Kathleen Wynne   |   Doug Ford

Two names that create an instant reaction.

Whether you feel your party leader is unjustly despised by thousands or not… he/she is still despised.

Let’s just let that sink in.

Listen up Local Candidates

It is what it is. Accepting what is, is critical to getting prepared for your local campaign.

And, although you yourself are going to invest the time to get to know your leader’s strengths (and, I hope, weaknesses) deeply, the average person just… will not. They will not get to meet your leader in person, be privy to the weekly or daily party updates and insights, or even have the time to do the level of research they hope to before election day.

Think about this:

Have you read the platforms of all four parties?

Have you watched video of each of the leaders?

Do you have a Google News alert set for every time the leaders’ names appear in media?

I do. You probably do not.

So, scale that down much further for a more realistic understanding of the amount of time the average voter takes to prepare for an election and you can then accept: it is what it is.

The week before the election, whatever is in the media is going to have a huge impact on how individuals will vote.

While that sounds dire, there is still a powerful way to get around this truth: Door Knocking

Level Playing Field for Ontario Election 2018

When you cannot vote for the leader (or the party), you have to vote for the local candidate you prefer.

Look, there will always be groups that are loyal to a party in spite of their leader. I am not denying that. And realistically, if your party is not their preferred party, you are wasting your time with them.

But, there are groups that are very exciting to find and cultivate:

  1. Those who are just looking for a strong local representative,
  2. The undecideds and,
  3. Youth that have not voted and formed habits

Strong Local Representation

When it comes to election time there are a couple of things going on in the minds of those in this group:

  • Will this person actually solve [insert core issue here]?
  • Can I trust this person?

The answer to these questions probably happened on their doorstep. That is why you should be out pounding the pavement today (it is Saturday, sunny and just below zero as I write this) finding out the core issues that matter most to your local communities.

Of course, I am hoping that you are also meeting with key decision makers, organization and groups to hear their needs and balance them with your understanding of the region.

Politics (like dating) is really just sales.

Sales, done ethically, is service. A way of helping individual be heard, understood and helped.

Find out their needs. Door knocking accomplishes (at least) three things when done right:

  1. Builds know, like, trust factors for you or your candidate.
  2. Let’s you ask questions and hear what the locals in your riding feel the issues are.
  3. Provides an opportunity to inform, teach and persuade conversationally.

So, basically Sales 101 right?

Find a need and fill it. Authentically.

Authentically conveying a solution on every point is probably impossible. There will be issues that you hear at the door for the first time. Inventing an imaginary solution as though you have knowledge about the issue is not okay.

Citizens/constituents are not usually looking for the perfect solution from a politician. They are looking for a credible solution. Sometimes they just want to know that you agree that there actually is a problem and that you will work toward a solution.

Features vs Benefits

Features like experience, vision, community presence and work ethic are nice.

Benefits like Strong Local Representation, a commitment to Listen to the Locals (via monthly town halls and a weekly twitter chat perhaps) after you are elected, specific local goals that resonate… these are gold.

Train Your Volunteers!

Arm them with canvassing kits sure, but do some training and some role playing to be sure they understand you or your candidate.

We do not want your volunteers knocking on doors with a weak and shallow message:

“Hi I am out canvassing for Candidate Name. Do you know how you plan to vote in the election? [Insert answer here]
Okay if you change your mind, my candidate’s information is on this flyer. Thanks.”

What a nightmare. I am not saying that you should badger your neighbours here. What I am saying is that there are scripts that open conversation, build agreement and deepen understanding. They are simple, courteous – and a heck of a lot more fun for your volunteers too!

Also, don’t forget – a lot of people will not know when the election is taking place, how to register or where to vote. Have some information on that handy.

What goes in the canvassing kit? I actually like Bernie Sanders canvass kit – it included

  • scripts and responses,
  • questions for deepening the communication fast and understanding local concerns,
  • answers on each of the core issues in a simple to repeat format and,
  • a set of flyers or cards to distribute.
  • I suggest a notepad and pencil as well – or an app if your people are tech-y.

Codicil: This advice is based on the idea that you have done your platform work. If you cannot stand firm on your own value, vision and strength, please do not go out knocking on doors yet.

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