Election 2019: When a campaign grossly misuses its volunteer resources

by Dale Richardson, Founder & Director at 306 Media & Communications

As the federal election recently kicked off recently, the Regina Leader-Post ran a story. Overall, it was a pretty standard run-of-the-mill feature that had quotes from many local candidates and organizers from all the major parties in the city.

In the story, people were quoted about what their respective campaign was doing as the election got underway: putting up lawn signs, making phone calls, raising money…general campaign stuff.

But something really stuck out to me in this story. Here’s the couple of lines:

Regina — Lewvan NDP candidate Jigar Patel is also putting his money into billboards. He said he’ll have five in total at key locations like the corner of Dewdney Avenue and Lewvan Drive.

That’s where Patel supporters spent a rainy afternoon greeting passing vehicles. About 50 volunteers joined Patel to occupy all four corners of the intersection and greet passing motorists with a sea of orange signs.

A good example of how NOT to use volunteers during a campaign. Credit: Regina Leader-Post

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. Did the reporter just say that a campaign had 50 volunteers together at one time?

And second, did those 50 volunteers accomplish absolutely nothing that was tangible to winning the campaign?

Yes. I did read that.

In campaigns — whether they are municipal, federal, provincial, school board, whatever — there are only two things that matter: knowing where your supporters are and getting those supporters out to vote on election day.

For a campaign to get 50 volunteers together and choose to have them stand on a street corner, where absolutely ZERO doors were knocked and they got ZERO supporter IDs, is an absolutely stunning tactical mistake.

To put things into perspective, campaigns usually have very few volunteers. Most of the time, a campaign is lucky to have more than five volunteers helping out at any single time, and those people are usually the most dedicated volunteers and are there every day.

Generic door knocking photo

With resources on campaigns being scarce, volunteers must be used effectively. Yes, volunteers should be used to call supporters, raise money, put up lawn signs, and other various and important tasks.

But the biggest and most important task for volunteers and anyone working on a campaign is to knock on doors and identify supporters so that on election day the campaign can get those voters to the polls.

The goal, I’m assuming, of having those fifty volunteers stand on a street corner with signs was to raise awareness for their candidate (a candidate who is widely expected to lose badly in Regina-Lewvan, by the way) — an understandable but misguided effort by the campaign.

Candidate awareness on campaigns is accomplished by using billboards, lawn signs, social media, radio, and other means of advertising, and it’s certainly a very important part of a campaign.

But the best campaigns use their volunteers, regardless of how many there are, to knock doors and identify supporters. Plain and simple.

That’s how campaigns are won.

Conservative Party leader Andrew Scheer door knocking

Need help with a campaign? Dale has worked on municipal, provincial, and issue-based campaigns. Contact him: dale@306media.ca

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Owned and operated by Dale Richardson, 306 Media & Communications is a Saskatchewan-based consulting agency that specializes in PR and communications.

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