ELECTIONS: Texting Program Organizer Guide
Welcome to the Texting Program Organizer Guide! This is intended to be near-comprehensive resource for getting your campaign's texting program off the ground. It covers the digital tools and infrastructure you'll need to set up, the volunteer materials you'll need to prepare, how to build up your team, and how to manage Spoke.
Peer-to-peer texting is an immensely powerful tool for Left electoral campaigns to unleash the potential of trained volunteers to efficiently reach large numbers of voters with the campaign’s core message, while empowering those volunteers to have real and meaningful conversations with both voters and supporters.
Peer-to-peer texting programs can be broken down into two major functions: voter contact and supporter mobilization. Voter contact means texting lists of voters in order to identify their level of support (voter ID), persuade them to support your candidate, and get confirmed supporters to turn out to vote (GOTV). Supporter mobilization means texting your campaign’s list of supporters (volunteers, donors, website signups) in order to recruit them to volunteer, attend an event, donate to the campaign, etc. This guide will have a focus on voter contact, though the core principles and systems described here are generally applicable to both types of texting.
This guide will describe how to set up a peer-to-peer texting program using Spoke Rewired, which we believe offers the most powerful set of features at the lowest price ($0.01/segment) of any tool on the market. Spoke Rewired is a highly scaleable, dynamic and easy-to-use tool for admins and texters.
You will need a highly reliable online communications platform in order to coordinate your peer-to-peer texting program. Slack is a free and easy-to-use online messaging program that allows your team to have multiple live conversations, neatly organized into different channels and threads. While some newer open-source tools (e.g., Discord) can now provide similar functionality, Slack is still generally considered to be the most powerful and reliable and will therefore be recommended in this guide. Do not try to coordinate your texting program via email, WhatsApp, or group text. Slack’s ability to keep your conversations clear and organized makes it well-worth the (relatively minor) extra training and support needed to get volunteers onboarded and comfortable using the platform.
Admin resources and volunteer materials can be easily created, stored, and organized using Google Drive, Docs, Sheets, Forms, and Slides. This guide will provide templates of said resources and materials that you can copy, edit, and adapt for your campaign’s texting program.
GETTING STARTED: ADMIN INFRASTRUCTURE
A peer-to-peer texting program is a kind of distributed organizing system, which means it requires a significant up-front investment of time and attention to prepare the digital infrastructure that admins and volunteers will rely upon to accomplish their work in an entirely online and remote setting. This section will cover the admin infrastructure you’ll need in place before you launch your texting program.
Sign up for Spoke Rewired
If you don't yet have a Spoke Rewired account, you can sign up for one here. You should hear back and be granted access to your new account in a matter of days.
Acquire Voter Data
You will need to purchase voter data from your state or county elections office(s), VAN, or if you’re in California, PDI. You only need to purchase voters with valid cell numbers, since peer-to-peer texting only reaches cell phones, not landlines. If you’re in California, PDI generally offers the most accurate and up-to-date data available. You can quickly and easily filter various PDI lists here, searching your district and then applying the “HAS MOBILE PHONE” criteria to your search. You can then further narrow your search by various demographic information, depending on your budget for data and texting.
Develop Voter ID Script
A key component of your voter contact texting will be voter ID work: texting campaigns designed to identify voters’ level of support for your candidate on a 1-5 scale. You will need to develop a script ahead of time that includes an initial message that will be sent to your entire voter universe asking if they will support your candidate, as well as messages designed to respond to voters who reply indicating varying levels of support. It’s important that you take time to carefully craft a clear and concise initial message that introduces your candidate, summarizes their most central message, and asks for support. You should send your draft script to campaign leadership for feedback and approval well in advance of launching your texting program. You can request a sample Voter ID script outline at email@example.com
Create Campaign Tracker
If you’re building and managing texting campaigns in your own Spoke account, it’s best to have a campaign tracker spreadsheet that will help your admin team track and coordinate its work. Your campaign tracker will be where you can quickly and easily see all your texting campaigns, their number and current status, who built them, and any notes left by the builder. It will also provide a checklist for proofing campaigns. You can view a request a campaign tracker template at firstname.lastname@example.org
Sign up for Rebrandly
You will frequently need to send links while texting voters and supporters. You can generate links that are short, branded, and less likely to be blocked by cell carriers by creating a Rebrandly account and purchasing a custom domain. Rebrandly is free to use and domains typically cost between $2-$35. Once you purchase a domain, you can create unlimited custom links associated with that doman. You can create an account with Rebrandly here.
GETTING STARTED: VOLUNTEER MATERIALS
Volunteers are the beating heart of any distributed organizing program and peer-to-peer texting perfectly illustrates that point. Enabling and empowering volunteers with clear and thorough resources is key to running a successful texting program. Three online resources are absolutely critical: training slides, your Team FAQ, and your Slack workspace.
