Patch-Through Calls for Public Affairs and How to Make Them Count
Organizations and campaigns have used patch calls for years when they need a lot of people to communicate with elected officials. But in an age of cable cutting and all things digital, will people still take the time to contact a legislator? And will the legislators listen? The answer is maybe.
Have a strategy first – People often make the mistake of choosing tactics over strategy and since patches are a long-term tactic for promotion, people sometimes just assume they are the right fit for everything. Patch calls have their limits.
Target the right people – There is a wealth of data to help you target your best audience for promotion. Patch-through works best when defined for a specific audience that works with the issue you are calling legislators on.
Target the right legislators – You cannot target all elected officials; you have to define a select group that you need to move or engage.
Why do patch calls work? – In a world where legislators are inundated with emails, text messages and tweets, real calls from voters can make all the difference in creating a real connection between voters and decision makers. This is a tried and true promotional tactic that delivers tangible results.
empower constituents – Whether you’re trying to reach local government, members of Congress, the White House, governors, or corporate leaders, patch calls can make a real impact on a limited budget.
How do patch calls work?
Using an outbound dialer, robots, volunteers, or paid callers make calls from a list of contacts. After speaking with the contact, they pass the call on to the elected official in question. With the growing need for advocacy and engagement in the age of COVID-19, we have seen a resurgence in patch calls. We’re fans of the medium, but with changes in phone usage, especially the massive reduction in landline usage, it takes more skill to successfully make connecting calls. Whether you are using traditional calls or digital patch calls, there are many ways to enhance your patch call program.
Tips for great patch calls:
understand your strategy – Don’t just choose a defense tactic without a strategic purpose behind it. Know your primary and secondary goals. Understand your goals for transfer calls and how they fit into your broader defense strategy.
Choose your goals carefully – A good orientation is important for a good transfer of calls. Make strategic decisions about who your best contacts would be. There is a lot of useful information in a voter file that will help you determine the best callers for your program.
Know your total budget – Budgets in the world of patch calls can vary greatly depending on the type of call, the number of calls, who is being targeted, who is the legislator, and any extenuating circumstances around the legislation (i.e. committee votes , votes in the room, etc.).
focus on time – There are many different collection points for transfer calls based on the legislative calendar, committee votes, and floor votes. Start with a good list with a recent phone match. Use a phone quality score if possible.
Types of patch calls – Currently there is no single type of patch call. From traditional patches to automatic patches to digital patches, choose the type of patch that best suits your strategy.
Use high quality calls – Call centers are considered a commodity, but a high-quality caller or volunteer can make someone comfortable talking to their congressional office, while a robot-sounding voice can’t. Ask to monitor calls to understand what you are really paying for.
negotiate the price – There is a high margin on patch calls from consultants, so always get several offers and analyze call quality. An automated automated transfer can cost anywhere from $1.50 to $3.00 and a traditional transfer call can cost anywhere from $6 to $10 dollars or even more depending on the audience.
Ask where calls are coming from – High quality carriers will make sure you match the accents and don’t call near the coast or abroad, but other phone providers aren’t as picky. Always get agreements in writing.
Agree what a completed call is – I have seen disagreements with consultants on what constitutes a “complete call”. As with any consulting agreement, the clearer the agreement and the conversations, the better your relationship will be.
Get real reports – Be sure to view a sample report before hiring a consultant. The reports that consultants give you can vary greatly and a good report is key to giving you a real understanding of what is working and what you need to do to increase engagement. That could mean changing the language or shortening a hyphen.
Ask for data that you can compare with your file – Don’t look at patches as a short-term gain, see them as a long-term capability for your organization. You can collect information before you patch, which means the potential to grow your list or increase engagement.
Keep your list organized – When someone performs an action, it is the beginning of a longer relationship. Keep track of your action takers because you’ll need them again. Having a secondary objective of long-term capacity development can be helpful for the growth of your organization.
use technology – Patch calls can occur beyond traditional phone calls. Digital platforms that use click to call through digital ads and SMS can help increase action with your audience. There are many platforms that make it easy for organizations to manage digital transfer calls.
know the law – It is illegal to automatically dial cell phones. Cell phone numbers must be dialed by hand. If you are calling cell numbers, be sure to comply with the law.
So do they work? sometimes is the answer – Patch calls can help reinforce a message to lawmakers from real people, are easy to set up and complete, and the message can be compelling. But like any form of persuasion, people don’t always persuade each other, but there are some forms of communication that you can engage people in quickly or efficiently.
test messages – Know what drives action on your issue. Test your message with members and voters. Message is important when it comes to engagement, so don’t just do a rough draft of a script. Take the time to refine your script and make sure you’re using the correct message.
training matters – Know what you want people to ask if they interact with a staff member. Make sure the instructions are simple and educate your callers.
Follow Up Through a Promotion Funnel – A patch call is one step in an engagement ladder or promotion funnel. Getting someone to contact your legislator can be a first step to membership, activism, and donation. Make sure you have a process to track their movement as they interact with your organization.
Impact Layer – A tactic does not make a campaign, especially these days. Most legislators won’t believe that people are calling out of the blue, so adding advertising will increase both the perceived and real impact.
Patches are a good tactic, but like everything, they have their limitations. Start with strategy first and have a clear reason for using this as a tactic and also think about how it works with the rest of your campaign.
If you have any questions about patch calls, please let us know. come here.