For those of us who live in safely Democratic states, or who want to make a difference for Obama halfway across the country, change is only a phone call away. Phonebanking is a great way to get involved and volunteer for the campaign from the comfort and safety of your own home. This page has a lot of useful advice about phonebanking: how to do it, why to do it, and the truth behind some phonebanking myths. If you have any advice to add, please don't hesitate to do so!
Official Campaign Links Edit
Obama Phonebanking Page at barackobama.com
Official Campaign Phonebanking Tips at barackobama.com
Tips: How to (Ba)Rock A Phone Bank Edit
Copied pretty much wholesale from Elise's phonebanking diary. Will remove upon request.
- Obviously you need to decide where you're going to do your volunteering. I hope that it will be for Barack Obama, but these tips pretty much apply everywhere, so those of you volunteering elsewhere can put them to use as well. I personally prefer to call and arrange volunteer time. I have very little available time these days, so I want to use it most effectively. If I show up to volunteer and all the phones are already occupied (this is a rarity, but it has happened on occasion in my long history of volunteering), then my time isn't being used wisely.
- Calling ahead isn't necessary, however, and most campaigns can always use the help you're willing to offer. Even on the rare occasion you stop by and the phones are occupied, there's almost always something else you can do in the office to help. Tallying up those phone calls, entering data, making signs for an upcoming event, writing a letter to the editor that folks can use as a starting point for their own, etc.
- You can also phonebank from home using the campaign's web phonebanking resource. A link is above.
- Showing up for duty. Wear comfortable clothes. That doesn't mean you can't wear your business suit if you're coming from work (or whatever you wear to work), but you will likely be sitting for a while, and I don't know about you, but I'm a big fan of comfort - jeans and a t-shirt (or campaign gear - nothing like showing some spirit!), bring a sweater in case it's cold.
- Based on my experience in Iowa (where I got a terrible cold), I would also recommend bringing cough drops. Campaign offices usually have coffee or tea or other drinks available for you to drink (and you can certainly contribute to the efforts of volunteers by bringing some along yourself), but there's also typically a shop nearby where you can run to grab something as well. I usually keep a bottle of water in my car so I have one. In Iowa I was very glad for the coffee shop across the street from the office. Without hot tea I wouldn't have been able to talk long.
- Jeez! When are we going to get to the actual calls?!
- We're getting there...
- Once you're there and prepared - ask for directions. There are several things you need to know -
- 1. Why are you phone banking?
- 2. Is there an event to advertise?
- If yes, make sure you have the details in front of you at all times. Know the location, phone number, and if possible, have a sense of directions for the folks you'll be calling - especially if you're an out of town volunteer. "Oh, it's just over at the Washington school on Clybourn St." I like to use a somewhat casual and yet professional tone. Offer to answer questions.
- Also, I like to lead calls with an event if there is one - if you're calling to offer someone something, they are a lot more likely to let you keep talking to them afterwards than if you're just calling to ask them a bunch of questions. Lead with the event invite and details and then ask the questions you need answered...the conversation flows much better this way.
- 3. Is there a script? How important is it for you to stick 100% to that script?
- Make sure you have all the materials you need and that you understand them.
- 4. Who are we calling?
- Know the demographics. Are the folks you're calling from blue collar communities? Rural? Urban? Wealthier? Poor? Middle class? What are the issues they are likely to care about - and do you have a handle on those issues. If not, do your best to ask the campaign for information so that you CAN get a handle on those issues.
- 5. Are there talking points - does the campaign have responses you can provide to callers with "Frequently Asked Questions"?
- In Iowa we were asking people if they would be caucusing for Obama. If the person on the phone said that they were supporting someone else I would ask why and then make an attempt to persuade them over to Obama - using whatever issue/concern they had against their chosen candidate.
- An example:
Joe: Oh, I'm planning on voting for Edwards because he's against the war.
