deliver shoddy services, but for half the price? Not the Canada that I signed up for, and that is for damned sure. I am pretty sure that there are millions of Canadians like me. Canadians who are not enamoured of Union workplaces, but would defend the rights of workers to hold out for fair working conditions, and a decent standard of living. Surely there is room in the Liberal Party for ordinary Canadians who want nothing more than some security for themselves and their families?

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Issues based Segmenting and Targeting the new activism

Slice it and Segment it for best results!

Slice it and Segment it for best results!

I just read an excellent article on how activists, and issue advocates in Canada are adopting new techniques and models to drive their message home to Government. It seems I am not alone in my assessment that a direct one-on-one interaction with individuals presents the opportunity to more effectively engage small segments of the electorate to more readily mobilise them for political action.

I have written a number of posts recently about my belief that the Liberal Party absolutely MUST get into the game of big data management if they are to have a hope of gaining ground in the new world of electoral politics, and this article points out the way. The Liberal Party has recently had some first hand experience of how an effectively managed issues based database can be leveraged for political ends. Joyce Murray engaged with ( or was engaged by?) Leadnow and FairVote Canada to mobilise a substantial campaign for electoral co-operation. Both of those organisations were built up as online communities, engaged with a specific, and highly motivating issue, electoral reform in Canada. AVAAZ is another organisation that has proven very effective in mobilising Canadians around specific issues. Please do have a look at their websites as that is the primary tool utilised to build these substantial and effective online communities:

Leadnow Site.

FairVote Canada.


As you can see from the main landing pages of these organisations websites, their primary focus is on drawings contact information from people interested in their issues, and securing some kind of ongoing interaction so as to build engagement within their organisation. You see, every time somebody clicks on a link, signs a petition, or donates a few bucks, they are quantifying their level of engagement with both the organisation, and the underlying issue being promoted. Because this is an ongoing, and interactive process, it is possible to create a continuous flow of people becoming more and more deeply engaged in the campaign, and the organisation.

One VERY telling example of a micro-targeted campaign is where Dogwood Initiative was opposed to the China-Canada Foreign Investment treaty, so what did they do? They downloaded the list of Conservative Party donors from Elections Canada’s political finances site, and polled them directly. What they found was that the Conservative Base was very strongly opposed to the provisions of the treaty. In their case, they forwarded the results of their poll to Stephen Harper, but there are even better things that the Liberal Party could, and should be doing with the Conservative Party’s donors list. Sometimes, (but not always) the best defense is a good offense. Rather than hanging around waiting for the Conservatives to unleash attack ads, the Liberal Party should be targeting the Conservatives directly, where they will feel it very quickly, and be forced to react. I would suggest that it is time for the Liberal Party to be directly contacting the Conservative base. There will be numerous chinks in the Conservatives armour, in the form of policies that are unpopular with many of their own most important supporters (donors and volunteers). Determining WHAT those chinks in the armour are, and then exploiting them can force the Conservatives to re-trench. ALL the broadcast advertising in the world cannot stop the Liberals from systematically initiating direct contact with the average CPC donor, so an approach like this will be very hard to counter. And counter it they MUST, as it directly challenges their enormous cash flows that they need to finance broadcast advertising. If it costs $100 k to turn off the taps on $1m per year in donations, that can be chalked up as a win for the Liberals.

Anyway, there is plenty to say about specific uses of segmented data, and specific campaigns, but I hope that Liberal readers of my blog will take home some important information from these examples. Liberalist exists and is being populated with hundreds of thousands of new contacts. The tools to draw in more people, engage them more deeply with the Liberal Party barely exist.  Finally, mobilising them for effective political action seems limited to fundraising asks. These things need to be the focus of Liberal activists everywhere if we are to match the political effectiveness of the non-aligned political activist community. With two years until the next General Election, there is more than enough time to build a truly effective electoral database, perhaps even enough to win the next General Election.

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Liberalist 101: The Fundamentals of effective political databases.

