Updated: Dec 20, 2019
When you ask an elected official what wins a campaign, you will get a plethora of supposed WINNING strategies.
“Raise the money, out-raise your opponent”
“Win the sign war, for every 1 sign your opponent has you should have 5 more.”
“Mailers…mailers to everyone”
But one of the most tried and true methods of winning is…you guessed it. Doorbelling.
Doorbelling is one of the most effective ways to spread your name and have engaging and honest conversations with the voters. They may see your name on a sign driving or even your face on a mailer before it hits the recycle bin. But that quick couple of minutes that you or a volunteer interact with that voter could determine you winning or losing your race. How do you start? Doorbelling is a skill that takes time to fine-tune. Those that have public speaking experience will find themselves more comfortable interacting with strangers while those with none may have a little more trouble. That’s why we have outlined a few do’s and don’ts of doorbelling that will hopefully make your experience go smoothly!
Do: Stay on message, before doorbelling whether you are the candidate or a volunteer going out on behalf of your candidate you should know the overall message. Most candidates have a list of top issues that concern them and make sure you know them thoroughly.
Do Not: Read from a script, when you are trying to reach voters they aren’t focusing entirely on your message, they are reading your social cues. If you are passionate about an issue, they are more likely to respond favorably. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to say before you knock on that first door. Practice in front of a mirror if necessary until you feel comfortable. Be careful not to deviate from the message if you are a volunteer. If the voter asks you about an issue that has not been addressed, say something like “that’s a great question and I’m afraid I don’t know the answer.” Then try to find a way to relay that information back to the voter whether that be a submission on the campaign site or recording the voter’s information for a follow-up.
Do Not: Put literature in a mailbox if no one answered the door. Not only is this illegal but it’s a federal offense. Don’t even think about dropping it in a newspaper box either.
Do: Be mindful of where you leave campaign material if no one is home. You could have a full-page flyer, a door hanger, or maybe even a postcard. If hanging on the doorknob is not an option, think about the weather and if wind or rain is an issue, put under a mat with the corner poking out. Some doors you can even slide a corner along the edge, and it will stay there.
*Something to consider is if you see an excess of mail on the front porch or a stuffed newspaper box, you may want to mark down to simply come back to this residence later on so you have a chance to interact with the voter. Some campaigns, in this case, will not leave literature behind to not add to the clutter. Voters I have polled appreciate this stating “There is nothing more a potential thief loves more than seeing clear signs someone isn’t home”
Do: Plan, before starting each doorbelling outing be mindful where you are going. There are many things to consider when planning out your day.
Am I trying to reach a certain audience today?
How spread out are the residences in this location?
Would it be more beneficial to have a walking partner in this location?
Is the time of day appropriate to when voters might be home?
Don’t: Argue, if you connect with a voter that has political beliefs that contradict yours or your candidates, take it in stride. Deliver the message if you can and urge the voter to look into both candidates before election day. Be sure to point out on the literature where they can find more information, they might find useful.
*People sometimes chalk up a negative contact as a lost vote. But I found that untrue working on a congressional campaign. I followed the advice above for a swing voter that I doorbelled. She was against my candidate initially but she was really receptive due to my neutral demeanor. On my second sweep right before the General Election, I met her again and she clarified that she had done more research and was switching her vote to him.