Some people claim the Internet has changed everything, but when it comes to politics, the fundamentals haven’t changed — all politics are still local.
Campaigns are about people. About connection. About making yourself known to potential voters and letting them talk back to you.
So where do you begin?
1) Plan Your Campaign to Save Time and Money
The first step in any campaign is planning. That means defining why you are running, what you stand for — including the elevator version, not just an encyclopedia of policy no one but political wonks would want to read.
It also means defining the look for your campaign — the colors you’ll use, the images you’ll repeat everywhere and the short, punchy messages that summarize your positions — in other words your branding. Unless your background happens to be as a graphic designer and brand manager, get a professional to help you with this step.
Then, when you have that draft campaign, test it — and not just with your family and friends. Try it out with people you don’t know who might be more inclined to tell you what they really think.
Up front planning time can save you hundreds or thousands of hours (and dollars!) in inconsistent marketing or later, frantic attempts to redirect an already doomed campaign Titanic.
But once your planning is done, what’s next?
2) Use Campaign Mailers to Make Yourself Known
That’s simple — introduce yourself.
Even if you’re on a first name basis with everyone in your district, you still need to introduce yourself as a candidate and tell them why you’re running in this election.
That applies to first-time candidates and long-time incumbents.
Political campaign postcards are a great way to make that quick introduction. They should include your picture, a statement of two or three key issues and a simple way for voters to reach back to you.
Your introductory political mailers need to consume virtually no time to absorb — you want them to work even for the person who only looks at a campaign mailer as they walk from the mailbox to the trashcan. In those precious seconds, they need to get your message.
That kind of simplicity is not easy to achieve. As Steve Jobs noted “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
There’s another reason to use political campaign postcards. As noted on the website Local Victory:
Direct mail works because it is cost effective. With direct mail, you design a piece, and set up a list of voters (lists of voters can be purchased from your local or state elections board … [or] purchased from list brokers targeting people in different niches). Then, the mail piece is sent out only to the households you select.
But, are mailers enough?
3) Spread the Word Far and Wide
It is a mistake to think that any one medium will be enough to win an election — and that applies equally to the Internet, no matter how much it’s hyped.
But it would also be a mistake to ignore the Internet. It’s best to view the web as simply another means to get your message out, a way to keep your interaction with voters timely and relevant. Just don’t depend on it to do everything for you.
But why is important to spread your message around?
For years there’s been a debate in marketing circles as to how many times a message has to be repeated in order to “land.”
There’s even a technical term for it described by the The Financial Brand:
“In advertising, the term ‘effective frequency’ is used to describe the number of times a consumer must be exposed to an advertising message before the marketer gets the desired response, whether that be buying a product, or something as simple as remembering a message.”
Although no one has nailed down an exact number, The Financial Brand site confirms “there is one thing everyone generally agrees on … messages are more effective when repeated.”
Use the Internet as a means to get across timely messages. And, make sure you take every opportunity to gather new email and snail mail addresses.
Use the Internet to build up your mailing list for political post cards that will deliver more lasting messages. Use responses from postcard mailings to gather email addresses that can be used to deliver timely, updated news.
4) Focus on What’s Important
But, even as you’re spreading the conversation around, stay focused.
Only if you don’t differentiate what kinds of messages work best on what kind of media.
The Internet is great for up-to-the-minute updates and two-way communication as well as long articles that would be prohibitively expensive to print. It costs virtually nothing additional for a webpage to reach an entire county or country, but that webpage lacks focus on specific constituencies.
In contrast, political campaign mailers can be targeted to very specific groups such as potential voters, known supporters or single neighborhoods.
5) Stay Consistent to Ensure Your Message Reaches
Remember the first step of your campaign — planning?
Make sure you don’t neglect it once you’re deep into the process — you need to stay with the same messages, colors and design.
Regularly verify that your website matches your mailings that match your campaign paraphernalia. And once you’ve introduced yourself with a political campaign postcard you want to build on that introduction with continuing direct mail political campaign pieces and associated emails and web updates that look familiar.
When that new mailer drops into a voter’s mailbox, you want them to instantly recognize it is from you. When they go to your website, they should have that same, immediate sense of familiarity.
Voters don’t want to elect leaders who are inconsistent. Constantly changing messages, designs, colors and images do not bolster an image of consistency.
If you Google the importance of consistency in political campaigns you’ll find, interestingly, a consistent response such as: “effective campaigning goes hand in hand with a coherent, persistent and consistent message,” a quote from the encanvasser site, a group based in Ireland that works on political campaigns internationally (just to show the principle applies everywhere).
But while you’re staying consistent, how do you avoid turning consistency into a vice?
6) Remain Flexible Enough to Seize Opportunities
Not really. Good campaigns respond in timely ways to changes in direction, to questions from the public, to allegations from their opponents and to general news stories impacting the issues.
Winning campaigns are flexible enough to stay current but they use the right media to get out timely information. Don’t respond to your opponent’s negative-accusation-of-the-day with something mailed — that’s what the Internet is for.
But don’t fail to continuously fill the vacuum of who really you are with more permanent communications such as mailers.
Wrap-up: Remember, Stick With and Use the Fundamentals
Running successful campaigns on local, state or national levels is all about communication — the right communication using the right medium to the right people. And it is always a two-way street — listening is at least as important as talking.
To have a chance at winning you need to plan, you need to introduce yourself and why you are running, you need to spread your message around, stay focused and be consistent while managing to remain flexible.
With those principles in place, you have a good chance of reaching and really communicating with voters.
The rest is up to you.