Demandbase Connect

How to Segment and Target Voters with Election Marketing Messages

April 22, 2014 in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Is your membership full of identical people with the same interests, preferences and behavior? No, I didn’t think so. But I bet many membership organizations send the same election marketing messages to all their members, no matter the member’s past behavior.

I was reminded about the importance of targeting marketing messages by voter segment during a recent Associations 101 webinar presented by Lauren Hefner, CAE — Ten Tips in Twenty Minutes: Segmenting Stakeholder Communications.

The most important thing to remember is this: don’t treat all voters the same.

Segment election messaging by voters’ past behavior.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama’s team tested everything in emails that could possibly be tested. The only factor that made a big difference was tailoring messages to a person’s previous actions, i.e., their past behavior. Hefner reinforced this message — make sure the segments you’re using reflect behavioral differences. Start by identifying two groups of eligible voters — past voters and unreliable or non-voters — and target each with specific messaging.

What if you don’t have data on voting history? Hefner suggests looking at the member data you do have and may take for granted, for example, board, committee and task force members, or members who volunteer or attend events regularly. Or, for your next election, you could start from scratch and treat all members as non-voters and begin collecting data on their actual voting behavior.

Election marketing message ideas for non-voters

Help unreliable/non-voters think of themselves as voters. The word “voter” (an identity) is much more powerful than the word “vote” or “voting” (an activity). Even if they haven’t voted in the past, if you address them as the type of person who votes, they will want to live up to the expectations that come along with that identity. The Obama campaign used this tactic successfully in their scripts.

Another effective message for unreliable/non-voters is “join the crowd.” Studies have shown that messages referring to low turnout have no effect, but messages that encourage voters to join the crowd (“everyone is doing it”) are more apt to compel people to vote. To reinforce this messaging, provide updates on how many people have voted so far and share the names of people who have voted.

Election marketing messages for regular voters

Hefner also advises an annual review of segmentation since people move in and out of segments. Many of your non-voters will become part of the voting crowd. In future elections you want to help them maintain their social identity or self-image as part of a superior or virtuous group – voters. In election marketing messages, speak of their influence, participation, leadership, contributions or professionalism in such a way that affirms they’re part of an elite group that makes a difference.

Other segmentation ideas

Segment your voters by communication preference too. Who prefers emails? Printed materials? Social updates? Texts? Hefner says to pay attention to the devices people are using. If voters are reading your emails on their mobile phones, it’s important to design mobile-friendly subject lines and email copy.

If your member data is comprehensive enough and your technology is sophisticated enough, you could identify how the election impacts different segments of your membership, for example, early-career members vs. veteran members, or nearby members vs. far-away members. In preparation for the development of election marketing messages, take time to think about the election from each segment’s perspective. Instead of making assumptions, talk to a sample of members from each segment. Why would they vote? How does the outcome affect them? How will voting make them feel?

At Votenet, we always encourage our clients to become electioneers. Experiment and test. See what works – what type of messaging, subject lines or templates will cause someone to open an email or click a link. Design a marketing campaign that targets unreliable or non-voters so you can move them into the regular voter segment. 

Target Election Marketing Messages by Voter Segment

Voters are not identical, really.
(photo by MyBiggestFan/Flickr CC license)

Learn How Gratitude Can Mobilize Voters

April 21, 2014 in Webinar by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Nobody knows better than an election administrator just how tough it can be to mobilize voters and generate higher turnout. It doesn’t have to be!

On Wednesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. EST, join Votenet and Dr. Costas Panagopoulos, Professor of Political Science at Fordham University and member of the Decision Desk team at NBC News, to find out how a little gratitude can go a long way in increasing member engagement at your next election. 

“Voting may be viewed as a thankless job, but thanking voters makes a surprisingly big difference,” says Dr. Panagopoulos. “Gratitude can be harnessed effectively to increase turnout.”

Our complimentary webinar, Thank You for Voting! Learn How Gratitude Can Mobilize Voters, will show how organizations can leverage gratitude and targeted communications to increase voter turnout and electioneer voting fairness and integrity.

