How Political Campaigns Got the Voter Experience Wrong

the voter experience is impacted by many factors long before the election

This political campaign cycle was a record-breaking one. Not only did a record number of people vote, but campaign spending and alternative voting submissions were up as well. Unfortunately, election stress rates were also much higher, representing a “significant cause of stress” to over 67% of Americans. There are a number of reasons voters felt the pressure from the polls, but there was one issue that could have been resolved in advance: poor campaign communications.

Overall, the voting process itself was highly effective in 2020, but campaign communication channels were not. While there are significant differences between business and politics, the lessons of customer journeys can be applied specifically to this one area: omni-channel does not mean omni-message. If political campaigns learn the lessons presented here, they may see higher engagement with social media posts as well as better response rates to email and SMS campaigns.

The Campaign Challenges Of 2020

Political campaigns thrive when they engage and activate voters, but doing this during a pandemic was even more difficult than usual. Pandemic fears cut door-knocking efforts short. Rallies, in-person planning, and traditional fundraising were all more difficult than in years past as well. This led to the expanded adoption of new technologies that had already entered the political marketplace, like SMS campaigning, as well as increased spending on advertising campaigns on digital platforms and television channels.

The Rise of SMS Campaigns

While many channels were used to reach voters, 2020’s election cycle was been defined by SMS messages. The technology to deliver these messages is fairly sophisticated. Tools like Spoke have backends that let campaign managers select audiences, assign groups to volunteers, and more, all based on geography, propensity to vote, and other demographics. 

These systems allow a volunteer to send over a hundred messages each minute. The Trump campaign alone reported over 1 billion text messages sent before election day. In fact, election experts believe at least 3 billion political SMS messages have been sent to American voters in 2020. Even with generous rounding, this works out to be an average of 12 text messages per US voter. Some people have received far more.

Greater Reach Can Overwhelm Voters’ Experience 

The reason SMS campaigns work is that they reach a huge swath of potential voters using a preferred device that most people have on their person at all times. During a global pandemic, text messaging was one of the most reliable ways to speak to voters directly.

SMS campaigns can frustrate if they are redundantThis direct access did come with a risk. Campaigns can frustrate the recipients of their messages if their communications are too frequent or irrelevant. This usually results in an opt-out.

In 2020, however, many political organizations were reaching out to voters, often for the same reasons. When a voter had already opted out of receiving texts from a candidate, they may have been surprised or frustrated to receive a similar message from an affiliated campaign.

Tailor Communications For Better Political Campaign CX

candidates shape the voter experience, but often they dont share data to support cohesive experiences.

Businesses can influence customer decisions by personalizing the experience, reacting in real-time, and breaking down data silos. The voter experience can benefit from these approaches as well. To influence voters, campaigns must appeal to their individual preferences. Unfortunately, the data to do this is often siloed. Parties, their candidates, and affiliated organizations are often unable or unwilling to share behavioral data. This makes synchronizing communications more difficult.

Instead of storing data at the campaign level, campaigns, database providers, and national parties should store voter information as an individual record. This would allow candidates to focus on activating voters who aligned with them. It would also help parties use more relevant messaging after the primaries. Even beyond the end of election season, the data gained for analytics could help parties identify which policies voters most support in real-time.

Building an Omnichannel Voter Experience

Political campaigns, political parties, and activists need to redesign how they target and communicate with voters. This starts by learning from the field of journey management. To do this they need to listen and respond to voter communication preferences and personalize content for individual voters on any channel.

Cross-Campaign Preferences

Reach voters where they prefer to interact. By linking communications across campaigns, fewer duplicate or redundant messages will be sent. Volunteers can then spend more time reaching a wider audience. When campaigns share an overall goal, this extra time and saved money means more people receive their messages.

Even if candidates do not wish to share information during a primary, their party as a whole can benefit from the data they have each gathered when that primary is over. When the time comes to consolidate around a candidate, having this cross-campaign data can allow for higher rates of voter activation through more personalized communications.

Personalized Messaging For Voter Engagement

Another critical step is personalizing content for individual voters. Because each voter has different issues that matter to them, only specific messaging appeals to each individual. Often, they are more than willing to tell you this information if you ask. This might be in an interactive ad, an email survey, or simply listening on the web. Then when you communicate with voters, individually amplify messaging that resonates with them in particular. By personalizing the experience, campaigns can achieve better engagement with their content and be less frustrating to voters.

Personalizing in real-time is a challenge that journey orchestration is designed to solve. By listening to individual voters across channels, making decisions about those individuals in real-time, and then delivering the best next message, campaigns can see better results from their efforts.

Electing For Better Voter Experiences

2020 has been a challenging year for many industries and political campaigns are no exception. With the right investments in customer journeys, campaigns can leverage SMS, email, and digital ads in new and more impactful ways that also minimize election stress. If you’re interested in building better experiences whether they are for voters or customers, we encourage you to read the customer journey maturity model. It serves as a handy guide to building the customer journey at your organization.