A Phone Tree is a tried, tested, and true activist tool for quickly reaching a wide number of people in aims of relaying important information and/or mobilizing action and support.

While social media and smartphone Group Chats can play an important role in reaching people quickly, the Phone Tree is a reliable tool for contacting a large number of people directly within a short period of time. In some situations, the Phone Tree method can also be a way to reach people with whom you are not yet in direct contact with.

The idea is simple. While one person alone could use up an enormous amount of time trying to call a large number of people, without even reaching everyone, a Phone Tree refers to the act of one person calling a small group of people, who are then prompted to call a group of people themselves, who might in turn be prompted to call yet another group, etc. In this way, the flow of communication spreads out, like from the tip of a tree downward to the wide reaching roots.

The Structured Phone Tree

There are a few ways to set up a Phone Tree, depending on the situation. If you already have access to a large collection of contacts, maybe gathered within a certain neighbourhood or high-rise building, things can be more structured. A Coordinator can be designated, as well as a group of Key Members. The Key Members can each be given a list of contacts. As soon as the Coordinator calls the Key Members to relay a message, each Key Member will call every contact on their list to pass it along. These contacts could even be encouraged to call any others who may need to be reached, depending on the situation.

The Unstructured Phone Tree

If a message needs to be relayed within a given building, or neighbourhood, or across the city, but no sufficient list of contacts has been built, the same principle can be applied. An organizer might call a few key contacts with a message, while prompting each contact to call others with the same message, while prompting the further spread of the message far and wide.