We are all familiar with the mortal sins of gluttony, greed, envy, etc., but what about the sins of campaign malpractice? What are those things that will cause your candidate to lose, or worse, be the linchpin for a lawsuit?
No. 1 –Sources of Sin: If your campaign makes a claim, you better be able to substantiate it with proof. Facts are facts, and you can take it to the bank that your opponent will be fact checking everything you send out. Negative pieces especially should always be well researched and well documented. Not stating/including the proper disclaimer on your materials would be a rookie transgression. Plagiarizing others works is slothful and easily tracked, but if your job is to get your candidate elected, then these venal sins can cause election damnation. Many times on campaigns, when you are sleep deprived, and your candidate is on edge, you will, by simple cerebral compulsion, craft a message that well, let’s say “stretches the truth.” Consciously forcing yourself to stick to your facts will guarantee you don’t make yourself the lead story in the news. Worst case scenario is not that your candidate loses but that you are slapped with a libel suit.
No. 2 – Misdeed of Multiple Messages:Stick to one story, and one theme. If you are sending out a biographical piece on your candidate, don’t use it as a median to attack your opponent. A confusing message is a wasted opportunity. The time between the mailbox and the trash can is short. Voters need a message they can understand. Otherwise they will toss it in the can. Always tell your voters “why” they should vote for your candidate in all of your messaging.
No. 3 – Tactical Transgression: Not targeting your electorate is a violation of Politics 101; know your audience. Sending out a mailer about your position on social security to millennials is as wasteful as sending out a postcard to baby boomers about college debt. Ideally your campaign canvass of voters should help you determine what issues are important to which voters; however, certain biographic data can be taken right from the voter lists. Every state, except North Dakota, maintains a voter roster which is available to the public. Some states allow for partisan registration (i.e. Republican or Democrat) which is useful in crafting your message. Other states have open primaries which allow you to get an accurate list of who votes in each primary election. Finding out how frequently people vote is helpful to determine their propensity to vote, allowing you to allocate your resources efficiently. Other demographic data such as age, gender, and zip code which can tell you median household income are all useful tools to target your message.
No. 4 –Word Gluttony: Candidates love to give speeches. They love to talk and visit with voters, explain their issues and pontificate their platform. Your direct mailer is not a speech — it is a statement. You’ve heard the expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Let your art do the talking. A voter will, within seconds, scan the headline and look at your pictures. If they are interested, they will read your text, not the other way around. Too much text and the message will be lost. Your text should only reinforce the impression made by your art. Never use more than two font styles (max): one for your captions, and the other for your message. Multiple fonts are just confusing.
No. 5 – Amateur Artwork: The look is the message. Michael Deaver, President Reagan’s image maker, said “Unless you can find a visual that explains your message, you can’t make it stick.” Using clip art that you took off of the internet is amateur hour. If you are printing images, the resolution should always be 300 dpi (dots per inch) minimum. Most images on the internet are set at a lower resolution so that the webpage will load faster.
Solutions: Purchase stock photos from online companies like iStock.
Hire a professional photographer to take family pictures of your candidate, as well as document campaign events.
Enlist the help of a good graphic designer.
If the campaign budget is tight, have a graphic designer at least create your campaign logo, as well as several templates that you can use. It’s well worth the money in the long run. The quality of your printing is directly related to your graphic design.
No. 6 – Crime of Crummy Colors:Color scheme is the second most important component to your mail piece after your artwork. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that if you print in black and white you are saving money. The press process, which is what is used for large quantities, is the same four color process for all printers. Your color choice should match your message. Earth tones (i.e. browns, greens, or blues) or colors found in nature send a subdued message. Vivid colors (i.e. reds, oranges, and yellows) catch the reader’s eye. A word of caution: the color on your monitor will not be the color you get when it is printed on paper. This is mainly because your screen resolution is set to a lower dpi than is used in the print process.
No. 7 – The Sin of Pride:Speaking of printing, make sure you take your job to a professional. You will never have enough time in a campaign; the job is all-consuming. Postal regulations can be byzantine and print terminology paralyzing. Consumers are bombarded with advertisements daily, so your materials should not be seen as subpar by voters. For example: Why does my artwork need to bleed?? Bleeding means extending images 1/8” beyond your final trim line. During the cutting process, any misalignment will cause your artwork to look disfigured. The opposite is true for text. Text should never be closer than 1/8” to your trim line. This is called the “safe zone.” A professional printer will make sure your job is printed property.
I have spent over a decade working with political campaigns and national fundraisers. At PrintPlace, I am responsible for all political marketing pieces and work hand in hand with candidates and their consultants.