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Relational organizing for campaigns: How to engage your audience efficiently

Did you ever wonder why citizens vote on Election Day? And why are some people actively involved in the voting event after the closed polls?

Campaign organizers are constantly racing to harness the latest advancements in targeting and outreach technology. Their tactics include advertising and political messaging, all aiming to understand what motivates voter behavior. 

And one thing we can claim with certainty – individuals cast their votes when it has a personal significance.

As a campaign organizer, you must demonstrate to your audience the importance of engaging in the democratic process. And you can start by asking yourself, how often have you been persuaded to take action by a stranger who shows up at your doorstep asking for something?

Compare that to the number of times you’ve done something because of a family member, a peer, a neighbor, or a work colleague. When we feel a deep connection with principles that align with ours, this inspires us to act on them. 

And this is where relational organizing kicks in. 

Excited to read and learn more? Great, let’s dive in.

What is relational organizing?

Relational organizing is a strategy used in social and political campaigns where individuals leverage their existing relationships to promote a cause, candidate, or movement. 

The practice involves mobilizing personal networks, including friends, family, and colleagues, to participate in the campaign, thereby creating a wider influence. This method is more effective than strangers calling strangers, as the persuasion is based on established trust and mutual respect.

Relational organizing uses existing social relationships to inspire action, leveraging the concept that people are likelier to act when encouraged by someone they know and share values with. 

This approach includes a range of tactics, from simple actions like resharing campaign content on social media to more systematic programs like training supporters to organize their networks. Although more complex tactics require time and resources, they often yield significant and lasting positive effects on supporters and voter turnout.

Which tactics do relational organizers use?

Relational organizing is all about the smart tactics connecting a community. Some of the successful tactics include:

  • Sharing personal stories can create a powerful emotional connection. This can motivate people to take action, as they feel a personal connection to the cause or candidate.
  • Leveraging personal relationships by investing time in building these relationships, understanding the needs and interests of others, and showing genuine empathy.
  • Network mapping by identifying key individuals within your network who have influence can help spread your message. This could be people who are well-connected, respected, or have a large social media following.
  • Clearly and effectively communicating about your cause or candidate’s message. This involves understanding what resonates with your network and tailoring your message accordingly.
  • Keep your network engaged by organizing regular meetings or events, sending updates, and promptly responding to their concerns or questions. The engagement will help to maintain their interest and commitment to the cause or campaign.
  • Training and empowering your network with the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively spread your message. Examples include training sessions, resources, and ongoing support.
  • Using technology to streamline the process of relational organizing. These tools can help track your network, schedule communications, and measure the impact of your efforts.
  • Regularly acknowledging and appreciating the efforts of your network can help sustain their motivation and commitment. This could involve public recognition, rewards, or simply expressing gratitude.

Remember, the key to successful relational organizing is authenticity. It’s about building genuine relationships based on trust and mutual respect, not just using people for your ends.

Simple vs complex tactics

Relational tactics can be one-off actions that utilize personal networks for mobilization without requiring data collection. For instance, asking supporters to encourage friends to vote at the right time. 

More comprehensive relational programs develop supporters into independent organizers. These organizers keep their networks engaged over time, documenting the process and building a permanent local organizing capacity. The tactics often involve data collection and continuous adaptation of the process.

Efficient use of time and resources can be achieved by employing simple and complex tactics. Tactics requiring less lead time may be prioritized as election day nears, while more complex strategies might need more time to effect fully.

Regardless of your relational campaign’s tactic, you need to have the right platform to communicate with your supporters. This fall HubDialer is launching a complete SMS platform to enhance our well-known predictive dialer and further empower relational organizers. Stay tuned for more news about the launch date, pricing, and the 1,000 free text credits available to select customers.

Why does relational organizing work for campaigns and organizations?

Social pressure, although often perceived negatively, is a common influence. Understanding this concept is essential for effective relational organizing strategies, which require considerable finesse. 

Social pressure is the inner drive we experience when someone from our network requests us to act. While negative social pressure can lead to risky behaviors, positive social pressure can foster good habits like regular voting.

Consider a scenario in which you receive a call from your parents during lunch – you’d likely answer, driven by social pressure. Relational organizing strategies leverage this power of personal relationships.

It’s important to distinguish social pressure from shame and train supporters to promote democratic engagement within their networks. Especially when systemic inequality is present, supporters must convey the importance of political participation, understanding that some communities are currently excluded from proper involvement in the political process.

Relational organizing strategies

Incorporating simple relational tactics can enhance the influence of conventional field organizing initiatives on voter turnout during electoral periods. For instance, encouraging supporters to digitally share “commit to vote” cards with their network can do miracles.

Relational organizing strategies go one step further and involve continuous training, feedback, data management, and strategic and tactical planning over the long term. 