Me: I completely understand your frustration (if that's how they sound - or maybe anger? Depends on the call) with the war. Actually, this is one of the reasons I chose Obama over Edwards. I really like Senator Edwards, but did you know that he actually co-sponsored the resolution that gave President Bush the blank check to take us into war? Senator Edwards had a lapse in judgment here, and for me, it was an awfully large mistake. Senator Obama has been against the war since back in 2002 when he was running for Senate in Illinois.
- Sometimes Joe's response was immediate - he would switch and support Obama instead. Sometimes Joe needed a little more convincing, maybe he wanted to discuss another issue, etc. Sometimes Joe was immovable. Whatever response you get, obviously you work with it and you do your best. But I'm getting a little ahead of the steps here...
- Once you know why you're calling and you have all the information you need, you're almost ready to get on the phones. Almost, but not quite.
- Before I pick up a phone and start talking to people I like to mentally prepare. Read the script that you're supposed to use several times. If you sound like you're reading a script, the caller will know. If you get flustered with wording and make mistakes while reading, the caller will definitely know. In order to prevent this, rephrase sentences that you aren't comfortable with. Make sure the meaning stays the same, but you can definitely retool something minor like that if it will help you sound better on the phones.
- Don't just prepare for talking to actual people, prepare for leaving messages as well. Is there an alternative and shorter script included for leaving messages? Don't just know that it's there, familiarize yourself with that one too because depending on the time you're calling, you may end up leaving quite a few more messages than you'd anticipate.
- Calls. Finally! Aren't you excited!! (I know, I'm weird.)
- Obviously you want to follow the script in a comfortable way. Some important things to note about calls.
- 1. Sound friendly and human.
"Hi, this is Elise and I'm calling from Barack Obama's office here in XXX to invite you to an event with Michelle Obama next Monday at 3pm at the XYZ Club on 3rd Street."
- You can ask them if they've ever had the opportunity to see Michelle before, or just how they're doing, or you can comment on the weather, "I sure hope the snow gets cleared before she arrives so it will be easy for everyone to come out and see her!"
- Now obviously friendly and human aren't always going to work. Sometimes people are just having a bad day. Depending on how many campaign calls they've gotten - they may be in the mood to kick the next person who calls in the shins. Even if one person hangs up on you and calls you a "pesky bitch" (yes, that's happened to me), you hang up and start the next call with the same friendly tone you started the last one with. If you need to take 3 minutes in between to breathe, by all means, breathe, but you will have better results by starting off with a friendly tone.
- 2. Stay on message.
- Don't stray too much from the purpose of your call. If the person you're on the phone with starts giving you life history - and they are definitely voting for someone else, find a way to get off the phone.
- 3. Always always always be polite.
- No matter how rude someone on the phone may be, you must remember that you are a representative of that campaign when you're making that call. Even if that person isn't voting for you it is imperative for you to be polite and to represent the campaign to the best of your ability.
- What do you do when someone calls you a "pesky bitch", or some other name?
"Well, I'm sorry you feel that way, sir. I hope you change your mind and that we'll see you at the event on Monday at 3pm..."(give all details again if possible before person hangs up on you).
- If someone complains that you've called them too many times -
"I'm sorry to hear that. I don't work for the campaign myself, I'm just a volunteer, so I really don't know who they've called just that the calls really do need to be made."
- Stating that you're a volunteer usually gets the person to stop being pissy. They realize that you're just a voter like they are and they also realize that instead of spending your free time watching TV, you're helping your favorite candidate instead. This can sometimes change the dynamic of the call because sometimes those folks want to know exactly what it was about the candidate that got you to give up your free time.
- 4. Answer their questions.
- If you are personally unable to answer their questions, and the campaign hasn't provided you with literature that answers them - don't just get off the phone. Ask the person when you, or someone else from the campaign, can call back with the answer. Make a note on your call sheet and make sure to mention this to the person in charge of the phone bank. If you can call back yourself, great. If not, make sure someone else will. If you tell someone you'll get information to them it is very important that you follow through on that promise.
