## The New Power Players: How EXECUTIVES Are Shaping the Vote Through Conversational Campaigning

It feels as though misinformation has infiltrated every corner of digital space. But at the edges, a new way of approaching conversations has emerged, powered by the energy – and the networks of action – that can come when you speak with people instead of at them. Relational organising is a growing tactic that’s changing the way we talk with voters, and – ultimately – the way we participate in democracy. Here’s what executives in the political and tech realms are doing to make real contacts, and turn out the vote.

### The Evolution of Relational Organizing

Fundamentally, relational organising rests on the belief that people trust people they know; the phonebanking and mass texts of yore are out, supplanted over the course of the last year (especially since the cycle following the 2022 election) by smaller, face-to-face conversations. Executives running groups such as Relentless have pushed for the shift, pouring millions into programmes that equip people with the means to mobilise their networks politically.

### From Family Conversations to Field Operations

In the story of Tonya Williams who responded to discovering a family member was an ‘ex-voter’, we can see the pure power of relational organising – it was direct, it was personal, and that’s what this strategy must be. It’s that message that Relentless’ executive team recognised and built on in creating the programme – by giving the participants a $200 stipend, they drive citizens to the voting booths, but also ‘they’re recognising that the most powerful motivator is you’, as he told an NPR reporter.

### Trust as the Cornerstone of Voter Mobilization

Relentless’ Chief Executive Officer, Davis Leonard, points out that all this hinges on trust. ‘We don’t trust what we read on social media, because there’s too much of people putting out dubious content,’ he says. ‘A voice of a friend or family member is the most powerful and credible thing.’ And once we understand this, Professor Hahrie Han of Johns Hopkins tells me, we have to rethink the dynamics of persuasion. ‘Whether we’re susceptible to being swayed is based on who is delivering the message to us. We are much more likely to be susceptible to that message if it’s coming from somebody we trust.’ As they think about campaign strategy, executives increasingly emphasise an authentic connection between messenger and receiver, and personal interaction over broad, impersonal communications.

### Cutting Through the Noise

With millions of texts and tweets flying every day into the voting public’s heads, says Kelly, one look at the scale of the problem can be daunting. That’s why the Relentless executive team has made a deliberate effort to use storytelling in combination with trusted sources. ‘We know that stories and narratives work at the human level to help convince people, and we’re also seeing that technology is a big part of that,’ Kelly said. Grey sees this strategy coming to life through apps such as Rally, which enlists volunteers and voters in grassroots participation through their own stories and shared experiences.

### EXECUTIVES Leading by Example

Organising based on relationships is an opportunity that progressive advocates are clearly seizing. But it is by no means confined to progressive circles. Executives across the political spectrum can sense the power of personal outreach. With the Biden campaign’s embrace of the relational model, the bipartisan executive support for relational organising becomes clear. From the Republican Party’s investment in relational apps designed to facilitate one-on-one messaging, to the evangelism of candidates such as Trump who have found their own ways to gather more followers online (using the same technologies as social media organisations), it’s clear that the executive buy-in is non-partisan.

### Amplifying Voices Through Technology

The reliance upon apps that organisers can use to log interactions and share paperless materials speaks to a symbiotic blending of executive leadership, technological innovation and grassroots activism. Through apps that facilitate personalised communication, a message from a real person is breaking through the noise of conventional campaign practices.

### Understanding the Role of the EXECUTIVE

More than ever, the executive is needed to organise voters and guard against disinformation. Employing a combination of policy vision, technological savvy and personal belief in the power of authentic human connection, the executive is the engineer of this new form of political organisation. Emphasising relational organising, the executive is not just a player in the democratic game. Rather, as good stewards of democracy, the executive’s role is to make sure that every voice – quiet or not – is heard.

Finally, in summary, as we grapple with the hyper-mediated priorities of modern political campaigning, relational organising offers the executive a potentially new and indispensable role in recruiting and activating votes based on legitimate and trusting relationships. By making investments, leveraging digital tools and believing in the value of human connection, executives are not only changing how we talk about voting, they are changing how we do politics for the better.

May 30, 2024
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