Councillor Jake Slee, our Regional Development Officer in Devon and Cornwall, shares his tips on single issue campaigning.
I live and campaign in a community in Cornwall named Fowey, the home of Daphne du Maurier, the 15th century St Catherine’s Castle and celebrity A-listers Richard and Judy. In this article I talk about one of the big issues affecting this area.
Fowey has been suffering from ever increasing numbers of second homes and holiday lets. The pandemic has reached the point where it is the main issue being discussed by the community. The issue is visceral, so it makes it hard for the community to ignore. It has been exacerbated by a multitude of national factors – from how the pandemic has changed people’s work patterns, to the holiday on stamp duty.
When an issue comes into the open like this, we as local campaigners should step up to be the voices of our community, no matter the size of the issue. Our communities will appreciate us speaking up on their behalf. You do not necessarily need the answers to the issues, but you do need to be the voice for your community.
These are the issues that are perhaps being covered increasingly in the national press and local press. The press not only picks up on these, but will fuel their momentum. Facebook communities are often hotbeds of discussion, so check out what people are saying. It is good to remember that Facebook often doesn’t provide the highest quality discourse, but it can be useful as a temperature gauge of a community.
Once you have found an issue, start with your survey – this is a great way to show that you as Liberal Democrats are listening to the issue. Sometimes an issue may have an immediate response but there is nothing wrong asking our community what they think. If your team has the capacity to get a survey out on the doorsteps, do it. This means that people see you are working on the ground all year round, on the issues that matter to them and importantly not at election time. A survey also provides you the opportunity to do a Knock and Drop, increasing returns and easy canvassing experience for less experienced activists. In Cornwall this provided us a fantastic opportunity to get back out there after elections and get some positive momentum going.
As mentioned, it is important to act quickly and while the issue is still relevant and being talked about. This is crucial to boosting your return rate. Digital surveys are a fantastic way of getting responses quickly. You can use the party approved Typeform, to construct surveys quickly and out to your communities. From there you can use your local parties and councillor Facebook pages to get the survey out into your community. Make sure you are getting your team of activists to share the survey with their networks. It’s worth noting that it is always good to get the survey out to where the conversations are happening so make sure you are posting it in local community Facebook groups as well. When we are campaigning on the ground, we go to where our voters are (on the doorstep), this is best practice online too.
Do not forget to ask for how individuals vote in these surveys. VoterID is so important to polling day operations and takes resources to gather. So, if you have got voters engaging with your survey, do not be afraid to ask! When issues are emotive, voters are often more likely to nail their colours to the mast.
These surveys also provide you the opportunity to gather email addresses and telephone numbers. Provided you have picked an issue that is going to resonate with residents, you are likely to want to continue campaigning on the issue. Asking if individuals want to be kept up to date with the campaign is an easy ask when it comes to contact details.
Starting the conversation on big current single issues that matter to people often motivates them to take action. Make sure that you follow up with people asking if they want to get involved in your campaign. As Liberal Democrats we vastly expanded our membership when campaigning in staying in the EU. These issues are a great way of getting people to rally to a liberal cause.
One thing not to forget is that both literature and digital surveys need to be GDPR compliant. All of the latest rules can be found at https://www.libdems.org.uk/gdpr.
A combined literature and targeted digital campaign with surveys in Fowey has now provided us with 100+ contact details, lots of information on how people vote, a number of volunteers who will help deliver follow up literature and built ties with a local pressure group on second home ownership. In line with this, we will also be starting an online petition demanding action to gather more email contacts in order to strengthen our campaign and to keep more people up to date.
I agree. I am a councillor in a very small rural ward and no many of the people I represent personally. But I don't have email contacts. So a recent survey was extremely useful in galvanising interest in a single issue but has provided email addresses of those who are supportive of the campaign. That means when door knocking we can focus on those who were not included in that survey response to we can judge how much time to focus on when it comes to the election next year. Those who were supportive can be reminded of the survey every time we speak to them too.