First impressions matter with everything in life – and that includes when speaking with members about voting. And while it can feel awkward, nothing beats a face-to-face conversation with members about what concerns them.
Remember to make it a conversation – resist the temptation to talk at someone about the issues. And that’s even more the case when it comes to avoiding talking at them about the Labour Party.
Our members trust us to talk about issues – particularly when it comes to public services. But many of our members don’t engage with UNISON as a political organisation – and generally don’t accept being told who to vote for.
So here are our top dozen tips on having that conversation
1 Make sure you’re talking at a time that’s convenient to them – and ask them about their experience and issues.
2 In an ideal world, you should aim to spend around 70% of the conversation listening. Find out what our members’ issues are, what problems are hitting them, their families and their communities.
Then you can explain how using their vote in this election matters and how it could lead to practical help with their issues.
3 Start by using general questions and then narrow the focus: “How are things going?”; “What has changed recently/over the last … ?”; “What would you change to make things better for you and your family, if you could?”
4 If you are already aware of an issue, use this to open up the conversation: “Are you worried about … ”; “What is happening about … ”; “How do you think you and your family/neighbours could be affected by … ”. This is about local issues – getting an appointment with your GP, the local library closing, bus services being reduced or stopped; things that directly affect people, their families, their friends and their colleagues.
5 Steer clear of union-heavy language or words and phrases that scream ‘political activist’! Remember, we’re talking to our fellow UNISON members, our colleagues and their families about using their vote.
6 Don’t assume that the things you take for granted will strike a chord with someone who is not yet sure about whether they’re going to vote or who they would vote for.
7 Use inclusive language: for example, talk about ‘our union’, ‘our public services’, ‘our community’, etc.
8 We also know that, while statistics can be important, it’s vital to win hearts first – the ‘vision thing’ – before using statistics to support that vision.
9 UNISON is its members and you want the person you’re talking with to listen to what you have to say precisely because you share that in common.
10 We know what our members’ key concerns are the pay squeezes, the lack of funding for public services – in particular, in the NHS and education – and Brexit uncertainty. But even though the latter is a big concern, be aware that members have a range of views.
11 Other concerns are the lack of affordable housing, insecure employment and increase in violent crime – all of which have local impacts.
12 Don’t forget about social media.
Knowing that lots of people are voting will help to persuade the reluctant voter to do so. In other words, all those ‘I’ve voted’ buttons, which can then be seen by your online friends, can have a positive effect and promote a feel-good sense about voting.
And the same can be said of ‘I voted’ hashtags.
And let’s not forget all those lovely pictures of dogs outside polling stations!
Why every vote matters …
We’ve all experienced moments when people are negative about voting, so here are a few suggestions for how to respond to some of the sort of comments that you might encounter.
“Voting is just a waste of time. And what’s the point of politicians? They have no idea what real people are going through.”
There is a lot at stake for people like us in public services at this election.
The past 10 years of pay squeezes, cuts to services and understaffing, which we’ve all felt the effect of didn’t happen by accident.
They were the result of decisions made by politicians.
And yes, politics can seem to be frustrating and remote from the reality of working lives, but although the parties are all competing for voters, there are big differences.
So it’s important that you use your vote to get your voice heard and to send a clear message that you care about the future of public services.
“This election is all about Brexit isn’t it?”
Of course there’ll be a lot of focus on Brexit. But don’t forget that we’re electing a Parliament and choosing the government for the next five years.
This means that 12 December will be as much about the future of our NHS and other public services, local council services, policing and crime and education, as it is about Brexit. And those things matter to all of us and to our families.
“Will anything really change because I vote?”
The outcome of this election is far from clear. As we saw in 2017, things really can change during the election campaign.
Also, although there is a lot of propaganda out there at the moment from both sides, Labour’s policies are about improving our public services, including the NHS, affordable housing, public transport and rights at work.
“My constituency always votes Conservative – it’s not worth me voting.”
This general election is different and Brexit has changed the way people are thinking about how to vote, which could mean there will be some surprises.
Deciding not to vote is making sure your own voice won’t be heard. In 2017, 14.5 million people didn’t vote in the general election, so you never know what might happen!