Unlike one-way strategies incorporated into Get-Out-The-Vote (GOTV) mobilization, relational organizing strategies require numerous interactions over an extended period to achieve maximum success. 

The more effort and resources your organization invests in a relational organizing strategy over time, the more significant and long-lasting its impact will be. The 2008 campaign of Barack Obama serves as a prominent and successful example of this principle in action. 

Within the scope of a relational organizing strategy, the questions that you should be able to answer include the following:

  • How will supporters evaluate their personal networks?
  • How will you equip individuals who have never discussed political engagement with their friends or family? 
  • What resources will supporters need to communicate the message and persuade others?
  • How will you collaborate with other campaigns to ensure your actions move in the right direction?
  • How will you motivate and help your supporters?
  • What opportunities will supporters have if they want to take over more organizing roles? 

When set up with long-term thinking, relational organizing becomes a system that needs to reinforce the connection between individual motivation and collective action. If you empower your supporters, you will help them become independent organizers and take over more responsibility.

Your strategy needs to cultivate a growing community of individuals who share common values and feel a strong personal influence over the issues that affect them.

The goal of a long-term relational organizing strategy should be to activate individuals as politically engaged citizens who feel they have a stake in the nation’s democracy. 

The importance of data

The role of data in every part of your organizing efforts is vital. Whether setting a primary voting target or pinpointing and prioritizing communities, you need data that guide your strategy.

Collecting, managing, and applying data effectively has been identified as one of the most demanding aspects of a relational organizing program. Nevertheless, if you incorporate data collection and management when mapping out your relational organizing strategy, you will be more prepared for the execution of campaigns.

Your data should answer this question: are we effective in organizing efforts, and are they contributing towards our goals?

You can be simple with data collection and validation; ensure it works. Toolkits that use spreadsheets in Google Forms can be equally functional for collecting and managing data for smaller-scale relational organizing programs.

Some of the questions to measure your progress could be:

  • How many supporters have committed to working with you?
  • What is the volunteer feedback on discussing politics with friends and family?
  • How can you confirm if a supporter who got a voting reminder text voted?

If you have the right strategy, tactics and data process in place for your relational organizing, you can start thinking about leveraging field tactics using tools such as SMS texting.

Using texting campaigns to boost your relational organizing efforts

One of the most potent activities for relational organizing is SMS campaigns. You can improve your campaigns on many different levels when set up correctly.

So how can you use texting for relational organizing? Here are some ideas and best practices.

  • Use peer-to-peer (P2P) texting to reach many people quickly. Plus, it allows for two-way communication, making engaging and mobilizing supporters easier.
  • Relational organizing requires managing a robust volunteer base. You need a group of dedicated volunteers to organize a successful peer-to-peer texting campaign. Whether you are an advocacy organization, a non-profit or a campaign – you should focus on recruiting and training many volunteers to maximize the reach.
  • Personalize text messages to build stronger relationships and evoke better responses. Personalized messages are the closest thing to a one-on-one conversation.
  • Segmenting contact lists allows for targeted messaging. By identifying and grouping contacts based on specific characteristics, you can tailor the texting messages to resonate with different groups, improving the campaign’s effectiveness.
  • Message testing is a valuable tool for determining the most effective communication strategies. Experiment with different text message styles, tones, and content to identify which messages are most successful in engaging and mobilizing the contacts.
  • Collecting volunteer data about their interactions with contacts can provide valuable insight into the campaign’s success. And those insights help organizers make necessary adjustments and refine the campaign strategy. Using SMS broadcast messaging is an easy way to reach out to many volunteers and activate them. Just make sure you constantly check texting reports and statistics.
  • Use peer-to-peer texting, social media, and in-person talks to reach a broad audience and build relationships with voters.
  • Relational organizing involves mobilizing individuals already familiar with the cause – focus your efforts on those more likely to support the campaign. Again, use peer-to-peer texting with segmented lists of people with the most significant value for your campaign.
  • Ensure your volunteers are well-versed with the texting platform and understand the campaign goals
  • Send follow-up texts to keep contacts engaged and remind them of important actions or events

As you can see, there are plenty of possibilities for enhancing your relational organizing efforts with texting campaigns. While you may not be able to implement all of them, you can try out the ones that make the most sense for your campaign.

Key takeaways

Relational organizing offers a more practical approach to engaging and mobilizing supporters by leveraging personal relationships, building trust, and tapping into the power of social connections. 

Campaigns can create a lasting impact and foster a community of politically engaged citizens by utilizing tactics such as sharing personal stories, leveraging networks, and using peer-to-peer texting. 

Once you start working on your campaign, sign up with HubDialer and harness the tools needed to achieve your relational organizing goals!

Take HubDialer for a test drive with 500 free minutes! Get your account up and running in minutes with no set up fee or credit card required.

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