I have blogged repeatedly on what the Liberal Party needs to do to effectively contest elections in Canada. THE most important thing that will need to happen is to implement a far more sophisticated approach to populating, managing, and deploying their electoral database; Liberalist. In this post I shall strip down the task to its fundamentals. In order to compete, the Liberals will need to build up Liberalist with many hundreds of thousands of individual names and email addresses. They will need to engage those people ever more deeply with the Liberal Party, and they will need to effectively mobilise resources from their database. There was a fortuitous article in the Globe and Mail that supports, and illustrates much of what I have to say. It is, after all, the Conservative Party who parlayed these techniques into a majority government, so both their successes and failures should be closely analysed if the Liberal Party is to match and surpass their record.

BUILDING THE DATABASE: In order to communicate directly with the electorate, the Liberal Party needs to acquire the means to do so cheaply, and effectively. With the adoption of the Supporter category of membership, the Liberals have clearly determined that the acquisition of a LOT of email addresses is a major priority. The attraction of communicating electronically ought to be obvious to all. Such communications are managed through sophisticated databases, such as Liberalist. There are all sorts of nifty applications available for targeting to, and then measuring, and quantifying reactions to electronic communications. And over all other considerations is the fact that sending emails is essentially FREE. The basic pre-condition to employing them is that you need to collect email addresses for as many people as possible. An analogy that everybody is familiar with is that of print media, building their circulation. The more people who are receiving the publication, the more rewarding advertising in the publication will be. This allows the publication to charge more money for their advertising. The same rationale applies to a political database. The more people who you have email addresses for, the more people are available to you for delivering whatever message it is you wish to convey. The supporter category has proven to be pretty useful tool for the fundamental task of making the initial contact with several hundred thousand Canadians. While that is a good start, it is still only a tiny fraction of potential supporters for the Liberals. The Liberal Party should expand upon the supporter category, and embark upon a continuous, ongoing program to acquire as many electronic contacts as they can. There are many ways to populate a political database with newly acquired contacts. Petitions, event attendees, Leadership and nomination contests. This should be the most basic of tasks for political activists and organisers, to collect the names and means to contact people, so that you can direct future calls to action to them.

ENGAGING WITH SUPPORTERS: The bare fact of regular email communications will start to establish a deeper engagement with the contacts within Liberalist. The Liberal Party will want to carefully start gathering more information about what is of interest to each specific person with whom they have contact. With every email sent, there should be carefully worded calls to action that will tell us something useful about those who respond, and even who do not respond to them. For example, a call to action that requests a small donation to support a specific policy event will identify any people who make a donation as people who feel more strongly about that issue than those who do not respond. In the future, those who donated should definitely be on the distribution list for communications about that issue. Those who failed to respond can be dropped from that list, and the Liberal Party can attempt to engage them on a different front. It is a demonstrable fact that regular feedback and communications is the key to building a relationship, and can be counted on to yield an improving relationship in terms of votes won, money raised, volunteer hours offered, and pretty well all the things that a political Party needs to secure from its supporter base to be competitive.

CALLING SUPPORTERS TO ACTION: The call to action is basically the point of purchase for the Liberal Party. Liberalist will ultimately be used to harvest many different good things from the individuals within it. There will be GOTV emails to get Liberal supporters out to the advance polls. There will be asks for donations to EDA’s, the Central Party, and presumably a number of issue specific funding requests. There will be requests to volunteer for specific, or more generic tasks (like phone banking to support a by-election campaign). In short, the Call to Action is how all the hard work in building Liberalist pays off. As such, it should be designed to do more than just gather donations, or register to attend an event. A properly conceived call to action will quantify and enhance the level of engagement of the recipients, by asking for several things at once. For example, readers can be invited to visit a web page to find out more about the issue. Then a second ask to sign up to receive updates about that particular issue as it develops. Then the meatiest ask of all, to volunteer, or donate to support the activity. This will provide the means to measure more than just the raw fact of who donated, and who did not. It will start to flesh out a more nuanced understanding of where supporters stand on specific questions, and help to target future communications to those most receptive to the message.  It will be the means by which people are more effectively engaged in a dialogue with the Liberal Party.

So you can see that effectively building and exploiting a national database is the key to building up the capacity to contest elections in Canada. There are a great many different initiatives that can support these objectives, and I shall be blogging on exactly that in the future, but the fundamental reality is that the key to victory in the next election is to do these things, and to do them well.

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