- 5. Know when to let go and know how to talk to each person you're calling.
- Typically when you're phone banking you're calling people to try to identify if they're friendly to your campaign, or if they aren't. The system might look something like this:
- 1 - A supporter. Someone who has signed a supporter card or who volunteers for the campaign. Ask them if they can come in to volunteer for a shift again!
- 2 - A verbal supporter. Someone who has said over the phone that they will vote for your candidate. See if you can move this person from a 1 to a 2. Ask if they're able to volunteer or bring others to the polls with them.
- 3L - Someone who leans very much toward your candidate, but who isn't quite ready to say they will vote for them. Obviously here you're shooting for moving this person to a 2 or a 1. Do your best. Ask them if they have a particular issue that's preventing them from making a choice, or if there's a policy proposal they'd like to know more about. The biggies in Iowa were healthcare, the war, and people who were a bit disillusioned with politics. I swayed several people to Obama by pointing out that he was a politician who made promises, ("When elected to the State Senate, I'm going to do my best to clean up Springfield.") and followed through on them (As a State Senator, Obama worked to pass ethics and campaign finance laws in Illinois - the first laws in 25 years related to ethics, and he did that by bringing Democrats and Republicans together. This was particularly useful as an example because I could say, "in Illinois! Ethics! Democrats and Republicans working together!, and the response was almost always, "Wow! Yeah! That is an achievement! What in the world are they going to do about that Governor of theirs...I doubt he's better than the last one..."
- 3 - Undecided. Similar to a 3L but perhaps less open or friendly. Again, do your best.
- 4 - Someone who is leaning towards another candidate. These folks aren't entirely lost to you (I got some 4's to change their minds in Iowa - depending on time of the campaign you may attempt to persuade them (if it's early), or you may simply check to see who they're voting for. Sometimes you may not even bother calling them at all). Even though they aren't entirely lost, they are fairly unlikely to change minds, so if you've spent 10 minutes on the phone trying and you're not getting anywhere, move on.
- 5 - Supporter of an opposing candidate. This is someone who absolutely adores another candidate and who has promised to vote for the other candidate. These folks aren't your friends when you're calling. I called a person on my list who was a 3, but his wife was a 5. She answered the phone and told me that if her husband didn't caucus for Hillary, he was going hungry the next few weeks. My response, "Well, (laughing) I'd hate to be responsible for someone going hungry!" We both laughed and wished one another luck and moved on. I rolled the dice hoping he'd answer the phone - sometimes you've just gotta try. Of course, in primary states rather than caucuses, he could have voted for Obama without her ever knowing.
- Ask if there's anything you need to do before leaving, and schedule a time to come back.
- Some campaigns ask volunteers to tally up their calls. In other words, they want to know how many contacts you made, how many of those were to supporters, etc. Some campaigns have the phone bank manager in charge of the tallies. If you're asked to do your own tallies, make sure that you understand the instructions. I was in charge of the phone bank in Iowa and no one did the tallies correctly so I ended up just doing all of them. That wasn't a big deal for me, but the night that the campaign staff had to fix them - they were there for 3 extra hours. Campaign staff are tired. Help them get some extra sleep by doing things the way they need them done. It helps you, it helps them, and most importantly, it helps the candidate!
Tips: Mythbusting about Phonebanking Edit
Copied pretty much wholesale from newyorknewyork's DailyKos diary. Will remove upon request.
NOTE: These notes are based on my experience making hundreds of calls to states from coast to coast as well as reports I’ve heard from members of some of the communities I belong to.
MYTH #1: People will argue / rant / scream / curse at you.
- The fact is that you are much more likely to hear mean-spirited comments on the internet than you are over the phone
- People can say some pretty nasty things on the internet where they are somewhat undercover but I have YET to come across this in speaking with anyone live. (Also keep in mind you’d be calling democrats and- on occasion a few independents- but no Republicans). .
