“We simply don’t take issues of when as seriously as we take questions of what.”
This is the central message of Daniel Pink’s latest book, When. We need to spend as much time – if not more – considering WHEN we’ll do something as WHAT we’re going to do.
I think politics are unique in that a lot of our consideration is spent on timing, oftentimes at the expense of what. So much of what we do is driven by external deadlines and factors.
We’ve got to be the first to do something, that statement should go out ASAP, and election day is 100 days away.
And we can use timing to our advantage in other ways. After all, every good spin doctor knows the value of the Friday afternoon news dump.
Here few areas where we need to spend more time thinking about “when”:
Pink writes, “Starts matter. We can’t always control them. But this is one area where we can and therefore we must.” That’s why a coordinated campaign launch is so critical.
Announcing your campaign is the last time a candidate will control his or her timetable so don’t squander it. It’s critical that you have your entire digital conversion funnel in place – email signup, volunteer form, and donation page – in place and tested BEFORE you launch.
Your announcement will generate interest and enthusiasm that you’d be a fool not to capture because it won’t come back around.
The subject lines and sender names represent about 50% of what goes into whether a supporter decides to open an email or not. The other half is timing. Did your email hit right as they were sitting down to start their work day and they’ve got an inbox that’s already overloaded with tasks? Or are they driving to pick up their kids from school?
Email is a game of seconds. You’ve got a few seconds for someone to see your email hit the inbox and then decide what to do about it. You’ve only got a few seconds to get them to donate once they open the email. Similarly, if your email hits the inbox a few seconds too late or too early, you’ve missed an opportunity.
That’s why the “remail” is so important – re-sending an email campaign to supporters who didn’t open it the first time with a different subject line. You can usually get a 5-10% lift in your effective open rate by sending at another time.
Same goes for your other content that you share on social media. On a good day, about 30% of your audience will see a given post organically. That’s why it’s important to repost it multiple times to get it in front of more of your audience. And increasingly, pay to promote the content.
“The motivating power of endings is one reason that deadlines are often, though not always, effective,” writes Pink. Whether it’s fundraising or volunteering, every campaign experiences the hockey stick pattern as we enter the final stretch of a campaign.
We should use deadlines to our advantage, like making a “Vote Early Day” or setting a cut off date for training volunteers.
“When we near the end, we kick a little harder.”
Pink cites research that found “the longer it takes for a boss to respond to their emails, the less satisfied people are with their leader.” Responsiveness is a sign of respect.
To build a movement behind your candidate or cause, you need to develop social cohesion and timing plays an important part.
Respond to your email inbox quickly, reply to comments on social media, and go out of your way to hear from supporters.
Time and Campaign Culture
There are implications that go beyond just the tactical. Pink discusses the importance of breaks and naps – yes naps – in driving up productivity.
“A growing body of science makes it clear: Breaks are not a sign of sloth but a sign of strength.”
We are more productive and make fewer mistakes when we take breaks. There’s unfortunately a “sleep when I’m dead” culture in politics where people wear their exhaustion as a badge of honor. And certainly there are times when the job needs to get done, but it’s not sustainable, nor is it effective, long term.
I often say that elections are the most public job performance review in the world – they happen whether you’re ready or not. In When, Daniel Pink shows us how we can use the science behind time to our advantage and better understand behaviors.