The Last 72 Hours

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Last 72 hoursUntil the last minute

Getting out the vote’ – every political campaigner and every politician in the USA knows this claim. It is a symbol for election campaigning on election day itself, until the polling stations close their doors. But it is no longer just an American phenomenon.

In probably all European countries it is becoming increasingly important to campaign until the election day. Potential Green voters, in particular, tend not to decide until ‘notoriously’ late on. For example, at the last election in Germany’s biggest federal state, Nordrhein-Westfalen, with its nearly 14 million voters, 39% of the Green voters left it until the final days before deciding whether to vote at all and, then, whether to vote for the Green Party. As a result: You can win and lose everything during the last 7 campaign days or even the last 72 hours. But what must one do to be on the winning side?

First of all, mobilisation is everything. But you should mobilise those who support you and not the supporters of your political opponents. Forget those voter groups you have never convinced before. Why would you be successful now? It is better to contact those who are open to Green ideas and/or voted for you before. You do not need a special survey to find them. In most cases, you only have to look at the polling stations’ last election results. These show where the strongholds are, i.e. your ‘battlefields’ for the last days.

But do not count on the media. At this stage, in most European countries, TV and radio stations as well as newspapers traditionally cut down on their reports about parties’ election campaigns. Your top candidate may receive a small amount of media coverage, but the time for long articles about your positions and visions is over. It is now time for direct contact with your possible voters. Go to the places where they are, such as pubs, events, parties, markets, and so on. Small teams of activists and volunteers, equipped with branded clothes and ‘give-aways’ can reach a lot of people in the streets in a short period of time. But this strategy has two further advantages: Number one: it is quite cheap because you only need volunteers; Number two: it will convey the message in the streets and to your voters that you are motivated and convinced that you will win.

Rely on your members and supporters. Smaller parties, in particular, always have financial campaign limits (with not enough resources for buses in the campaign design, or hundreds of TV and radio spots). So opt for the strategy of using your members and supporters as your ‘ambassadors’. Send them small packages of give-aways, posters and background information to distribute to their neighbours, colleagues and friends. There is no cheaper and easier way to spread your campaign material. In addition, these kinds of ambassadors generally have much more credibility than paid activists or expensive spots.

Be creative. You are the expert of your country and you know what the people in your country like. Use your knowledge and experience, and impress and surprise people. For example: rent a video projector and project a funny campaign motive on the town’s landmark in the evening. Or distribute coffee and tea in the morning at a railway station when the commuters go to work. It need not be an expensive action, but it should be an innovative one.

Do not forget that the campaign actions of the last days must be planned in time and not one week in advance. This last offensive should be mentioned in your campaign plans and your internal communication from the very beginning onwards. Otherwise you will send your material and ideas to supporters that have already invested all of their money and energy, and all of your strategic and creative ‘Get out the vote’ ideas will remain no more than that: ideas.

Last but not least, the internet: it is not surprising that the internet has become more and more important for political campaigning. But perhaps the best practice example of the German Greens shows how you can beat the top runner in political online communication: The German Greens: Three Days Sleepless on the WWW.

[Click here for Best Practice Examples]


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