Have you been inundated with political robo calls during the primary season? It seems that some people have received up to 15 calls a day! I recently intereviewed Shaun Dakin, the president and CEO of the Political Do Not Contact Registry, a national nonprofit organization. It allows people to opt out without contravening the First Amendment.
What's the mission of your organization?
To reduce unwanted political robo calls through a non-regulatory Political Do Not Contact Registry
Political speech is protected by the First Amendment. We offer an alternative.
We believe that voters who voluntarily sign up to have their phone numbers put on a political DNC list and politicians who voluntarily agree not to robo call voters on the list can work together to reduce robo calls. By voluntarily participating there are no freedom of speech issues.
What makes it necessary?
Voters are inundated by political calls during the election season. Our members report receiving up to 15 robo calls a day. This is a clear invasion of privacy.
As I stated in my testimony at the U.S. Senate February 27, 2008 to Senator Feinstein (D-CA) and in my op-ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
At the voluntary National Political Do Not Contact Registry, our members report receiving 10 to 15 calls about robo calls each day during election season.
Mothers are having their babies awakened from naps. Night shift workers who sleep during the day are not able to get the rest they need to be productive. Seniors live in fear of a health emergency occurring while their phone line is tied up with yet another robocall.
A member wrote to us recently: "My 85-year-old mother who had a stroke sometimes is at home alone, and when these phone calls come in, it confuses her and gets her upset when someone doesn't listen to her. She doesn't understand that it is an automated call."
Politicians must listen to their constituents and put an end to this invasion of privacy. If politicians were interested in doing the right thing, they would simply agree to voluntarily abide by the wishes of those Americans who have registered their telephone numbers on the federal Do Not Call list or equivalent state lists that forbid telemarketers from calling them. But we know that politicians don't always like to do the right thing, particularly when it comes to protecting their own incumbent status.
What's wrong with partisan political marketing today?
There is no evidence that much of it works. I'll say that again. No evidence.
Unlike regular marketing that I've conducted (I worked for FedEx, Fannie Mae, Laureate Education and the Motley Fool), political candidates do not perform ROI or NPV analysis. Instead, they more often than not "spray and pray" campaigns based on the advice given to them by consultants that make their fees as a percentage of the TV ad buy.
Can you imagine a for profit company or nonprofit organization compensating its marketing agency based on the amount it spends on media buying? That is an amazing conflict of interest. And yet politicians continue to do it year after year.
Why? Because it is the way it is. It is the way it always has been.
The best third-party analysis of the effectiveness of political marketing is the second edition of Get Out The Vote: How To Increase Voter Turnout by Dr. Gerber and Dr. Green of Yale University and published by Brookings.
The bottom line? Robo calls have no impact on a campaign's ability to Get Out The Vote. No impact.
How does the organization market and reach its audiences?
After having significant budgets in the the for profit world at FedEx, Fannie Mae and Laureate Education, I am now working with my own friends and family funding! (Know any foundations that are willing to support something like this? Let me know!)
As such, it is a game of word of mouth, PR, and Google Ad Words. In four months I was able to get:
Front page story in USA Today
Full feature in the LA Times
In Reader's Digest
On CNN, ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS
Countless radio shows, NPR and XM radio
And I was invited to testify at the U.S. Senate and did so 2.27.2008.
Not bad for $0 in marketing budget. I did, however, pay a PR consultant for strategy and pitch list development. I did/do all my own pitching. From CNN to the local paper in rural Iowa.
What are its marketing challenges?
$! - Need more to actually pay for ads and promotion.
Youth .... The young are on cell phones and (mistakenly) believe that they are immune from robo calling. As a result it is hard to get their attention.
Credibility .... We started 10.24.007 and had no credibility. We needed to get it, fast. The media was the way to get it.
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