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How to Manage Remote Texting and Calling Programs During COVID-19

Maintaining a high quality calling and texting program is still possible. Here’s how.

The Get Thru Team

While we know COVID-19 has changed political campaigning, the verdict is still out on what that future will exactly look like. One thing we do know for certain is that the pivot from door-knocking and canvassing to virtual voter contact is here to stay for the rest of the year. 

GetThru’s peer-to-peer remote texting platform, ThruText, and next generation dialer, ThruTalk, is built for campaigns that need to pivot, but finding the right software is only step one in building a high quality calling and texting operation. The good news is that GetThru’s team has spent years working in the trenches of progressive campaigns and organizations, and we rounded up a short list of best practices to scale-up your remote texting and calling operation this fall. 

Tips for Running a High Quality Phone Banking Program

The honest truth? Managing a remote phone banking program is not very different than managing an in-person phone banking program. Many of the same best practices are still important: it’s vital to maintain centralized space for callers to gather, build a strong retention plan is essential, and create accountability measures for your callers. As you begin to get your virtual phone banking program off the ground, keep in mind the following: 

  • Organize, organize, organize: When developing your virtual phone banking program, create set times for caller shifts, caller training, and, of course, the calls themselves. This not only signals to volunteers you are running an organized program, but also makes planning for future calls easier.
  • Caller and recruitment and retention is vital: Your virtual calling program is not complete without solid recruitment and retention plans that include shifting to priority times, reminders, confirmations, follow-ups to no-shows, and check-ins when callers leave shift. 
  • Maintain a digital office: Having a designated virtual space where volunteers can go if they have questions, want to hear updates, or share information is crucial. This could be a Slack, Facebook group, Discord or something else entirely. No matter what you choose, decide on a platform that will be most accessible to your volunteers and ensure everyone knows that space is your virtual HQ. Keep in mind that not all volunteers will use the office space, but the ones who do will make more calls.
  • Accountability matters: Create a culture of accountability and structure for your callers, and reference the guidelines you created prior to pivoting to virtual calls. You can use nightly report cards that you send to callers to inform them of their performance. Encourage callers to stay for their entire shift similar to how they would during an in-person shift. Lastly, collect feedback from callers on their experience volunteering with you, it will allow for you to improve your program. 

Tips for Running a High Quality Texting Program

Running a texting program is similar to a calling program but can be done with a more hands-off or hands-on approach depending on your program's capacity and volunteer numbers. You have the option of running timed text banks and open text banks.  A time textbank functions similar to an in-person textbank where you select a set number of hours during a day volunteers will be responsible for sending and responding to their assigned text messages. An open textbank is typically longer and allows for volunteers to send messages and respond to them throughout the day instead of during designated hours. No matter what you decide to do, the following tips will help ensure you are getting the most out of your volunteers valuable time together.

  • Record training webinars and videos: ThruText’s Texting for Senders training video is one of our most popular videos in our Help Center because it saves Texting admins crucial time when training volunteer senders on the basics of using the ThruText Messenger. Don’t stop at the Sender training video, however. If you have additional information that is specific to your campaign, recording your own training videos or webinars and distributing them to new volunteers is recommended as well since no one knows your campaign as well as you do.
  • Quizzes: Learning is best measured when it’s applied. Have volunteers take a short quiz on the platform before getting started. The quiz doesn’t have to be exhaustive and we recommend keeping it to 10 minutes or less. The goal is to ensure key takeaways are reinforced and provide detailed reasons on why an answer was incorrect if a volunteer gets it incorrect.
  • Info sheet and FAQ’s: Questions will come up during text conversations that a volunteer will struggle to answer. Having info sheets or FAQ’s available will allow texters to quickly refer back to it real time making sure they are providing accurate information in their responses.
  • Maintain a digital HQ: Like with calling, providing a way for volunteers to connect, ask questions, and get help is crucial to running an effective texting program. Slack is a popular option for many campaigns, but SMS chats, Facebook Groups and WhatsApp Groups can work just as well. Whatever you decide, try to pick a platform that has the lowest barrier of entry for your volunteers.

Conclusion

Shifting to a digital-first or digital only voter contact program may sound intimidating, particularly if you’ve historically used these programs to supplement in-person efforts. But with the proper preparation and management, you can maximize the effectiveness of not only your volunteers but also the tools. GetThru offers free training and strategy sessions for clients covering a wide range of topics. If your campaign or organization is interested, email success@getthru.io to learn more.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

The Get Thru Team

GetThru was created by veterans of Bernie 2016, where we helped build the campaign’s historic voter contact operation. In the process, we saw the need for better technology for large scale 1-to-1 communication that reaches people where they are—on their cell phones.

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