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How to Integrate Mobile (SMS) into Your Events

When the 2016 Election results came in an era of resistance was ushered in. This era has been accompanied by marches and rallies every other weekend to fight for our communities, friends, and families. Events like the first Women’s March in January 2017 broke records for attendance and left participants energized and ready to resist the politics and policies of the current administration. They also utilized mobile (SMS) technology at a level never seen before.

The Women’s March in DC and it’s sister marches across the country in 2017 got millions of SMS mobile opt-ins via a simple keyword call-to-action. How did they do it? A combination of mobile tactics that organizations and campaigns, big or small, should integrate to help keep their movement active and engaged even after their event has passed.

Call-to-Action from the Speakers

U.S. Rep John Lewis speaks during a rally for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, Friday, Nov. 2, 2018 at Morehouse College in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

If someone from your organization is speaking at an upcoming rally, protest, or even a fundraising event make sure their speech includes a text opt-in call-to-action (CTA). This is the perfect opportunity to add new supporters to your mobile program. Have your spokesperson say something like:

“Ok, now I want everyone to take out your phones. Open a text window and Text SMART to 97779 to sign our petition on so, and so issue. We’ll keep you updated on opportunities to fight back! Once again just text SMART to 97779. You can opt-out at any time by texting STOP and standard data rates apply.”

Taking that moment to engage your audience from the stage into taking an action immediately is powerful. Plus, you are helping move them up that ladder of engagement with your organization.

Sometimes it can be more difficult than it should be to get senior people at your organization to either agree to use the CTA in their speech or honestly to just remember to do it. It can be a lost opportunity. But, if it is your event you could use podium signs or a projected slide with your CTA as a back-up. 

If it’s a coalition event get creative, as the Democratic National Committee (DNC) did.


Having signage or large screens that include your organization’s mobile opt-in at events is a smart move and a quick and easy tactic. At the 2018 “Families Belong Together” rally in front of the White House there was an impressive speaking program of activists, celebrities, and musical groups — but one of savviest organizing tactics I saw was from the DNC. acquisition Like several of the major coalition organizations, they gave out signs to attendees to use for both the rally and the following march.

On all of the DNC signs was their mobile opt-in CTA: Text JOIN to 43367.

Yes, it was a bit smaller then I would have recommended, but it was there, and no other organizations thought to do it. If you can’t afford to print hundreds or thousands of signs you can still host a sign making party for volunteers and provide them with the info to include on their homemade signs. This really is one of those missed opportunities if you don’t take advantage.

Remember unlike a long website URL a text opt-in can be a much easier action to direct people to, and photos live on forever. So you can Google images from events back in 2016 that had a CTA on their signs.   I promise at least 99% of those who attended the last rally you went to had a mobile phone, so your mobile opt-in ask now isn’t just to those who attended but also those who saw pictures on the event on their friend’s social media or even read or saw it on the news.

Organizing at Your Event


During the Kavanaugh protests at the Capitol and the Supreme Court in the Fall of 2018, I saw the Women’s March utilize SMS well again, but this time it wasn’t just to acquire mobile subscribers to their cause. The Women’s March and other coalition members orchestrated a Day of Direct Action at the Capitol which resulted in hundreds of volunteers getting arrested as part of an organized direct action against Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

Hundreds attended and were trained in groups in front of the Capitol on best practices and important information. The leaders of these trainings instructed all the volunteers to:

Text WOMENSWAVE to 55222

Everyone who texted the keyword was then provided with important information to volunteers who chose to participate in the direct action, and they were also able to text the shortcode with any questions they had. Throughout the day updates and important resources were provided.

Event Coverage

Not everyone has the ability to attend events or volunteer when they want to. Life happens, but people love to live vicariously through others. This is why event coverage via social media is so popular. People have FOMO, but they still like staying updated on what is going on.

When I attended the DNCC in 2012 for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, I gave our several hundred thousand person mobile network the option of getting updates from me on the ground. Those that responded YES to receiving messages got an SMS/MMS a day about what the DNC in Philly was like as well as the kind of work PP Action was doing there.

If your organization is organizing or participating in a national event, like Planned Parenthood’s #PinkOut Day, Everytown’s #WearOrange, the Women’s March or Families Belong Together rallies – then a great engaging event coverage option is to ask supporters to send in photos of themselves participating. For #PinkOut Day in 2015, Planned Parenthood was texted thousands of amazing photos from supporters around the country.


Event Recruitment


And last but not least, the most obvious. Use texting to get supporters to your events. With response rates 4X those seen on email, you need to use SMS for event recruitment.

Mobile makes it really easy to get people to RSVP, collect information, and provide needed event details to those attending. It’s also one of the best rapid response tools out there when you need to rally the troops quickly.

Lots of people use both peer-to-peer and broadcast platforms for event recruitment, but broadcast mobile (SMS) saves both time and money for this particular functionality. If you are targeting supporters or volunteers, these are your easy opt-ins, and with a broadcast platform you can message them all with one click of a button, plus provide logic based responses for a lower cost. But, if you are targeting voters or maybe an audience unfamiliar with your organization or campaign, this is when using a peer-to-peer texting tool makes the most sense.

Interested in reading more about the best use cases for peer-to-peer vs. broadcast mobile, check out this blog post.

Now start using mobile tactics at events to grow your mobile list, cultivate supporters and improve event turnout.

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