By Jacob Faber
Christine Dyster is currently a campaign manager for the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. Throughout her career she has gained firsthand experience in engaging community members and developing strategies for successful engagement. Dyster works for Arizona Legislative District 18 managing the campaigns of Democratic State Senate candidate Sean Bowie and Democratic State House candidate Mitzi Epstein.
What have been your strategies when engaging potential voters?
It’s all about being genuine and passionate. People can tell you’re being genuine when you’re talking to them and they can see your passion if you’re being genuine, so I try to convey that to my volunteers and to anybody who’s helping us engage a community that those are the top two things you’ve got to remember. I believe in neighborhood team organizing; it’s something that the Democratic Party’s been working on for many, many years. It’s a far more volunteer based structure, which makes it more sustainable than a paid structure. You’ll see a lot of campaigns will hire 50 paid door knockers and they’re all from out of state; they’re only here for the election cycle and they’re gone the day after the election. And that structure may work for one election cycle, but that’s not what we’re trying to build here in LD 18.
With regards to building that community and getting those volunteers out there, how are you maintaining your relationship with voters on a long-term basis?
You’ve got to keep people engaged in those off years. … It’s a lot less election-focused in these off years, it’s more focused on our meetings. We also have a monthly fun night where we just play games, so it’s keeping them engaged on this more fun, community level. And then when the election year comes around, we’re more focused on, “Are you planning on voting?” and, “Do you have your voting planned?” Fun community events in the meantime, that’s how you keep voters engaged.
What are examples of those community events?
We have an annual golf event. It’s a fun event and it does raise some money, but it’s really intended to be low-dollar so it’s accessible for everybody to come. We send out postcards to voters that we’ve contacted in the past to say, “Hey, remember us?” We’ve also done in the past this comedy show and it was hundreds of people that came, but even better was we went out and invited all of these people we’ve talked to in the past and engaged them, so even if they didn’t come to this comedy event, maybe they started to look into other things we were doing and maybe now they’re coming to our monthly meetings.
What strategies can media employ in their political coverage to better engage voters?
When I watch national news programs, I definitely feel that it’s ‘this person’ hating ‘this person,’ and you definitely see a lot of that. I guess it becomes more the responsibility of local news to show camaraderie because I think that animus definitely sells. It probably is very attractive to a lot of people but when people want to know what’s going on in their community and they want to get more involved, they’re going to turn to smaller publications. I think it becomes the job of the smaller publications to show communities coming together to build something.
Why do you think you see less “hating” in the local news?
I just noticed there’s less of it. There’s more actual reporting in local I feel like sometimes. One day I just had CNN on for all day and they were just like, “Donald Trump goes on airplane — breaking news. Donald Trump landed in some state — breaking news.” And that’s not breaking news! I was really disappointed watching this national news organization and then I went to my local papers and they were reporting on local candidates who were running and what their platforms were and I was getting actual information. I think it’s because when people are looking for that deeper, more local reporting, they want more information, and national news media is just very glitzy and are trying to capture an audience who isn’t looking for information but rather looking for entertainment.