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What’s All the Buzz About Telephone Town Halls?

BY BOB PENNER

By now many of you have heard about or even participated in a Telephone Town Hall. Stratcom has been pleased to bring this to the Canadian marketplace, although, even for us, it took some persuading.

We do a fair bit of work in the United States and are a member of various American industry associations. For many years, some of my colleagues in the political arena have been telling me that we should use Telephone Town Halls. They are a great communications tool and clients love them, they said.

But for whatever reason, I didn’t immediately pick up on this suggestion. It was a different sort of tool for us, we were already busy and I didn’t immediately see the value. But they persevered and when an opportunity with a new vendor with superior technology was presented to us, we decided to give it a try.

But it wasn’t until our own first Telephone Town Hall that I fully got it, and became a believer. This event was for a candidate for mayor of a major Canadian city. There were more than 10 candidates in this mayoral race and our candidate, although an experienced politician, was not particularly well known and was in the middle of the pack. So, we conducted a Telephone Town Hall and invited most of the city to participate. We were amazed to have him speaking to an audience of more than 18,000 people, and at one point 4,000 were on the line. What else could I do cost-effectively or in fact in any way to find our relatively unknown client an audience of this size? Many of the people asking questions during the Telephone Town Hall were saying how they’d never heard him speak before and how impressive he was to hear and also that they liked to be asked to participate in this way. So clearly, the Telephone Town Hall was, as my American colleagues had said, a strong campaign communication tool. Our client didn’t win, but he ran a strong campaign.

However, while we do have political clients, most of our business is in the non-profit sector. So, we starting to think, in the same way, about how many of our clients’ donors have never heard that organization’s leader speak. The non-profit market is also a crowded field and the same fundamental premise exists. If you call a public meeting, you might attract a few hundred local people or fewer. But, with Telephone Town Hall technology, you can reach thousands of people across the whole country to listen to your message from the comfort of their own home. It’s easy to set up and provides great communication, great interaction, great feedback and, in my experience, the audience is always enthusiastic about them.

It’s not rocket science, it’s just basic communication that’s made easier because of advances in technology. And, it’s now affordable because of the significant way costs have been reduced in the telecom system, and how the Telephone Town Hall can make use of this opportunity.

Although we’ve done a lot of Telephone Town Halls by now, we’ve only just begun to experiment with it and its endless possibilities. Watch this space to learn more. And, at our presentation at AFP Congress  in Toronto, I will discuss some of the more interesting Telephone Town Halls we’ve done so far. We’d also like to hear from you – if you had an experience with a Telephone Town Hall or if you have an idea for how it might be utilized to meet the objectives of your organization, let us know and we’ll discuss it in our blog and at our session.

[What’s All the Buzz About Telephone Town Halls? was originally published by Bob Penner on the AFP Congress Blog.]

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