If you've recently made the decision to seek state elected office, you may be excited at the prospects of the political season that awaits you and eager to get out and begin shaking hands and kissing babies. However, scheduling speeches, meet-and-greets, and other public networking events in your district can be a challenge if your electorate is spread across hundreds of miles, and you may worry you'll spend more time in transit than you do actually getting your name and face out before potential voters, an especial concern if you're running against a well-known incumbent. Read on to learn more about some higher-tech outreach methods that can give you the opportunity to interact with your electorate without putting thousands of miles on your vehicle or paying hundreds in airfare to fly from one side of your state to the other.
Town hall-format teleconferencing
While a traditional video conference may not be the ideal format in which to connect with potential voters, teleconferencing systems designed to assist a "town hall"-style presentation can be a great way for you to see, hear, and interact with your constituents -- even conducting a virtual press conference and answering questions.
To participate in a town hall teleconference, you'll just need a couple of things: a computer or smartphone with a working webcam and a web-enabled camera and microphone stationed at your constituents' location. Once these cameras are connected online, your constituents will be able to see and hear you (and vice versa), allowing you to take and answer questions, see the audience's reaction to your prepared remarks, or even solicit suggestions on your campaign's objectives. While no telephone or video service is yet capable of teleportation, a town hall teleconference can go a long way toward letting you feel as though you're in the room with your supporters.
Live online events
Another alternative to the town hall teleconference is a type of political "ask me anything" (AMA) live event, either hosted on your own campaign website or on a social media platform. This event is inexpensive to host and promote, and it can be a great way to arouse interest and allow potential voters the opportunity to get to know you better.
For an AMA event, you'll need only to announce that you'll be available online on a certain date and time, taking questions from your voting public -- these questions can be posted directly (if you're hosting the AMA on a social media platform) or emailed or texted to a specified contact person. You'll need a strong moderator for this type of event to screen out abusive, profane, or other problematic comments, as few things can hijack an AMA more quickly than an online heckler or two. However, when it comes to getting your name and message out across a wide district without spending hundreds of dollars on travel, an AMA can be a uniquely effective campaigning tool.