Persuade, Participate, Mobilise - the three phases of political communications

While digital channels may have revolutionised the delivery and ability to engage with political communications, the primary driving purposes of those communications hasn't. They're either trying to persuade you to vote for something, get you to participate in helping promote that cause, and ultimately mobilise you into voting come election day.

For the next few blogs I'm going to drill down into each of these phases and how we're seeing them play out in the digital space, particularly looking at how social media, email, and data are used in their delivery. But for today, I'm going to focus on defining these categories what specific type of messaging falls into them.

Persuade is all about getting the message out about why someone should vote for you. In a New Zealand context with our short election cycle, Persuade content never really stops being produced, but it kicks into overdrive about a year out from each election. It's where the parties settle on the value proposition they're going to put to voters, develop and release their policy platforms, and attack the values and policies of other parties. This is the bread and butter stuff in the digital space, with social media graphics and videos, websites, email campaigns, needing to produce bucket loads of content to support it.

Participate is turning that support for your values and policies into donations, memberships, and volunteers come campaign time. This is why parties are so eager to get you to sign your name, email address, and other contact details to issues and petitions. Once they have those details in their database, you've taken the first step in a process designed to convert you from a potential voter into an active party member who volunteers - think Labour's very successful Baby Number campaign. While this does take place throughout the election cycle, unlike Persuade content the real guts of this happens in the months leading up to the start of the campaign, as well as during the first few weeks of the campaign. The obvious reason being that you not only need money to run a campaign, but also volunteers to door knock, make phone calls, deliver flyers, erect and wave hoardings, and generally populate your ground game.

Mobilise is the get out the vote component of political communications. Whereas in the past this took the form of activities on polling day itself, such as door knocking and offering supporters lifts to the polling station, advance voting has meant that you're now looking at a two to three week period where this will be much more intense. In fact, if you look back at each election since 2002 when advance voting was introduced, National has performed better in the advance voting period than it has overall, illustrating the real importance that this aspect of the Mobilise phase of communications has taken on.

As I mentioned before, in the next few blog entries I'll drill down into each of Persuade, Participate, and Mobilise, as well as look at how digital channels and social media in particular have impacted them.