Why phone banking is dead, or should be
Imagine this scenario: You and yours have just set down at the dinner table to enjoy a nice meal together. One of the dishes is best when right out of the oven or off the grill. You are just about to say Grace when the telephone rings. Guess who? You got it. Itís someone trying to sell you something, ranging from insurance to political candidates and everything in between.
But wait. Didnít we have our phone numbers placed on state and national no-call lists? How can this happen?
Well, some calls are outright violations of the law. Those are calls from some unknown party trying to sell one kind of product or another. If you have caller ID, just tell them you have their number and, if they call again, you will turn their number over to your state attorney general for prosecution. That works.
But there is an exception for political speech. Under that exception, political candidates can hire phone banks to call even those of us on no-calls lists to fund raise or just to advocate for a political candidate. Even so, it is a stupid thing for political candidates to do because the vast majority of Americans have put their phone numbers on no-call lists for a reason.
Even more stupid is for the caller to try to explain the political-speech exception to the householder. Many people already know about the political-speech exception and still donít want to be called. Moreover, they donít want to be argued with and may end up telling the caller: ďLook, I was for your candidate until you started arguing about the political-speech exemption. Now, Iím not. Goodbye!Ē
Some unscrupulous phone bankers will call under the guise of doing a political survey; however, as the call wears on, the caller shifts into trying to sell a commercial product. Again, get the phone number. Turn it over the state attorney general for prosecution.
There is another exemption for businesses with which the householder has had a previous business relationship. Letís say an insurance company with which you already have a policy hires a phone bank to call existing customers and offer them an additional kind of insurance coverage. Yes, that kind of speech is exempt; however, it is stupid as well.
As dinner gets cold and the person who cooked it is fuming because the meal is going to be ruined, that is not the time to try to sell anyone anything Ė exemption or no exemption.
Take it from someone who used to work full-time in the political campaign consulting business: Phone banking is dead! In the era of no-call lists, political candidates would be well advised to spend their money on other media.
While television can be too expensive for local campaigns, direct mail and e-mail are affordable alternatives to the dreaded phone banks. Sophisticated, yet relatively inexpensive, Internet search software is available to help pinpoint the snail-mail addresses of those likely to be receptive to the views held by a particular candidate. The Claritas Cluster System is just one example.
There is one exception to the idea that phone banking is dead: Phone banking can still be used by getting friends to call friends on behalf of a candidate. The friend will know not to call at dinner time. The friend will not call when their friendís favorite TV show is on. Moreover, many people are interested in the political opinion of a friend. Once again, other than friend-to-friend, phone banking is dead.
Finally, there is the phony phone bank that purports to call on behalf of a certain candidate; however, it is really a dirty trick by that candidateís opponent. The phony phone bankers call at the dinner hour or during events like the Super Bowl to foster anger against their purported candidate. Thatís just one more reason to drive a stake through the heart of phone banking
William Hamilton, a nationally syndicated columnist and featured commentator for USA Today, is the co-author of The Grand Conspiracy and The Panama Conspiracy Ė novels about terrorist attacks on Coloradoís water supply and on the Panama Canal, respectively.
©2007. William Hamilton.