“The most important job I ever held was that of precinct committeeman.”
-President Harry Truman
A friend called the other day and started a discussion about communication with precinct chairs. As often happens with this friend, we covered many related topics and went off on many tangents. Because these are common challenges in every county, I decided to share some of our ideas online. Unfortunately, there’s one chronic problem that is beyond the scope of this conversation— the degree of commitment and enthusiasm of those who volunteer to be a precinct chair. These suggestions assume a strong selection, development, and leadership process by the party; to be successful, leaders of volunteer-fueled organizations must maintain the same high standards and expectations that we have of workers in the business world.
A Node in a Network
I approached the communication question this way: the precinct chair is a node in a communication network. The specific issues that triggered our conversation could be broken down into voter access to this node and party access to this node. First—for the voters. Being a precinct chair in a political party is by definition a public job. It must be understood that a key responsibility is outreach to voters. So the precinct chair must be accessible to the public. Those who are extremists about privacy may be in the wrong job.
Warm Web Presence
Online, the party website must project warmth and it must welcome the visitor. Each precinct should be shown as a neighborhood with the chair being a real person. Photos are essential—especially of the chair, but also of the neighborhood. A few lines of text from the chair welcoming newcomers should accompany each section. For examples, look at your legislator’s home page which likely describes both the person and the district. I encourage a short video plug-in where each precinct chair can display their personality to the voter. Also, notice how real estate agents market themselves.
Direct Telephone Conversation
Telephone numbers are essential because not all voters are comfortable with email, and some issues are too urgent or complex to work online. We recommend RingCentral, which can provide a virtual phone number with multiple extensions and an audio directory. This number should be featured on all publications. Each precinct chair can configure their extension to forward to a personal number, with many voicemail and screening options. Both the phone number and email can be reassigned as necessary. The privacy of the chair is maintained and the party maintains continuity over time. www.RingCentral.com