Here’s my latest piece for the Liberal Democrat website:
When I first learnt election campaigning, one of the rules of thumb was that ‘every leaflet before Christmas is worth two after’. It was based on the experience of thousands of different campaigners ahead of May local (and indeed general) elections.
Starting with early campaigning meant you could set the political agenda for the contest. Starting early with activity gave more time to get new people involved and trained up. The pre-Christmas commencement also meant more bites at the cherry in that long, tough struggle to get typical members of the public (i.e. not that interested in elections) to notice what we were saying. And above all, early starts generated positive responses from voters. Not always immediately, but increasingly as polling day approached and other parties only later started up their own campaigns.
These days, we should swap in a range of other words for leaflets in this rule. Starting early with emails, with social media, with direct mail, with canvassing – it is a good rule to follow for them all. For canvassing, where thanks to Connect we can track volumes of canvassing at different times of the year against subsequent election results, there is also a clear pattern of those who start soonest usually being amongst those with the best results. The pattern backs up other evidence, such as peer-reviewed random trials, on the impact of door knocking.
Of course, the weather and lack of daylight through winter make it harder to start early activity than it does for social media, always doable in the dry warmth with a warm drink to hand. Which is why upping the pace in canvassing as the weather improves and daylight hours lengthen in March so important. It’s the last chance to get ahead of the game.
So if you have elections in May and haven’t started canvassing properly yet, don’t leave it aside as something for April. Too many places leave starting canvassing until too late.
What you do in March could be the making of even more great victories – or if you let the opportunity pass, March could be the month in which you end up looking back as being the time the campaign was blown.
And when you do head out canvassing in March, remember that every bit of extra time put into mentoring someone new through their first few doorsteps will pay big dividends in their future contributions. Judge the success of your canvass sessions not only by the response on the doorstep but by the number of new people taking part.
Oh, and have fun!