Colin Delany August 9, 2011

Michele Bachmann’s Strap-On iPads: New Tools for Field Organizers

Toward the end of a Dave Weigel piece in Slate on Michele Bachmann’s current campaign speech (you’ll be shocked to hear that she says she was right to vote against a debt ceiling-increase), we get a quick look at one way tablet computers can play into modern field organizing:

The candidate they’re having this conversation with has an impressive road show. When she finishes her speech in Council Bluffs, a team of grips starts loading a stage, two tents, an American-flag sign, and a jungle of A/V cables into a truck. One of them tells me his last job was working on Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Two Bachmann aides with iPads strapped to their hands like catcher’s mitts mill around the crowd, signing people up to vote for Bachmann in the straw poll. They offer paper tickets, too, glossy things that promise free food and a Randy Travis concert at the Ames Straw Poll.

Key point, besides the strap-on angle (handy) — technology doesn’t REPLACE traditional field work, it makes it more efficient. In the past, staff or volunteers would have asked supporters to sign up via a paper list, with all the attendant negatives: the paper would have been a pain to keep track of, many people’s information would have been unreadable, names and addresses would have had to have been entered later into a database, etc.

An iPad or other tablet computer solves most of those problems, and if it’s synced live with the campaign’s central database via wireless connection, new supporters could have a welcome email offering volunteer opportunities waiting for them when they get home. Just as smartphone apps improve the lives of door-to-door campaign canvassers, tablets help a field operation get more value out of every minute of staff time.

But note that paper still plays a role, since those picnic/concert tickets can sit in someone’s pocket and remind them of a good reason why they want to show up in Ames (at least, if they like Randy Travis). As you’ve heard here before, it’s all about picking the right tools for the right applications, then integrating them so that they work well together.

cpd

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