In this session you’ll learn how to: 

  • Use targeted emails to reach out to past voters and thank them for voting, and invite them to vote again in your next election.
  • Keep lines of communication open between elections by thanking voters for non-voting behaviors such as attending a conference, renewing membership, or volunteering.
  • Segment voter lists by specific actions for personalized reminders to vote in upcoming elections. 
  • Create highly personalized emails for greater impact by thanking specific segments of voters for similar behaviors. For example, thank Maryland voters who voted last year and who went to the Maryland chapter conference.

Here are the details for your calendar:

What: Votenet webinar, Thank You for Voting! Learn How Gratitude Can Mobilize Voters

When: Wednesday, April 23 at 1:30 p.m. EST

Who: Costas Panagopoulos, Associate Professor of Political Science, Director of the Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy, and Director of the graduate program in Elections and Campaign Management at Fordham University, as well as a member of the Decision Desk team at NBC News.

How much: Free

How: Register now.

Thank You for Voting! Learn How Gratitude Can Mobilize Voters.

Photo by Paul Downey/Flickr CC license


Weekend Reading from Votenet: April 18, 2014

April 18, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Here are our favorite posts this week about participatory culture, organizational democracy, voter turnout, online voting, leftie and rightie voters, soul-sucking boards and football democracy.

First, a follow-up to our story about the Northwestern football team voting to form a union. The National Labor Relations Board ruled early this month that “Northwestern football players who receive scholarships should be considered employees, because of the long hours they spend playing, practicing and in the film room studying their opponents” and that gives them the right to unionize. Leaders of the team also made their case to Congress, according to The Hill. The team will vote on unionization on April 25. The union bug is catching. ESPN reports that “players from other universities have expressed interest in forming unions.”

The Barcelona Football Club recently asked its members to vote on a key decision – whether to renovate their stadium. But unlike the Seattle Sounders, Barcelona doesn’t involve its members in decisions that often. CNN Sports reports, “More than 27,000 members approved plans for a $725 million revamp that will extend the ground’s capacity to 105,000 people and develop the surrounding areas.” The club says, “Only members decide the future of the club and play a direct role in Barça’s triumphs.”

Despite having a NSFW name, a new Twitter account is sharing interesting charts, including this one about the increase in voter turnout whenever a new media is introduced.

voter turnout increases when new media is introduced

New media, like social media platforms, bring messages, like “get out to vote,” to new audiences. And if you ever wanted to really compare apples and oranges, they have a chart for that too.

Online voting is a “no-brainer,” says Australia’s opposition leader, Bill Shorter. He told News Corps Australia, “If we do our banking online, why can’t we vote online? We need to be doing everything we can to make it as easy as possible to take part in the democratic process so everyone has their say.”

In the United Kingdom, the Electoral Commission is also calling for urgent reforms, including online voting in elections. Jenny Watson, head of the commission said to The Guardian, “Unless our electoral system keeps pace with the way many voters live the rest of their lives – where the way they bank and the way they shop has been transformed – it risks being seen as increasingly alien and outdated, particularly to young voters as they use it for the first time.”

What moves people to participate in civic action, like social protest or, perhaps, voting? It starts with identification with a group, says Jacqueline van Stekelenburg, a sociology professor at VU University Amsterdam. She told Mobilisation Lab, “What we found in studies recently is that people participate because they identify with the other people involved, not necessarily the organization.”

We’ve learned from behavioral science that people are more likely to vote if you affirm their social self-identity as someone who makes a difference or if someone they like and respect encourages them to vote.

Researchers have learned that the positions of candidate names on a ballot can influence the outcome of elections. According to the National Journal, a recent experiment found that left-handed people were 15% more likely than right-handed people to vote for the candidate listed on the left side of the ballot. “Righties implicitly think right is good, lefties implicitly think left is good,” explained Daniel Casasanto, a coauthor of the study published in the journal Political Psychology.

Do you have a soul-sucking board? “A lot of the suckage is by tradition and by design,” says Dr. Debra Beck. Energy-draining elements are embedded deeply in the ways we expect our boards to function. She lists dozens of symptoms exhibited by boards that are “soul-sucking enterprises.”