Your training slides will be what you use to train new volunteer texters before they are invited into Slack or Spoke. Training slides should provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of what a texting volunteer will need to text using Spoke and coordinate with your team on Slack. Ideally, all volunteer texters should attend a live online training that reviews the training slides, though a pre-recorded video covering the slides can also be used. You can request a template for your training slides at email@example.com
No matter how comprehensive your training slides are, your volunteer texters are bound to have plenty of questions. Your Team FAQ will be the first place texting volunteers look in order to find answers to their common questions. This will allow your admin team (and/or moderators) to focus their attention on answering more complex questions in Slack that can’t be easily addressed in the FAQ. The FAQ should include common questions from both texters and voters. It should cover biographical and political summaries of the candidate, as well as succinct descriptions of their position on the most important and controversial issues of the race. You can request a template for your Team FAQ at firstname.lastname@example.org
If your campaign does not already use Slack, you’ll want to set up a new workspace for your texting team. You can read how to create a new workspace here. Once in your new workspace, create a new #texting channel and set the channel description so that volunteers know that all questions and conversations about texting should happen here. Then, set the channel description in #general to make it clear that that’s where all non-texting-related announcements and discussion will take place. Once channel descriptions are set, edit the channel topics to include important links that volunteers will regularly be referencing while texting. For example, you can set the topic for #texting include links to the FAQ, training slides, and the candidate’s platform page. The most important thing to post to the #general channel is the link texting volunteers will need to join Spoke. You may also want to create a private #admins channel for those who are managing your texting program. Links posted as channel topics will need to be shortened, ideally using branded links created in rebrandly. (If your campaign already has a Slack workspace, then all you’ll need to do is create a new #texting channel that includes links volunteer materials and to join Spoke in the channel topic. You’ll also likely want to create a private #texting-admins channel.)
Just as important as the structure of your Slack workspace is the culture you create in it with your volunteer texting team. Make sure to set a workplace icon so that your workspace looks official and people are excited to join. You’ll also want to set a profile photo and encourage all other admins and texters to do the same, so that people can get to know one another. (Profile photos don’t necessarily have to be a picture of the person; they can be of a favorite place, pet, etc.) Finally, it’s worth taking a little extra time to add some fun custom emojis to your workspace. You can browse a free library of custom emojis here.
BUILDING YOUR TEXTING TEAM
Once you’ve prepared your admin infrastructure and volunteer materials, you’ll need to recruit your team of volunteer texters. Reaching out to local chapter members and/or people who have signed up to volunteer are good places to start. Since most down-ballot races have relatively modest and manageable voter lists, you should be able to handle your voter universe with between 5-15 well-trained and committed volunteers, depending on the size of your voter universe and the technical literacy of your volunteers. In general, it’s better to have fewer texting volunteers that are competent and reliable, rather than large numbers of volunteers who demand constant support and are flakey. When reaching out to volunteers, briefly describe the texting program and why it’s important, then invite them to a live online training to get started!
The way in which you onboard new texting volunteers is an important mechanism for ensuring that everyone on your team has access to the same resources and is prepared to begin texting with your campaign. The first step is to invite new texter recruits to a live online training (Zoom is a good option). Make sure they register to attend the training, so you collect their contact information. At the end of the training, you should invite all those in attendance to join your Slack workspace by sharing the custom invite link in the chat. Allocate 5-10 minutes at the end of the training to actively support and troubleshoot people creating a Slack account and getting into the workspace. You can then post the Spoke login information in Slack so that texting volunteers are able to create a Spoke account, which they will need to start texting. Going through this ordered process will guarantee that all your texters are trained, in Slack, and in Spoke. Do not invite new recruits directly into Spoke without first making sure they are trained and in Slack. This will only cause you headaches down the line.
Note: If you want to add an extra layer of training and accountability to your onboarding process, you can also require new trainees to pass a simple online quiz that covers the training material. Those that pass the quiz should be automatically invited to your Slack workspace.
Schedule Texting Sessions
Texting is usually a periodic activity, with interchanging periods of high activity and low activity, centered around Voter ID and GOTV campaigns. To provide a reliable schedule for your volunteers and to ensure that they’ll have the live support of admins or moderators in Slack while texting, you’ll want to schedule specific texting sessions. A good rule of thumb is to schedule 2-3 sessions, each several hours, over 2-3 consecutive days when you think most of your volunteers will be available during the week following your first training. For example, you may schedule texting sessions from Mon-Wed from 6:00-9:00 PM after holding a weekend training. After your first complete session, you’ll get a better sense of how long it’s taking your team of volunteers to get through texts and can schedule additions sessions as needed.
There are a number of ways to organize and customize how you build and manage campaigns in Spoke, but it’s crucial that you take a systematic approach in order to avoid errors and ensure consistency between campaigns created by different admins. For a detailed step-by-step guide to campaign building, go here.
Scripting Initial Messages
A campaign’s initial message will be sent to its entire voter or supporter universe and will play a large role in determining both how many people respond to start a conversation and the nature of those conversations. Initial messages should be clear, concise, and compelling. They can usually be broken down into three parts: an introduction, an argument, and an ask. The introduction greets the textee and introduces the texter. The argument makes a case for why the textee should yes to the ask. The ask makes a direct request of the textee, including any logistical details (e.g., date/time) they may need to give an informed answer. For more details about how to write effective scripts and for example scripts, please read this article.
To learn more about managing campaigns and administering Spoke, please browse our Knowledge Base.