Adding ThruTalk To Your Outreach Strategy
Thank you for choosing ThruTalk for your phone calling needs. We think you’ll find it an easy and intuitive tool to reach your target audience without the need for printed call lists, manual dialing, or paper data entry. This guide will help you get the most out of ThruTalk by helping you think through the who, what, when, where, why, and how of your calling program.
Who Will You Be Calling?
The first question you’ll need to consider in using ThruTalk is who you will be calling. In general, your phone calling targets can be divided into two main types: known supporters and cold contacts. ThruTalk can be a valuable tool for reaching both audiences, but your approach will likely vary depending on which audience you are targeting.
Known supporters will be the people most receptive to speaking to the campaign. These conversations should be longer than cold contacts, which is a good thing -- when your callers get into real conversations with your supporters, it deepens everyone’s engagement. This does mean that your callers will get through known supporter lists slower, but keep in mind that ThruTalk charges by the dial, not by the minute, so there is no financial penalty for longer conversations. Reasons for calling known supporters include:
- Volunteer Recruitment
- Event Turnout
- Vote-By-Mail Ballot Chase
- GOTV reminders
Using ThruTalk for cold contacts is a great way to identify new supporters, who you can then recruit to become more deeply engaged as evangelists, volunteers, and donors. Conversations with cold contacts will be shorter than with your known supporters, and your callers are more likely to encounter hostile contacts, so be sure to prep them for that possibility. Cold contact calling includes:
- Support identification: will the call recipient be supporting your campaign?
- Polling / survey collection: how does the call recipient feel about a particular issue?
- Persuasion calls: convincing “on the fence” voters to support your campaign
- Cold GOTV: encouraging people who you think are likely supporters to go vote
When you figure out which audience you’ll be contacting, you’ll need to begin cutting lists and uploading them into ThruTalk so you can start calling. You can learn how to upload a list here. And here are some best practices for list management in ThruTalk.
- List Format: All lists uploaded ThruTalk must be in .csv format and must contain the following required fields: UniqueID (VANID or similar), First Name, Last Name, and Primary Phone. We recommend setting the header row names in your CSV to match the field names so the mapping feature in ThruTalk can locate the correct columns. You can read more here about the different types of fields -- required, standard, and custom fields.
- List Sizes: Wait times and dials per hour will vary depending on the number of callers (more on that below). To be on the safe side,we recommend having at least 300 numbers per caller per hour in your list. For example, you should have least 9,000 numbers for a 3 hour shift with 10 callers).
- Strike Lists: You may want to update a list you’re currently working on to prevent certain people from getting called, e.g., a phone bank taking place after a large door knocking push. To make sure your callers are only talking to people who have not been contacted by the campaign that day, you can load a strike list.
- Services: You may want to organize your calling into different services, which is ThruTalk’s term for ongoing calling campaigns that are running concurrently. For example, you could split your calling based on language (e.g., Spanish, English, Chinese, Tagalog), geography, or purpose (e.g., voter ID, volunteer recruitment). There is no charge for adding services, but we encourage you to keep the number of services small to avoid spreading out your callers, which will reduce your calling efficiency (more information on calling speed is below).
- List Loading Strategy: When loading lists, you can specify that ThruTalk make a single attempt only or make multiple attempts. Most clients choose single attempt for most lists, as its the best option for cleaning your list, managing callers, avoiding overcalling, and monitoring your progress and costs. You can read more about list strategy options here.
What Will Your Callers Say
Once you know who you plan to call, your next step is to decide what you want your callers to say. ThruTalk makes it easy to guide your callers’ conversations via an interactive script that leads them through the call based on what responses they record. Here’s some best practices for script writing:
- Script Order: Write your script in the order you want it visible on the screen--question then answer, then the next question and answer, and so on. Be sure to use the admin script preview which updates in real time, to make sure your questions branch correctly.
