Contingency Planning for Hybrid Campaigning

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Last fall as we were gearing up for the most consequential campaign season of our lives – during a global pandemic, no less – our team did a lot of contingency planning. It’s this team that powers our tech, supports our clients, and keeps the trains moving on time. And if anything were to happen to one of us, it’s our top priority that we are able to take care of ourselves or our loved ones without concern for professional consequences – whether it be our own jobs or one of our clients’ campaigns. 

Although the pandemic is in a very different place than it was last summer, we likely won’t be back to ‘normal’ campaigning for most or all of the 2021 cycle. As this cycle is likely to have a lot more hybrid campaigning, we wanted to share what we learned in 2020 about how to maintain coverage and a cohesive team in these ever-changing times.

Contingency planning for coverage amidst election season

Two words: GET AHEAD.

Whether you’re working on a campaign or in politics more broadly, you know how busy election season gets. To get ahead of the stresses of campaign season, our team built a plan to designate which roles we would hire mid-season, if we found ourselves needing more teammates on board. We built out this plan about 4 months prior to the election. For new team members coming aboard mid-cycle, we oriented hiring towards:

1. Areas of the organization that will be busiest.

If you’re on a campaign, do you have enough people to manage volunteers both in-person AND online? Who on your team is vaccinated and who would prefer to stay at home until they are?

If you’re working at a political tech company or cause-based organization, which teams will be in most demand when business is pouring in? For example, who can fix the website if it is glitching? Who can support customer inquiries? Build out a plan for scaling each of these segments of your organization. Work with teammates in those roles right now to see what their biggest fears are and how easy it would be to train a new team member.

2. Segmented tasks that are critical but not part of a larger system.

What are aspects of each team member’s job that are easily peeled away and learned by new team members? For example, training someone in drafting social media copy might be easier than training someone on the nuances of digital ad buys.

A note on training in hybrid environments: Training in a hybrid environment can be tricky, especially for campaigns that are managing people or volunteers both in-person and online. Think through what your trainees need to know and how they will experience the training. Are they participating in the training online, but will be executing a socially distanced canvass event in-person? Are they participating in the training in-person, but will be executing a phone bank individually from home? Are there participants both in-person and online at an outdoor fundraiser?

These nuances can get really complicated. In our experience, if you are trying to conduct an event that has both remote and in-person components, the remote participants often have (or feel that they have) a lesser experience. Be sure to think through how you are including them and alter logistics accordingly to ensure positive experience for all.  

3. Automate!!

Are you sending weekly marketing or fundraising emails? Are you hosting zoom phone banks? Automate those communication systems so it is one less thing to worry about mid-week.

Contingency planning for COVID-19

Even as society begins to slowly open back up, we are still doing everything we can to ensure that our team members stay safe. That being said, COVID-19 is still spreading and teams are largely still functioning remotely. It is critical to us that should any member of our team get sick, they have the time and space to rest and recover. We don’t want anyone answering emails from a hospital bed. This virus is serious and health always comes first. Here’s how we approached it:

1. Lay out your team.

We quite literally created a spreadsheet with a column for each team member and answered the following questions:

          • What do they do?
          • What projects do they own?
          • What systems do they know?
          • What relationships do they own?

2. Lay out your systems.

Again, we created a column for each system or process in our company and then listed all of the people who know how the system works. This view allowed us to see which systems have a lot of backups and which systems are siloed in the world of a single teammate.

3. Determine training and documentation opportunities.

Do you have a critical system that is fully owned by one person? Train someone else! Is there a teammate who has a particular strength you lean heavily on? Take this as an opportunity for them to share their expertise through a lunch-and-learn. Is there a process that is easy to learn? Have the team member owning it document every step. That way, if they were to be out for a week, someone could step in and take it over immediately. 

4. Make a plan to get ahead.

We mentioned this before but we’ll say it again because we feel it is critical this cycle. Any task that can be done now, should be done now. Maybe that’s drafting emails, maybe that’s automating manual processes. While they may not be mission critical tasks at the moment, you’ll be better off spending the extra hour doing them now than doing a lot of quick manual tasks with a month to go before the election.

As we’ve learned over the past year – more than ever – we’re all living in a constantly changing world, and adaptability is critical. But so is taking care of one another – from clients, to teammates, to our families.

We hope these strategies can be helpful to campaigns and to the growth and success of our colleagues throughout the industry. Now let’s get going and win these 2021 races!

We are SpeakEasy Political, the leading tool for campaigns and organizations to easily create high-impact digital media and direct mail campaigns.  By leveraging innovative media strategies and our brand building experience, our tech powers Democratic candidates and causes up and down the ballot. SpeakEasy’s Consultant Studio was also built to support consultant teams with leading data, strategic targeting, and comprehensive ad tech to serve as your backend media buying operation.

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