If you’ve attended an event, watched cable TV, or spent any time at all on social media, you know that the 2024 election is already dominating the national conversation. And it will only get more intense.
With control of both the White House and Congress on the line, the election will eclipse almost all other business in Washington, slowing legislation, distracting lawmakers, and shifting the lens from policy to politics. The situation begs an important question for public affairs teams.
What is your organization doing to prepare your audience as America goes to the polls?
Companies are increasingly joining associations and nonprofits as organizations that promote civic participation, helping their audiences stay informed on relevant issues and making it easier for them to cast a vote. As long as organizations remain nonpartisan, it’s a role that is often welcomed.
The 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer, which measures trust worldwide, shows that 62 percent trust businesses to do what is right, a number that grows to 78 percent when people consider their own employer. That’s far more than the 50 percent who trust government or media.
Those numbers represent an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your audience. Organizations with a commitment to civic participation often start with basics and grow their program over a period of years, progressing to more sophisticated strategies with each election. To help shape your GOTV strategy, here are three different sample programs—basic, intermediate and advanced—that explain how your organization can safely get involved in 2024.
A Basic GOTV Program
A basic get-out-the-vote program starts by acknowledging that there is an election; recognizing that it will impact your employees, members and other audiences; and resolving that your organization has a role to play by helping them navigate.
While there are many things your team can do to address the election, here are some basic steps that almost any organization can take:
- Make Time for Voting. Helping employees get to the polls is a simple way to promote civic participation. Some organizations give paid time off on Election Day. Others make it a meeting-free day and allow employees to leave to cast a ballot. Whatever the case, an increasing number of companies are taking steps to make voting easier. Time to Vote, an organization of companies working to increase voter participation, now has more than 2,000 members, including major companies such as Bank of America, Coca-Cola, Target and Visa.
- Offer a Pledge to Vote. One simple way to encourage participation is to send out a pledge to vote. This is simply an informal agreement that employees can sign to say they intend to vote on Election Day. While it is not at all binding, it sends the message that you value participation. You can count the number of pledges, report the number who signed and use it as a way to engage your audience.
- Celebrate on Social Media. In state primaries and the general election, you can ask your audience to post pictures with their “I voted” stickers and then highlight that participation on your organization’s social media channels. If you keep it light and nonpartisan, it is simply a celebration of democracy and a way to thank those who vote.
Another strong idea is to set some rules and establish a tone for political discussion at work. While every organization will handle this differently, it’s a good idea to think about it in advance and issue some reasonable guidance. It is better to set expectations for conduct early than it is to do so in reaction to an argument or incident.
An Intermediate GOTV Program
Organizations that want to do more to help their audience navigate the election often do so by offering additional resources. A page of GOTV resources on your website, for example, can help stakeholders obtain the information they need to vote in both a primary and the general election.
For example, the GOTV features contained in grassroots advocacy software often allow your audience to:
- Check their registration status
- Register to vote online
- Learn which candidates are running in their district
- View voting rules and instructions
- See important dates and deadlines
- Find information on early voting, absentee ballots or voting by mail
Resources like this can be enormously helpful to your audience, giving them useful tools from a trusted source. The ability to register, conduct basic research, and then create a plan to get to the polls—all in one place—makes it far more likely that people will engage with the election, determine where they stand and ultimately cast a vote. And that’s really the objective of any GOTV program.
A page of election resources also gives your organization a place to direct your audience, allowing you to track metrics and conduct more advanced engagement. For example, you can send out email or text reminders of key dates or deadlines. For public affairs teams that conduct grassroots advocacy, it presents an opportunity to engage advocates around the election. Because an election page can capture opt-in data, it can even help your organization grow its list of advocates.
An Advanced GOTV Program
Advanced GOTV programs go beyond providing basic resources and encouragement and enter the realm of education and activation. This is for organizations that want to drive voter participation as a primary public affairs goal. Here are some ideas:
- Briefings. If your organization is already providing basic resources, the next step is non-partisan briefings to educate your audience. This may be a single briefing focused on your organization’s priority issues, or it may be a series that ranges across issues more broadly. Often, these take the form of sessions—”lunch and learns” are popular—that feature subject matter experts who give a presentation and then take questions from the audience. They can be virtual, in-person, or both. The idea is to give your audience basic information on issues that will shape the election, in a format that stresses facts and information over partisan rhetoric.
- Candidate Visits. Another advanced strategy is to have candidates themselves address your audience, either virtually or in-person. So long as both parties are represented, and candidates are asked to keep things short and informational, the presentations can be a great service to voters. While this may not be for every organization, it allows your audience to experience direct interaction with those seeking office in a safe and non-partisan space.
- Gamification. For organizations that want to drive voter turnout, gamification may be the answer. This allows your audience to earn rewards such as points or badges for taking certain actions, such as signing a pledge to vote. Those can then be redeemed to attend a special event or win a small prize. It’s a way of introducing incentives and making election activity more fun.
Whatever shape your program takes—basic, intermediate or advanced—the goal for public affairs teams is generally the same: to increase engagement with your audience. The people on your list will be discussing the election all year. Your organization can be part of that conversation in a way that is both helpful and supportive. It’s an opportunity to increase trust and engage your network regularly—and that can help fuel your grassroots program long after the votes are counted.