3 Steps to Hosting a Successful Tele-Townhall During a Pandemic

In this unprecedented time, my personal mission is to make sure you can stay in contact with your audience, whether that’s constituents, members, or voters. I wrote this article for Campaigns & Elections magazine to share the best practices we’ve learned and implement for our clients.

Nicole Schlinger COVID - 19 Campaigns and Elections

As social distancing and self-quarantining become the new normal, Americans want to hear from elected leaders more than ever.  Battling the COVID-19 virus has ground community events, campaign rallies, small meetings, and door-to-door canvassing to a halt. But that doesn’t mean you should halt your communications with constituents, voters or members of your advocacy group. You can still safely communicate with a large audience using a telephone town hall. With sports, school, and church events cancelled, people are at home, available, and ready to take your call.

Step One: Spread the Word (Not Your Germs!)
Lawmakers using a telephone town hall for official business may dial out to a large audience of both landlines and cell phones. Campaigns and issues organizations may only dial out to landline phones or those with cellphones who have opt-ed in.

But the most active and involved participants in any telephone town hall are those who proactively dial in to your event so; focus on getting the word to people who will be interested.

  • Send peer-to-peer text messages, including your toll-free phone number that participants can click to join. Consider an MMS, using an image or GIF to draw focus and attention.
  • Email your list 48 hours in advance, and again the morning of your event.
  • Post on social media several times in advance and 10 minutes before the event begins. Ask your followers to post and share.
  • Send an automated call to the people who will be receiving your outbound dial to join your event. Let them know all they need to do is simply wait by the phone and answer when you call.

Step Two: Have an interesting, worthwhile conversation 
Successful lawmakers and elected leaders approach their telephone townhall with the same level of preparation as they would any in-person event.

We can help you to ensure you hold your audience with a conversation WORTH having:

  • A line-by-line, including notes for your opening remarks, will help guide the conversation and cover important topics.  It helps to have a moderator open the call, who can instruct people on how to participate, and call on members of the audience for you.
  • Keep the conversation fast and lively. Have responses ready for questions you think are likely to come up. Your responses to each question or comment should be no longer than 2-3 minutes.
  • Give your audience several ways to participate. You can ask your audience their opinion with a poll question and gather email addresses.

Step Three: After the event, keep sharing! 
After your successful event, where you spoke with thousands of constituents, shared valuable information, and answered questions, we can help you take it to the next level.

Now is the time to take the most valuable segments of your interactive conversation and share them with an even larger audience.  Here’s how:

  • Use the recording of your event and a static image to create 60 second MP4 videos that you can post to your YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter pages. Encourage your followers to post, share, and ReTweet.
  • Send peer-to-peer text messages of your video, along with a link to listen to the entire event. Ask people to reply to your text to let you know what they think.
  • Email your supporters a synopsis along with a link to listen to the entire event or pertinent clips.

Remember, this is a unique moment in history. You’re speaking to folks who aren’t used to being sequestered at home, who may be irritated, bored, confused or scared.

This is your chance to build a meaningful connection that will last much, much longer than any virus.

Call me if we can help 1- (888) 722-4704. 

Nicole Schlinger

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