This Week on Voting 2.0

When you make a promise, you create “a bond between you and the future” – you and your better self, the one who does the right thing. In this post, a long-time surfer and a political scientist explain how that works and how to apply the “commit to vote” behavioral principle to your elections.

Enjoy your weekend!

Votenet's weekend reading about participatory culture, organizational democracy, voter turnout, ballots and boards

Board of directors or bored directors?

Promise Made: I Will Vote. Promise Kept.

April 15, 2014 in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Shaun Tomson, a successful businessman who was once a world champion surfer, received the worst phone call ever. His 15 year old son had accidentally asphyxiated himself in an attempt to get high. His son’s death led Thomson to think deeply about the dangerous choices – drugs, alcohol and other risky behaviors – that teenagers make.

He also reflected on what decades on his surf board had taught him about life – lessons that helped him deal with his son’s death and ended up in his first book, Surfer’s Code: 12 Simple Lessons for Riding Through Life.

As a motivational speaker, he now teaches teenagers and adults about making positive, thoughtful decisions. In an exercise from his second book, The Code: The Power of ‘I Will,’ he instructs people to write their own version of the surfer’s code – 12 promises to themselves beginning with the words ‘I will.’

He told the Jewish Journal:

“When you sit down and just write 12 promises to yourself…they develop force and power. When you put ‘I will’ in front of them, it’s a commitment. It’s a bond between you and the future…You’re not going to make a promise to yourself and flake out of it.”

I will vote in the leadership election.

The surfer has the science right. When you make a promise, you create “a bond between you and the future” – you and your better self, the one who does the right thing. This is why breaking promises feels so wrong. We have an inner need to ensure that our beliefs (about ourselves) and our behaviors are consistent.

Blame that nagging conscience on cognitive dissonance. One of our regular webinar speakers Dr. Melissa R. Michelson, Professor of Political Science at Menlo College, explains:

“Asking individuals to commit to voting will increase their likelihood of doing so because they do not want to suffer the negative feelings that can result from behaving inconsistently with their initial answer.” We want “to avoid holding dissonant or inconsistent cognitions.”

President Obama’s campaign team were familiar with this behavioral compulsion and used it to their advantage. They asked voters to complete a Pledge to Vote form on postcards and websites. The rest is history.

We know running your organization’s votes and elections is one of many hats you wear. To make your job easier, we’re giving you a tool to help you leverage behavioral science on behalf of your elections. As part of your election email marketing campaign, our new Commit to Vote tool sends graphic-rich emails to your eligible voters asking for their pledge to vote. When voters choose to “commit to vote” they will be asked if they would like to set a reminder to vote. If they request a reminder, they have the option to select when and how they would like to be reminded.

In scientific field experiments, voters who committed to vote had a 5% higher turnout rate than the control group, and those who also received reminder to vote had a 10% higher turnout rate. If you’d like to read more about the effectiveness of Commit to Vote campaigns and tactics you can use, take a few minutes to read one of previous posts:

I will vote when the swells die down.
(photo by The Pug Father/Flickr CC license)

Weekend Reading from Votenet: April 11, 2014

April 11, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Here are our favorite posts this week about organizational democracy, crowd decision-making, online voting, strategic boards and enchanting your way to change implementation.

The WorldBlu List of Most Democratic Workplaces™ 2014 was announced this week. Organizations were judged on their adherence, according to employee surveys, to the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy, including transparency, dialogue and listening, decentralization, choice and more. If you enjoy craft beer or online shoe shopping, you’ll be happy to know that New Belgium Brevwing and Zappos are on the list!

Geonetric, an online software solutions company that focuses on healthcare, is also on the list. 18 months ago, they got rid of their formal management hierarchy and created self-organizing, self-managing teams. “That was a pretty major step toward a democratic workplace, even before we knew that was a thing,” says Linda Barnes, Vice President of Business Development.

“WorldBlu’s research shows that democratic workplaces outperform their competitors in engagement, innovation and productivity. At Geonetric, we believe that creating a culture where employees are engaged and productive helps us thrive as a company, allows us to give back to our community, and positions us to deliver great results to our clients.”

