A telephone town hall is a great way to showcase a candidate’s charisma and personality in a setting that’s comfortable and informative for the listening audience. But what is a telephone town hall?
Basically, a telephone town hall is like a live radio talk show with a host engaging in dialogue with select members of the audience. By using a telephone town hall meeting, a candidate gets to interact like with the voters, answering questions and communicating their message. Additionally, a campaign will gain increased website traffic, new campaign volunteers, donors and on-the-ground advocates. This is a high-tech and high-touch way to reach voters.
Most telephone town halls should last about an hour. Voters stay connected to the call for an average of one to nine minutes; others, much longer. And, many people want to ask a question, so you never run out of people to talk to.
Telephone town halls should come with a free moderator that manages the complex details of the call. This moderator is your “volunteer host” who keeps the call moving and is able to handle the technical side so the candidate can focus on staying on message and answering questions. Also, you should have a call screener who weeds out the “crazies” and helps people keep their questions specific so the candidate can answer as many questions as possible. With a telephone town hall, a campaign can also run live polls during the forum and connect the voter to a live person to accept a campaign contribution.
Telephone town halls provide a unique benefits that other touch-points don’t offer.
Your campaign dials out to tens of thousands of voting households, but a majority will not answer the phone and will instead receive a voice message. In the voice message, you drive voters to your campaign website and any upcoming events, but you also drive them to the live forum – which they can call into via an 800 number and conference code.
The live answers and those households that dial back in manually after receiving a voice message are predominantly the most active voters – we call them “opinion makers.” These are the voters whom less-engaged people turn to for advice about a candidate. If you reach these voters, you’re connecting with grassroots activists, centers of influence and talkers. But don’t worry about those who don’t answer; your telephone town hall will draw thousands of participants to your live meeting.
Your live audience will also consist of undecided voters who trend towards the middle of the aisle. These are your swing voters. A well done teletown hall draws easily their support, because they’re positively influenced by the kind of direct communications approach a telephone town hall provides. Even if they only listen for a few minutes, the impression is the candidate took the time to contact with them in a meaningful way.
Telephone town halls are are a great political strategy. Participants can press “0” to go to a screener who takes down a summary of their question, then puts them in a queue. You can pick which questioners to take, already knowing what topic they’ll be addressing. A good screener should be able to rank callers based on how friendly they are, how pithy they ask their question, how they sound, along with other criteria. Should a caller sound too hostile or appear to be possibly disruptive, the screener can send that caller back to the main audience instead of into the potential questioner queue. The campaign manager or communications director uses the live staff chat feature built into the web-based control panel to tell the co-host which questions to take, in what order.
Most teletown halls offer others thing like touch-tone polling feature to tag potential volunteers, donors or those interested in attending a campaign event; tagging listeners interested in receiving literature or even a campaign sign. The is even more things one can do with a telephone town hall, but now you have a better understanding of what is it and how they work.
If a candidate sounds confident, has clear answers and appears authentic, there’s more to be gained with a telephone town hall than just voters.
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