Case Study

Wendy Davis for Governor Campaign

During the 2014 midterm elections, Texas state Senate member Wendy Davis ran for Governor. As a Democrat running in a traditionally Republican state, Davis knew her campaign needed an innovative approach to register, motivate and turn out voters that typically don’t vote in the midterm elections. Reaching college students and Spanish-speaking communities were, in particular, crucial to the Senator’s strategy to expand the electorate.

Davis’s campaign team chose text messaging, with its wide reach and easy access, as the ideal communication tool for their campaign’s needs. But the campaign needed to grow their mobile list from scratch, statewide, in order to effectively wield this powerful tool. The campaign decided to focus on four main drivers of list growth, which subscribed tens of thousands of Texas voters and eligible voters waiting to be registered to Davis’ mobile list.

  1. Activating “Generation Wendy” and registering college students all across the state.
  2. An aggressive field outreach program that expanded upon the canvassing that was already taking place.
  3. Creating Spanish language forms and materials and communicating with Spanish-speaking supporters.
  4. Activating their greatest asset – the candidate herself.

Activating Generation Wendy

The campaign designed a specific outreach strategy to activate college students across the state with text messaging. This strategy empowered student groups for Wendy Davis by creating unique opt-in keywords so that the campaign could have specific conversations relevant to students at each school, including updates about events on or near campus, highly tailored messages about getting classmates involved, and local voter registration and polling place information.

Generation Wendy students promoted their opt-in keywords at booths on campus, with sidewalk chalking, posters, and via student-to-student Tell-a-Friend messages, where students could text in their friends’ phone numbers to invite them to join the mobile list.

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The campaign knew that reaching college students via text was crucial, since younger people are less likely to use email consistently and far more likely to communicate via text.

Overall, nearly one third of all Generation Wendy subscribers used the Tell-a-Friend tool to invite friends and classmates to join the list, and over 40% of those friends accepted the invitations.

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Incorporating SMS into the campaign field plan

Due to the sheer size of Texas and the low urban-density of many parts of the state, the Wendy Davis campaign had to be able to give constituents in these areas an easy and quick way to communicate with field staff.

The campaign set up an easy service for people to text in to find an event in their area, and if none were available, to prompt someone to host their own. Voters could immediately connect with a field organizer to get the materials they needed to host a Team Wendy event, no matter where in Texas they were located.

The field team continued to grow the list during Texas’s early voting period, right up through Election Day, with door-to-door canvassing efforts. Canvassers helped supporters text in their vote plan by asking them if they would vote and how they would get to the polls. The campaign then sent an automatic text message reminder on the day the user said they would vote in order to spur them to the polls before Election Day. The campaign also created the website MyTexasVotes.com, which allowed users to enter the date they were going to vote to receive an automatic text message reminder.

The campaign also made use of advanced segmenting to reach supporters they knew had already voted to prompt them to get their friends to text in to find their polling place. Users were able to text I VOTED to let the campaign know they already cast a ballot, and could volunteer to help others get to the polls.

Speaking to voters in their own language

Taking advantage of the bilingual capabilities built into the Upland Mobile Messaging platform, the Wendy Davis campaign was able to create a comprehensive Spanish experience for Spanish-speaking supporters. These communities are typically underserved, with most campaigns putting only a token effort into reaching them. The Wendy Davis campaign, on the other hand, made sure all of their sites were available in Spanish and developed Spanish-language messaging to go with them.

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A strong call-to-action

Finally, the Wendy Davis campaign also made use of its best asset – the candidate herself – to make strong pitches for getting supporters to text in to join the mobile list.

During campus visits, Wendy Davis would personally invite supporters to text WENDY to 97779 to keep up with the campaign and get involved. The first call to action from Wendy Davis resulted in an immediate 12% spike in list-growth and a 97% increase in subscriptions over the prior week!

Seeing those results convinced the campaign and the candidate to incorporate a strong text call-to-action into as many speeches and rallies as possible, growing their list rapidly across the state. The strategy also extended to social media, with frequent tweets and Facebook posts from the candidate asking supporters to text in.

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Using these four tactics effectively, the Wendy Davis campaign was able to grow a mobile list of tens of thousands of voters and potential voters in just three months and activate them for crucial Get Out The Vote operations.

“Activating supporters across the state and mobilizing across demographics was critically important to us. We wanted folks to know that they mattered and empower them to take action. We were able to reach them with the power of Upland Mobile Messaging. Our digital team partnered with them and their toolset to drive an unprecedented mobile campaign throughout Texas, and the results of that mobile organizing will have a lasting, positive effect in-state.”
–John Brougher, Chief Technology Officer, Wendy R. Davis for Governor

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