Campaigns have increasingly become remote endeavors in the last two decades. Widespread adoption of mobile technology and high speed internet have enabled new tools that allow campaigners to coordinate their activities on the go and across the country. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the era of social distancing, effectively managing campaigns remotely is more critical than ever.
While this is a time of great uncertainty around the world, elections will continue to move forward, albeit with some modifications and campaigners have been preparing for a transition to virtual campaigning for a while. Most campaigns rely on teams of vendors and consultants that may be in other regions or states. A field staffer doesn’t need an office to reach and organize supporters. Candidates can still reach voters directly through social media and other online communication channels.
Effective remote campaign management relies on communication and collaboration. Teams are at their most effective when there exists as little confusion as possible, and communication and collaboration are the two most effective antidotes. In this post, I’ll highlight some essential tools for both and my tips for using them well.
Clear, consistent communication is essential for setting expectations and making informed decisions for your campaign. There’s no shortage of ways to communicate between individuals or groups, but explicitly specifying channels and their purpose is critical in establishing clarity and consistency. As Saint Paul wrote, “For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?”
Price: Free version works for most campaigns. Paid subscriptions with more features range from $8 – $15 per user per month.
Slack is an essential tool for keeping in touch with distributed teams in real time across multiple devices. In most cases, Slack should replace email, SMS, and other messaging apps for work discussions between individuals or among teams.
Slack threads conversations so there’s no hunting through emails to decipher context. It’s easy to upload and share files and you can move seamlessly from your smartphone to your tablet to your laptop. Since Slack is widely used, it’s an easy way to bring consultants and vendors into your campaign as well.
Importantly, Slack gives users controls to set periods of do not disturb where notifications may be turned off, giving your team essential downtime when they are free from the bombardment of campaign communication.
Price: Free version allows for calls with up to 100 participants. Additional guests and features start at $15 per host per month.
Zoom enables your team to have high-quality meetings via video or phone wherever they are. Whenever possible, encourage participation via video in order to receive the additional focus, context, and interaction that comes from being able to see each other face to face. Even if a number of your participants are co-located in an office, video conferences with Zoom work best if everyone has their own camera so remote team members are on equal footing.
Your most engaged volunteers and activists are on Facebook. Keep them updated via a private Facebook group just for your supporters. Share news about political events, any cancellations, and your adapting campaign strategy.
A key benefit of working together in an office is the capacity for collaborating with your colleagues. When teams go remote, you can’t afford to sacrifice collaboration because a diversity of viewpoints actually improves the quality of your decisions. Use these tools to reap the rewards of working together even when your team is separated.
Price: Free with a Gmail account, included with GSuite Subscription
Not only does Google Drive ensure that all of your campaign’s important files are securely backed up in the cloud and are accessible from all of your devices, it allows you to collaborate with anyone on text documents, spreadsheets, slide shows and other tools. Eliminate the confusion of multiple, outdated versions, inconsistent formatting, and inaccurate data by collaboratively editing with your team in Google Drive.
The ability to clearly track version histories – who made what edits, to make annotations and comments, and share with users outside of your organization make Google Drive the right tool for remote teams.
Price: Free for up to 15 users, $13.49 per user for larger teams.
Project management software, like Asana, is essential to coordinating complex tasks between teams – remote or otherwise – and also keeps your communication channels free from the clutter of irrelevant but important information. Your project management tool enables you to assign clear action items with due dates to specific individuals. If you have common, recurring projects, like planning for the launch of a new ad (or an event, someday), create a checklist once and copy it every single time so you never miss a beat.
There are other popular project management tools, including Basecamp, that will get the job done, but Asana is my favorite because it provides helpful views, like a Gantt timeline, as well as insights for managers to keep an eye on workloads.
Voter files, mail pieces, videos, and audio – campaigns deal with a lot of “heavy” files that often exceed the capacity of many email inbox providers. Firefox Send is a free tool from Mozilla that enables you to securely upload and send files as large as 2.5 GB.
Chances are your campaign is already using many of these tools, but in the present era of social distancing, remote work, and virtual campaigning, you need to lean on them even more. Facilitating effective communication and collaboration is the only way to eliminate confusion and ensure your campaign team remains at peak performance while working remotely.