AUSTIN, Texas — Staffers from Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s 2012 campaign gave an inside look at the strategies that helped the Massachusetts Democrat clinch victory at a South by Southwest panel Monday.
Warren had never run for office before her Senate campaign, but thanks to grass-roots organizing and extensive online efforts, she went on to defeat incumbent Scott Brown by 7.5 points. The panelists were digital director Lauren Miller, field director Mike Firestone, get-out-the-vote director Amanda Coulombe and campaign manager Mindy Myers, who is now Warren’s chief of staff.
Miller said storytelling was a major component of email and social-media efforts. In fact, the best-raising email the campaign sent told a story and apologized for sending so many emails. Sent on a Friday night — without a direct call to donate — the email raised $428,000.
The statistics shared in the panel were revealing. Online donations accounted for $21 million, half of all money raised by the campaign. More than 350,000 donors made more than 600,000 contributions, with more than half of all contributions under $25 and more than 80 percent of contributions under $50. Campaign volunteers and staffers knocked on 1.7 million doors and made 3.8 million phone calls. The turnout for the race was 73.3 percent of all eligible voters, a record for a Massachusetts Senate race.
Firestone said encouraging and helping supporters to recruit their own circles helped build a network of volunteers who were up for a challenge. When presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Paul D. Ryan came to Massachusetts for their last fundraiser of the season, the Warren campaign staff organized a “welcoming committee.” About 75 volunteers stood in the rain to greet the motorcade and donors, and a picture of the stunt garnered more than 14,000 likes and 580 shares on Facebook.
To get phone bank volunteers, emails asking them to come to the office didn’t inspire. But calling for tech-savvy supporters to bring in their laptop or smartphones attracted people who hadn’t volunteered for the campaign before.
The audience of about 150 at SXSW was greeted by a recorded video message from Warren, who couldn’t attend the festival but mentioned that she taught at the University of Texas in Austin in the 1980s and was quite familiar with the city.