You can’t argue with that kind of success.

A tweet from Jeremiah Owyang, founder of, caught my eye this week.

crowd decision-making

Instead of shivering or sweating in silence, with CrowdComfort, you and your colleagues can have a say in your office’s temperature. “CrowdComfort democratizes and amplifies the voices of building occupants, while helping building owners to pinpoint energy and operational saving opportunities.”

The biggest election in the world started Monday in India. Here’s one astounding fact: “The Indian voting pool is larger than the total populations of the United States and Western Europe combined.” Because of its scale, voting takes place in blocks over the next four weeks and vote counting won’t end until May 16. CNN’s report also discusses women as an electoral force, young voters and social media, nepotism, criminality and more.

Utah is considering online voting. Mark Thomas, the state’s director of elections, said: “We’ll be sitting down with county clerks and technology folks and thinking what we can do long-term.” The Deseret News identified two obstacles: federal government policy and the belief held by many that voting shouldn’t be that easy.

Guy Kawasaki, the former chief software evangelist for Apple, says that if you want to implement change in your organization, you must begin by mastering the art of enchantment. Katie Alberti at The Onbase Blog reports on a keynote Kawasaki delivered describing the top ten ways to be enchanting while driving technology change.

Kevin Smith, Director of Volunteer Education at the Credit Union National Association, shares four board development practices on CU Insight that “allow a group of potential strangers to pool their strengths and work as a team to advance their credit union’s goals.” He cites the example of the Missoula Federal Credit Union in Missoula, MT and their “insightful approach to team-building that encourages candor, creativity and even an element of disagreement among his fellow board members.”

Over at MultiBriefs, Robert C. Harris, CAE looks at several ways strategic planning can be killed before it even begins. Some may surprise you, but if you’ve sat through a few planning sessions, you’ll agree with his advice.

This Week on Voting 2.0

When we make promises, we usually stay true to our word. Otherwise, we feel uneasy inside. And if someone happens to remind us of our promise, especially if it’s someone we know, we definitely follow through on our commitment. Learn how to harness the power of public commitments to increase voter turnout for your elections.

Enjoy your weekend!

- Votenet's weekend reading on organizational democracy, crowd decision-making, elections, boards and change implementation

Heading to the polls in India, voter card in hand.
(Photo by Goutam Roy, Al Jazeera English, Wikimedia Commons)


Ask Voters to Take the Pledge

April 8, 2014 in Increasing Voter Turnout by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

When we make promises, we usually stay true to our word. Otherwise, we feel uneasy inside. And if someone happens to remind us of our promise, especially if it’s someone we know, we definitely follow through on our commitment.

A public commitment has even more power to alter behavior. In a study conducted during a state legislative election, volunteers asked prospective voters, “Can I count on you to vote?” On Election Day, some of the voters were reminded of their commitment to vote. The ones who committed to vote had a 5% higher turnout rate than the control group. The ones who also received an Election Day reminder had a 10% higher turnout rate.

This same tactic was used successfully by the Obama campaign in 2012 They collected pledges to vote on the campaign’s website and encouraged those who signed the pledge to share it on Facebook. Heather Smith, president of Rock the Vote, said, “As a general rule, people are people—and if they make a commitment and you follow up on it, they feel obliged to keep up with that commitment.”

Corey Booker used the “pledge to vote” tactic when he ran for Senate last year. Instead of making phone calls, Booker’s volunteer, none other than President Obama, used YouTube to ask voters to take a pledge. The campaign also used another tactic we’ve discussed here before – asking voters to make a plan to vote. As you might expect, Booker won.

Dr. Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, said, “People want to be congruent with what they have committed to in the past, especially if that commitment is public.” How can your organization tap into this compulsion to honor commitments?

To increase voter participation using this method, two actions are necessary:

  • Ask for a hard commitment to vote.
  • Follow up with a reminder to vote.

Here are a few tactics you can use before and during your election or voting event.

