A Playbook to Text The Election

It’s okay to feel unprepared for what would normally be the dominant story of the year. It’s coming up fast in the wake of an endless news cycle. We’re here to help.

At Subtext we’ve found that subscribers pour in for the major stories. The story of our lifetime, covid-19, proved that out with growth of 800% in Q1 alone for Subtext. It’s also still 2020 and a major election year — hard to believe, but true. So, we’ve put together a number of ways you can approach texting the election.

Before we get to the strategies — and if you need more convincing on texting as a medium — let’s dive into the why.

  1. Beat the noise of social media and the clutter of email, offering your audience a breakdown of 2020 via the most streamlined platform.
  2. Create a more audience-focused election coverage strategy by hearing directly from your audience via text and creating content they let you know they want and need.
  3. It takes less than 24 hours to get started. It’s free to start. And you can easily sunset the campaign post election.
  4. P.S. Did we mention most hosts spend less than 15 minutes a day texting and typically find that time more valuable than social? In terms of money — we see 12x the return on text vs Twitter and texting can reduce subscriber churn by as much as 60%.

Ok, to the strategies….

Building and sharing a voter’s guide

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All images are from real Subtext campaigns.

The What:

Text your audience the basics of who and what is on the ballot. Get texts back about what’s most important to them and what information they feel like they’re missing to make an informed decision. Then create a voter guide that responds to these information gaps.

Resources Required: Minimal

If a voter guide, or something akin to it, is already on your radar, then the heavy lifting that goes into these texts (the reporting) will already be on your list of things to do. Texting them out takes moments and ensures that the most interested members of your audience will not only be the first to see your guide, but also take part in creating it with their questions.

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Why?

A voter guide that doesn’t respond to the public’s information needs isn’t seeing its potential. 98% of U.S. adults text and 85% of people who are going to respond to a text do so within the first hour of receiving a question. This is the best way to make sure that your voter guide isn’t made in a vacuum.

The benefit:

After you’ve done an amazing job covering the election via text the audience now considers you a friend. You’re saved as a contact in their phone. You’re part of their daily routine. Every-time the phone buzzes and it’s you they’re accustomed to becoming a little smarter, a little more aware and engaged. You’ve officially Pavlov’s dogged them. And they want more.

When the election is over, you’ll be able to ask for support or subscribers. This won’t be a faceless and boring email to join/subscriber. This will be a text — from their friend. No amount of engagement on FB or Twitter can earn that kind of relationship.

Combat voter suppression with direct information

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The What:

This election there’s going to be a LOT of news around mail-in-voting and voter suppression. Social media will not help solve this problem. In fact, it’ll probably make it worse, with disinformation floating around in every direction.

Through Subtext, you can give people specific actions they can take to cast their vote. This could include locations, an understanding of their rights, how to register, and more.

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The impact of the pandemic along with the rules, regulations, advice and more will be different all around the country. Who better to help navigate that besides a news organization.

Resources Required: Most hosts spend 10–15 minutes a day on Subtext.

The original reporting around voter suppression and information is the heavy lift. If that’s already on your list of things to report on, think about what’s the best way to distribute that information. You could tweet 50 times a day in the hopes an algorithm connects those tweets with your audience, who will immediately be distracted by the next tweet in their feed. Or, you can directly text your now loyal audience.

The Why:

This is classic “news you can use” that will earn your audiences’ trust and loyalty for years to come. Every time they think about their 2020 vote, they’ll remember it was your organization that helped them navigate the process. When your “text the election” project is done — you’ll have an easier time converting this audience into subscribers/members, because you helped them perform the most important civic duty we have in this country.

Rumor busting and fact checking

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The What:

Now is the time to keep people accountable. Elected officials make all kinds of claims on the campaign trail. Social media is going to be toxic, with the worst kind of actors.

A benefit of text is that the public can send you questionable items to investigate. You don’t have to respond to every inquiry, but it’s common for our hosts to get lots of leads about rumors to track down and fact check via text. You have an army of eyes and ears to help you dispel misinformation. Make it easy for them to send you what they see — let them text you.

Resources Required:

Same as above.

To do the fact-checking: This is the heavy lift. But again, this is work that can go into producing articles for your site as well. In other words — it’s probably the kind of reporting you’re already planning on doing.

The Why:

Fact checking is one of the core values a news organization can provide and it’s an informational product the public intuitively understands.

The benefit:

In 2018 Joe Eskenazi texted the election in San Francisco. Around 350 people got news via text that London Breed would become the next Mayor of SF before the general public. That’s because Joe broke the news on Subtext first.

After the election, Joe sought to convert that audience into paying $4 a month to keep getting his texts. He converted 36% of that initial audience.

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In Support of Virtual Events

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The What:

There’s a good chance you’re thinking about doing virtual events over the next 3–4 months. Or maybe you’re going to report on virtual events like the DNC.

With Subtext’s ability to schedule texts you can reach your audience with a reminder 10 minutes before an important zoom call begins. If you’re having a multi-stage digital event (several zoom calls), this could be a HUGE boon for retention of the attendance over time.

You can also field questions ahead of the event and text out a recap.

Resources Required

Same. Same. The real lift is in the event organizing.

The Why:

If you want to make the experience of your digital conference stand out — wrap a bow around it and make it a full experience.

Inside the halls of politics and government

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The What:

This is for the people who want the insider-baseball of politics. The horse race coverage, whether it’s national or local, makes people feel “in the know.” If you’re a local beat reporter you probably know and understand more about what’s happening inside the campaigns than anyone else. You have analysis and people want to feel like they’re on the inside with you.

Resources Required:

Check our answers above. Yup. Texting is a MUCH lighter lift than you think. Schedule a demo and we can prove it. If you’re doing the reporting already — make extra use of your knowledge and text it out.

The Why
The tweet below is from a text campaign about Ohio State Football. What’s the political version of this? Don’t you want to be saved in somebody’s phone in a first-name basis and have their partner think you’re texting a wee-bit too much about politics? Do it for the lolz.

Spanish language coverage

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The What:

Texting is a fantastic way to meet a community that has language requirements, whose needs can’t always be met on social or your website. If you want to serve the Spanish speaking community in your area but aren’t sure how — texting is a perfect medium which they’re already using.

Resources Required:

You know our answer.

The Why:

Some members of the Spanish speaking community might feel more comfortable asking questions via text rather than wade into the waters of social media or your site’s comment section.

It’s Easier To Get Started Than You Think

We know you’re busy.

But you can launch a campaign on Subtext in less than 100 minutes. Details here.

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Seriously. People are often worried about how much lift there is to get going. The truth is — the lift is mostly mental. Once you get going, Subtext falls into your current workflow quit nicely.

Now it’s your turn

If you have questions: hello@joinsubtext.com

If you want to schedule a video call: Here’s our schedule

If you want to get started — fill out this form and we’ll create your Subtext campaign.

What do you have to lose? 10 minutes to fill out the form.

What do you have to gain: A new strategy to engage your audience and help your bottom line.

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This is the Medium account for Subtext http://joinsubtext.com/ A service that lets you text with your audience.

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