- In the highly unlikely event that you do get that one a**hole who wants to let loose on a total stranger you simply say "thanks for your time" and move on.
- No big deal. Not the end of the world. Move on.
MYTH #2: A lot of people will hang up on you
- The reality is that I usually get more people THANKING me for calling than I do hang-ups.
- Think of how you'd feel if an Obama volunteer called you! Well, that's how many people feel. They are truly GLAD that you called.
- I’m not going to lie though, you will get a FEW hangups but in most cases it appears to have little if anything to do with the nature of the call. These are usually people that just don’t like to get ANY calls and would do the same thing if you were calling for Clinton or McCain. So it's not anything against your OR Obama- don't take it personally.
- The truth is that most people who don’t want to talk are usually polite enough to at least say "I’m busy / not interested / cooking dinner" etc. rather than just hanging up.
MYTH #3: You’re not going to change anyone’s mind
- This is probably the biggest myth of them all.
- Every time I call I get at least a few more people in the Obama column as well as a few undecideds leaning more in his direction.
- So, bottom line: calling works!
MYTH #4: Ok, it might help some but it won’t make a BIG difference
- FALSE! In addition to #3 above, phonebanking does 3 other very important things:
- a. Helps identify Obama supporters who want to volunteer but don’t know how to sign up (barackobama.com) or haven’t been asked. They have a BIG need for more office volunteers in PA right now.
- b. You help Obama’s ground team identify where their strong and weak areas are so they know where to concentrate their efforts.
- c. You inspire others to get more involved. I’ve talked with dozens of people who say that they are encouraged by my call and are now inspired to do more themselves.
MYTH #5: I have to be an expert on the issues / policies to be effective
- **See my super-tip below for an effective and easy way to deal ANY issue**
- The phonebanking page has scripts for you to follow and is super easy. Only rarely will you ever get into any kind of serious discussion about a certain issue. If you do though an easy way to deal with this is to keep the barackobama.com page open and click on "issues" to see his stance on the issue. It’s also ok to say that you aren’t familiar with the specifics on that particular issue. People can’t expect you to know everything.
- Note: In many cases you can even call people of certain demographic groups similar to your own such as: students, women, etc. where you probably share some issues in common.
NOW, a few quick tips:
- 1. Be natural- change a word or two in the script and talk like you would to a friend. Don't follow the script so closely that you sound robotic.
- 2. Stay positive- focus on why you’re for Obama not why you’re against someone else.
- 3. Empathize first. Say "I hear ya" or "I understand" then say "that’s why I like..."
EXAMPLE: They say "I like Hillary's healthcare plan better." You say "I can understand that. She does have a good healthcare plan, Obama's is pretty good too- but here's one thing that I like about Obama (use super-tip below about IMPLEMENTING plans. Especially the lobbyist part- if you want a healthcare plan to get PASSED that's hard to do when you take money from Pharmaceutical and Insurance lobbies)
- 4. Now for the super-tip! You can use this with ANY issue that comes up:
- Let's face it, Obama and Clinton’s policies are 95% identical. So ‘who has the best policy’ is not really that important. It’s who is most likely to be able to IMPLEMENT that policy that really matters.
- What good is a good policy if it never gets implemented? A great policy on paper is like giving someone a car that doesn’t run. Who wants a great looking car that sits in the garage?
- As Obama has famously said:
Our problem is not a lack of good ideas. The problem is that Washington is a place where good ideas go to die.
- People love this quote when I tell it to them! Then tell them this:
- Obama is much more likely to actually get these policies in place for 3 main reasons:
- 1. He doesn’t take money from lobbyists or special interests who block policies from getting through.
- 2. He has a broad appeal- brings independents and republicans on board so we can have the majority votes needed to get them passed.
- 3. He inspires the American people to get engaged in politics. When more people wake up, start paying attention and demanding that their elected officials take action that is when we’ll see more being done.