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Canvassing Scripts - How to use them

What are canvassing scripts?

At their most basic, they are a road map for canvassers when having a conversation with the general public. They are used extensively by canvassing teams to structure information captured by field operatives. They usually take the form of a list of questions and responses which can sometimes include script branching such as, if the answer to this question is Yes, then go here, if it is No, then go here.

Canvassing scripts can often be looked upon unfavorably by experienced campaigners or canvassers because it is felt that they are an unnecessary crutch or stricture on the canvass conversation. However, when used correctly canvassing scripts can help even very experienced canvassers to gather information efficiently and avoid annoying the person being canvassed.

The first step in developing a canvass script is to think about what you want from a canvass. What 3-5 pieces of information do you need to come away with and what questions do you need to ask to get this information? Let's say you are doing a standard election canvass where you need to find out:

  • Have they heard of your candidate before?
  • Does the person support your candidate?
  • What is their #1 issue in this election?
  • Do they intend to vote?
  • Have they got a plan to get to the polls on election day?

So what questions do the canvassers need to ask to get this info?

1. Hi, I'm doing a quick canvass of the neighborhood today for Cllr. Sarah Page. I wonder, have you heard about the candidate before?

If they haven't heard of the election or the candidate, give them a very short background to when it is on and who Sarah is.
If they have heard of the candidate, maybe ask them where they heard of her.

2. Could I ask would you support Sarah?

If this is a strong No then you can thank them for their time and leave the canvass.

If it is a strong Yes then you can ask them if they'd like to get the email newsletter or if they'd like to volunteer with the campaign
If the answer is Undecided then you can move onto the next question.

3. What is your #1 issue in the area at the moment?

Ideally, here you would have a dropdown with the top 10-20 issues you might expect to hear, for example, Education, Healthcare, Crime, etc. In this way canvassers are kept to the script and still have the opportunity to flesh out the issue in a free-text field later on. Make a note if there is a follow up email needed for this individual.

4. Do you intend to vote in the election next week?

If they say a strong No then thank them for their time and leave.

If they are Undecided or if they say Yes then move to the last question.

5. And do you know how you are getting to the polling station on Main St, next Friday?

They probably won't have a plan of action for getting to the polls so offer to help them with transport if necessary. Otherwise, encourage them to talk it through with you quickly so that they have visualized how they are going to do it. Give them some tips on the best time to go, where to park and what to expect when they get there. This will all help with them getting out to vote on election day.

This is just one example of a simple canvassing script but it simplifies the doorstep interaction for canvassers because they know how they are moving through the canvass, they won't waste time talking about things that they don't need to know, and they are unlikely to say something wrong if they are sticking to the script.

If, for example, the purpose of the canvass was to persuade pre-identified undecided voters to come out and vote for your candidate, then it might be set up in a different way. Perhaps the initial questions would be to determine what the main area of concern was for that voter. Only then would the script suggest how to go about persuading them to your cause by using a set response from the campaign's messaging.

So canvassing scripts can be very versatile but they are also a great way to get the most from any conversation without wasting either the canvasser's time or the voter's. Thinking about the logic and flow of a canvass script is a great exercise for campaign staff as they are forced to think about the outcomes and how to use data when it is collected.

Getting people to volunteer to canvass for your campaign can be difficult because it is seen as stepping into the unknown, but a canvass script gives great security to canvassers and allows them to practice the canvass before knocking on any doors.

How to manage the canvass script
Assuming canvassers will not hold all of this information in their heads, they will have to have the script either in paper format or on a mobile device. At Ecanvasser, we have worked with campaigns all around the globe to build canvass scripts into our campaign technology. Using Ecanvasser's custom fields it is possible to lay out the canvass script easily for canvassers. The huge advantage for the campaign is that all of the information captured (by drop-down answers) is synced automatically to the campaign database. This avoids the need for time-consuming data entry after the canvass is over.

Canvass scripts are a great way to structure canvassing operations and to get the most from every conversation with voters. If you'd like to talk to us about setting up your canvass scripts then get in touch today.

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