Folks, the political field needs to up its game. And until voting includes a virtual reality program that allows you to punch the candidates you don’t want representing you we need better solutions for voter engagement and mobilization.
Political parties and their smaller public interest group friends haven’t all transitioned into modern activist organizations. It used to be they managed coalition and machine politics. Today, they’re tech companies acting like whips for patronage and defenders of their constituents.
The core business of parties and interest groups today is data management. Their primary concern should be to build and clean data so they can communicate with the different sectors of their interests. Their infrastructure should focus on dynamic pathways of communication knowing these paths will be fluid and provided by third-party vendors. That’s the modern model for politics.
What parties have to focus on are finding those dynamic pathways that are the most efficient and that their constituents can adopt for their own.
Restaurant and entertainment venues consider everything about your evening out in the concept phase of building their business. Attention to detail and proper planning make for a better experience for the customer, and they reward these companies with higher spending.
The user experience (UX) is the central part of any business in the hospitality industry. For tech companies, it is the primary concern among the competition for apps. It is what keeps people on the platform and and coming back to their seats.
The UX also exists in politics, but not enough attention is on it as a core component of the campaign and party operations. The user experience includes everything in politics. It encompasses everything about your constituents and their possible relation with the organization.
Knowing your brand is not the same as knowing what your UX means to people.
Not every political organization today has been able to identify its user experience. They have a bag of tricks to get their constituents to give money or do calls to action. But, few political organizations put constant attention into the overall experience they have with the public.
It used to be that the political cycle was a four year period of presidential elections with a midterm bump in activity. There would be high activity in presidential years and low turnout in off years. Fundraising has become a constant, but actual action use to not be as meaningful in the same way.
Public action is now a constant necessity because a lapse in interest becomes a lapse in the user experience. People need to stay connected in modern politics, but we also have the technology to help people stay connected. Only a lazy organization would stop engaging their constituents with calls to action and engagement.
The cycle is now two years, always. The reason is that voter rolls get purged in massive amounts before important elections as a political tactic. Purges have become a standard tool in the Republican arsenal to win elections in crucial states. Tolerating this action is the highest form of fraud for any political organization because you’re saying their money is good enough for you, but not their vote. Expulsions put every political organization on code red to protect their constituents and their issue.
Issue organizations have to have stronger ties to these constituents. They can’t just manage a donor list they can tap. And they can’t just email a list of activists who will show up and write letters. Today’s organization has to be more engaged and manage a voter list they can verify and protect. Downtime is a thing of the past. The days of constant engagement are here, and you need to have a UX plan.
It is ironic, Republicans take a profoundly undemocratic action, and the only way to fight back is actually to take an action that leads to greater democracy.
90% of Politics is Showing Up
Who showed up in 2018 and why? Interest groups should have already been looking at these questions ahead of 2020. Public relations campaigns focus on who, what, and why and build attention from there. That’s an older model that doesn’t reap the same rewards we see in UX. We are often more focused on the who and what in this circumstance than anything else.
The UX process starts with internal reflection. We are more focused on why people use our product and creating excitement out of its utility. So we start by answering why then what, and how.
A political organization’s why is always its values. Our why is the issue people act on that ends with voting, the what. The environmentalist votes to protect the earth. The environmental organization exists to push people to action to protect the planet. The most important action they can push for is a vote. Without the vote, there is nobody with a favorable ear to lobby. The how is how we vote. It doesn’t matter how hard anyone makes it to vote. Our UX will make it so that people want to vote because we are always telling them why and how.
Data Management Strategy
Each organization is going to be different in who they target, but they all have to be engaged, or they will be replaced. Political organizations and professional groups used to add value to their primary focus by offering insurance, specialized education, and other services for members. These services are a part of the UX. But they don’t go to core interest, so they are just throwaways like hat night at a baseball game.
Voters and everyone purged from 2018 are the first people to protect- tier one. Tier two are the people who showed in 2016, but not in 2018. These people are likely to show up in 2020 and need to be re-energized. Our tier three voters are our infrequent and expansion voters.
This scheme is nothing new. It’s not complicated, and anybody who has run a field program in any tight race has done something similar. Data managers should be driving this process and need to be looking at the long game laid out here.
Technology has opened up all kinds of new paths for efficiency in communications. Blending the best data management plan with strong vendors who can provide online backend communications support for social media and dynamic online advertising will become the future platform model for political organizations.
This model might sound complicated, but campaigns need to adapt as technology and costs change. The reality is that staff who can manage these processes are a low skill resource in the industry, but they are of high value. Most of them are college students, and online management doesn’t require coding skills if you use the right platform.
It’s an exciting time to be in politics if you care about why you’re there.