Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Does "Flooding the Lines" Work?

I just read about a new service called "Floodthelines". The goal of the service is to get people affiliated with an advocacy camaign to make a steady stream of phone calls to the target (such as elected officials). Organizers can post information about the cause, talking points, information about the targets and the service will set up a reminder system to send e-mails to remind supporters to call on a certain date and time. For now at least, the service is free.

The developers' argument is that e-mails and petitions are easily ignored (true!), but that a telephone ringing in a decision-makers office will create a sense of urgency that inspires action. I have to say that I'm sceptical about that last claim. I think telephone campaigns are effective only if they meet three criteria:

1) The people calling the decision maker are relevant to that decision maker (i.e., consituents)

2) Supporters actually make the phone calls -- this type of approach probably won't work for a number of the "soft" initiatives that many groups in DC lobby on where it's tough to get advocates to make calls.

3) You're in a venue where having a phone call every three minutes is a big deal. The phones on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC already ring pretty much non-stop. I can't imagine being able to generate enough RELEVANT communication to make an impression on already overloaded Congressional offices.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm not saying you shouldn't check it out (hey, free is free!). Just consider it one of many tools in an advocacy campaigns arsenal. And be sure that more of your effort is focused on working with advocates to generate personalized, thoughtful, non-"form" communications. Those are what really make the difference.

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