- Question Branching: Question branching in ThruTalk works on boolean logic,like computer code(For example, your script might be structured like this: If the answer to question A is 1 AND the answer to question B is 2, THEN show question C. Script logic can use AND, OR, EMPTY, NOT EMPTY, GREATER THAN, or LESS THAN (ideal for ranking type questions like "how likely are you going to vote"). If you have questions about your logic or can't get it to work, we have expert staffers on hand to do script reviews and script trainings. One thing to note -- the default logic for making a question appear based on the response to two other questions is AND, not OR.
- Script Review: If you would like a fresh set of eyes to review your script, please don’t hesitate to submit a script review support ticket. Keep in mind that we require a three-day window to conduct a thorough script review, though the turnaround time is faster in many cases..
- Non-Latin Alphabets: Our scripts are able to use most characters, so do not be afraid to use accents or non-Latin alphabets in your text. Of course, if you request a script review for non-English/Spanish scripts, we will need a translation to see how the script should flow.
- Script Length: While the length of your scripts will vary depending on why you’re calling, we recommend keeping your scripts short -- under 5 minutes of total speaking time, which usually means a short introduction and 3-4 total questions per branch.
- Contact Widget: Make sure to train your callers on how to use the contact widget to provide instant follow-up via email or text message so that call recipients get the information they’ve requested while the call is still fresh.
One last tip on script writing -- we highly encourage you read your script out loud before you start calling to test the length and to make sure that it sounds natural. For more on the nuts and bolts on creating your script, read our support guides here.
When Will You Make Calls
To get the most value out of your calling program, you’ll also need to consider when you will use ThruTalk.
Whenever you plan to make calls, you should time your phone banks with an eye to when your contacts are available and when you want them to act. Here’s some best practices for scheduling your calling:
- Keep in mind that the more callers you have in the system, the more efficiently it runs. Wait times can range from 2-3 minutes for 1-3 callers, to less than 30 seconds in a phone bank with 20+ people. So having 20 people calling at the same time is far superior to having 20 people all calling alone at different times.
- We recommend having your volunteers commit to making calls during a 3 hour shift, which is generally the standard length of an organized phone bank.
- Most campaigns find that the best hours to call are between 5pm and 9pm in the target’s timezone. While most people are available during those peak hours, calling during the daytime in the workweek can catch those who work non-standard hours.
- Recruitment for volunteer efforts or events should begin around seven days before the event occurs. This gives your contacts a reasonable amount of notice before an event to make a commitment, but is not so far away that they will forget.
- If possible, you should plan to do reminder calls three days out, the day before, and the day of the event if possible. Recent studies have shown that sending reminder calls and texts to volunteers significantly increases their rates of attendance.
- You should begin working on your plan for GOTV phone banking well before GOTV begins. Keep in mind that GOTV will be a high volume period, so be sure to have lists long enough to last through the expected wait time for uploading a new list.
- If you are using ThruTalk for fundraising and trying to acquire new donors, we recommend tying your calls to milestone moments like the day(s) before a reporting deadline, a major news event relevant to your campaign, or days of note including holidays, birthdays, and history/heritage months (e.g., Black History or LGBT Pride Months).
When Will You Make Calls
Whether you are hosting in person phone banks or having your callers log in from home, ThruTalk’s web-based interface gives your campaign the flexibility to phone bank from anywhere. Here’s some tips for giving your callers the best possible experience regardless of where they are calling from.
In Person Phone Banks
Traditional phone banks at your office are great for building your team’s morale, and make for easier training and support for callers.
- Working with your office’s layout, the ideal phone bank with ThruTalk should have tables and chairs so your callers can have a place to put their laptops. Callers should be spread out enough to have real conversations without disturbing their neighbor. Encourage a communal atmosphere by having set break times, which will cut down on more frequent or longer breaks during call time. Be sure to have a space for snacks and drinks.Better yet, use your script to ask targets who can’t come to phonebank to donate snacks!
- Training your volunteers to use ThruTalk is easy, before they arrive, you can have them watch our short video on how to use ThruTalk. Before you start calling, you can have them review the script with your script preview and use that time to address any of their questions regarding the script.
