Interactive voter-contact firm that helps Democratic candidates with political messaging and constituent mobilization
Founded in 1996, Winning Connections (WC) is an interactive voter-contact firm that “helps Democrats win the toughest races” by “using the telephone” for political messaging and constituent mobilization. WC has extensively studied such variables as how best to influence the thinking of potential voters with a pre-planned sequence of phone calls; how long each call to those individuals should last in order to be most effective; and how to integrate telephone outreach with the rest of a political campaign's field and media efforts, so as to “amplify the impact” of each.
Armed with this information, WC assiduously “profiles” its various target audiences by means of polling and focus groups, so as to determine “how voters, stake holders, and elected officials engage with an issue.” Next, the organization creates an array of different calling campaigns—each geared for a particular subset of those targets. The objective is to enable the political staffers of WC's Democratic clients to “communicate individually with voters” via custom-tailored scripts designed to engage them in conversation and address their specific concerns directly.
The initial call to a given recipient is typically an “ID call” whose purpose is simply to gather information. This is followed by subsequent phone contacts seeking to persuade the recipient to embrace the views and agendas of the candidate in question, and to convince him that he should go to the polls on election day because his vote will have an impact. By WC's calculus, such a series of “interactive calls of sufficient length can boost turnout [at the polls] by as much as five percentage points.” Longer calls, says WC, tend to be “almost twice [as effective as] shorter, 30-second ... calls.”
Though live calls are indisputably more effective than “robo” calls, WC occasionally integrates automated calls into its outreach campaigns. The scripts for these are especially “concise and direct,” so as to increase their likelihood of “keep[ing] the call recipient's attention.” WC tends to use automated calls chiefly to: (a) “set the record straight” vis a vis some alleged misrepresentation of facts by a political opponent or the media; (b) quickly notify voters about important, breaking news; or (c) let people know about key upcoming events. Such calls can be quite useful in helping campaigns reach specific, carefully targeted audiences—like seniors, college students, single mothers, minorities, etc.
Winning Connections maintains that “the most effective way to mobilize constituents is through an outbound patch-through calling program,” whereby WC professionals first teach individual volunteers how to communicate effectively and persuasively with policymakers, and then seamlessly “patch them through” to speak directly to the officeholder.
WC also makes extensive use of teleforums—a cross between a town hall meeting, a radio call-in program, and a conference call. These venues can provide political campaigns with valuable opportunities to ask questions and take instant polls of potential voters.
In 2008, WC worked closely with the Barack Obama presidential campaign in several critical states, including Florida, Indiana, Missouri, and Pennsylvania. That same year, the organzation also helped Al Franken come from behind and win a very close U.S. Senate election in Minnesota. Other key Democrats whom WC has assisted at various times include Senators Maria Cantwell, Blanche Lincoln and Jon Tester; Governors Jack Markell, Bev Perdue, and Ted Strickland; and Congressman Bobby Rush.