  • Send an email with an embedded pledge form or a link to an online pledge form. Publish the names of those who signed the pledge on your website – you could call it an “honor roll.” 
  • Create an “I pledge to vote” digital badge that can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms. 
  • Encourage members to use a #PledgeToVoteABC hashtag on Twitter. Insert your organization’s acronym in the place of “ABC.” 
  • At the opening of the election, send an email reminder to everyone who signed the pledge. 

We’ve made the pledge process easier with eBallot’s Commit to Vote tool. Using this new tool, you can ask voters for their commitment to vote as part of your election email marketing campaign. If voters make a commitment, they can set up a reminder and choose how and when they’d like to be reminded.

If you’d like to read more about the effectiveness of Commit to Vote campaigns and tactics you can use, take a few minutes to read one of our webinar recaps.

Commitments to vote increase voter turnout

Taking the pledge, 18th century style.
(The Oath of the Horatii (detail), Jacques-Louis David)


Weekend Reading from Votenet: April 4, 2014

April 4, 2014 in Weekend Reading by Michael Tuteur, Votenet CEO

Here are our favorite posts this week about online voting, participatory culture, elections, crowd decision-making, upsetting the status quo and pirate democracy.

“Everyone knows that swashbuckling types aren’t exactly known for obeying the rules. But years before the United States gained its independence, democracy was thriving aboard pirate ships,” writes Alisson Clark at Mental Floss. The entire crew voted on critical decisions, such as when to attack other vessels and when to elect a new captain.

On the island of Sardinia, citizens are planning an online referendum on whether to secede from Italy. Residents in the Venice area just did the same thing. RT News reports, “Over 2 million people in Veneto took part in the internet referendum on March 16-21, with 89% of them voting in favor of cutting ties with Rome.” Unfortunately for the Venetians, the plebiscite has no legal power.

The Afghan presidential election is scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, April 5. The New Yorker reports, “Elections will take place in a barely functioning state: the Taliban insurgency still rages in roughly half the country, where it often wields de facto authority. In these areas, casting a vote amounts to a death wish, because the Taliban view the exercise as traitorous.” Follow @AfghansVote for the latest reports.

In lighter news, Darth Vader has been chosen as the official presidential candidate of the Ukrainian Internet party (UIP). “I alone can make an empire out of a republic to restore former glory, to return lost territories and pride for this country,” said Vader according to an NPR report. Good luck to him.

Joshua Paul at online community provider Socious says, “One of the greatest advantages of your community is the ability to communicate with your customers and members in a collaborative environment.” He suggests using your online community platform to crowdsource ideas and feedback, and provides six strategies for doing that.

The Online News Association is crowdsourcing session ideas for its annual conference. “Each year, we bring together journalists, technologists and academics to share the most exciting trends in digital journalism. As always, we’re looking to pull in fresh, creative ideas.” Take a look at their online submission form and think about how you can involve your members more deeply in conference planning.

“Status quo is a powerful beast,” says Scott Berkun. He knows it’d difficult to persuade your boss to try new things, like crowdsourcing conference sessions, so he provides advice on how to make a case for change.

Every now and then, it’s your turn to introduce a speaker at your conference. After listening to hundreds of people introduce him, Adam Grant says the best speaker introductions avoid three mistakes. Check out his LinkedIn post to find out what to avoid the next time you’re at the podium.

Crowd Vote of the Week

NASA wants you to help design the next high-tech Z-2 spacesuit. Before April 15, you can vote for one of three cover layer designs that have never been used on a spacesuit before.

This Week on Voting 2.0

“I just want to know what the student government does. I can’t really care (about elections) if I don’t know what they’re doing.” This complaint is echoed in campus newspapers across the country. Meanwhile, student government leaders and newspaper editors complain about apathy and low turnout for elections. Apathy isn’t going away until students have a reason to care, and it’s difficult to care about something you know nothing about.

After a leadership election, it’s tempting to cross it off your list and get back to other pressing tasks. However, there are a few things you can do after an election that will position your organization for even better results next time.

Enjoy your weekend!

Votenet's weekend reading about online voting, participatory culture, elections, crowd decision-making, upsetting the status quo and pirate democracy

Yes, Luka, I am your father, but I also need your vote.
(photo by Vladimir Yaitskiy, Wikimedia Commons)