- There are a number of ways to keep up morale and caller engagement during a phone banking shift. Many campaigns use encouragement like ringing a bell every time they get an RSVP or a commit to vote. A visual thermometer tracking calls and contacts will help people keep big picture goals in mind. And appointing a volunteer or organizer to act as a floating caller will give your volunteers the flexibility to use the restroom or get snacks without slowing the pace of calls.
- While most business internet plans can support the bandwidth of a fully staffed ThruTalk phonebank, you should try to minimize the load on your internet so your phone bank can continue at full efficiency. Your volunteers should not be streaming music or videos or accessing other websites while they use ThruTalk as that can put a burden on your internet and cause connection speeds to suffer.
- We recommend asking volunteers who are too busy to volunteer physically to loan spare laptops and over-the-ear headsets to the campaign so you can make sure every volunteer can call, even if they forget to bring equipment.
Distributed Phone Banks
Distributed phone banks allow you to engage volunteers who don’t live near a field office, including allies from outside your district or state. To get folks started, all you’ll need to do is distribute the login url to your volunteers. Here are some other tips:
- You can train virtual phone bankers on the tool by distributing our 3 minute training video to virtual volunteers and by having short webinars (live or recorded) to get folks confident before they call. We recommend keeping your training videos to under 10 minutes in total, including the 3 minute training video.
- When working with virtual phone bankers, consider appointing someone on your team with ThruTalk admin privileges as a point of contact for virtual phone bankers to help them troubleshoot, understand the ThruTalk tool, and any other campaign specific-details you need them to know.
- Encourage your friends and volunteers to rope their networks into your efforts: Ask them to set up virtual phone bank parties and spread pictures of them having fun volunteering across your social media with your campaign’s hashtags.
- Make sure to follow up with your remote callers after their shift so they feel connected. Also, ThruTalk caller reports can help you make ongoing report cards and leaderboards to let folks know how they are doing and get recognition even if they never come to the office.
Some campaigns have success mixing in-person and distributed phone banking by having remote volunteers calling at the same time as in-person callers. If you want to try this, consider starting the phone bank off with a conference call that brings together in-person and remote volunteers, and provide chat tools like Slack or Skype to help all of your callers stay connected.
No matter where callers are calling from, make sure that all of their cellular devices turn OFF the “make calls over wifi” or “wifi-calling” feature; this setting is not recommended and can result in a speaking delay.
Why Use ThruTalk
If you’re reading this guide, you’ve probably already thought about why ThruTalk is a good fit for your calling needs. But you also may find yourself needing to explain that choice to other colleagues on your team. Here’s a few tips:
- More than 55% of Americans only have a cell phone. That percentage is even higher among people of color and young voters. ThruTalk lets you legally call cell phones at the speed of an automated dialer. If you are not calling cell phones, you are ignoring a huge portion of your base.
- Voter contact is all about volume. Using ThruTalk, you can reach speeds of 300+ dials per hour. Not only does that help you reach your calling program’s goals more efficiently, it means your callers spend more time actually talking to voters, which is what they signed up to do.
- Instant data validation and recording. ThruTalk is able to filter through your numbers and report which numbers are no longer valid. Additionally because of ThruTalk’s dynamic scripts, your callers will generate data efficiently without breaking focus from their calling.
How To Get Started With ThruTalk
Now that you’ve thought about the basics of your calling program, here’s some guidance for how you can get started actually calling with ThruTalk:
- Dive-in to ThruTalk. Don’t wait until right before you need to run a calling campaign to get to know ThruTalk. Our client success team is available to help train you and your staff and answer questions. We have an extensive support libraryas well that you can use if you’d prefer to learn it yourself.
- Organize Your First Phone Bank. Your phone bank begins long before your first volunteers open their phones, having a successful phone bank will depend on everything you do in preparation.
- Spread the word about your phone bank and embed ThruTalk’s sharable login page to your phone bank event page on social media.
- Transcribe your call script in our DIY script writer.
- Let volunteers study the script before calling with your unique script preview url.
- Load a list of contacts for your callers.
- Manage Your Data. Whether you’re phone banking for event or volunteer recruitment or for GOTV, you’ll need to understand the data you receive in your reports. These articles will put your organization in the best position to take advantage of your data.