Nuts & Bolts: Inside a Democratic campaign—Mail Mistakes

If it’s tiny, it will never get seen

One of the complaints I hear at political meetings everywhere in the country is that political mail are large, glossy, and stiff so they don’t fold in a mailbox. “Why are the mail pieces so big” is something I get asked frequently. The answer is simple: you noticed it.

Too many campaigns send out tiny postcards. They do so because they are cheaper to send and cheaper to mail. It saves them money in both major phases of sending mail. After all, candidates say, I need to send our more pieces of mail, and large heavy pieces cost more.

Tiny mail, or postcards, have a different problem: no one ever sees them. Too often tiny mail gets folded up inside of magazines, newspaper coupon mailings, and other loose mail going to a house, and the voter never, ever sees them. If you have thoughts about sending tiny mail (3×5) take a step back: these are not going to be effective, and if it is all you can afford, you might be better off chasing a digital strategy.

Double check your work

Twice this election cycle already I have received pieces of mail with significant errors. Typos, misspellings, and bleed errors—where some of the text is cut off from the print—are the kind of thing that gets you noticed in a bad way. Before you sign off on your print work, have at least two people look through it and make sure there are no glaring errors in the piece of mail you plan to send.

If you send out mail with errors, people will notice, and not in a good way. You want voters to be talking about your message. Not the fact you used the wrong “there/their” or had a ridiculous misspelling. Nothing in your campaign is so rushed that it goes to a printer without at least two people checking it to make sure errors don’t exist. 

No Action Element

Every piece of mail you send needs to have an action element. For political campaigns, that action element is simple: Vote for X on (Date). While advocacy groups may send issue pieces without a call to vote, they do so because they aren’t the candidate.

As a candidate, the mail you send has to contain an action item linked to your re-election. For small campaigns, especially campaigns down the stretch, that is always a call to vote for your candidate, combined with a date.

If you aren’t asking for the vote, you are making a mistake. 

Bad Lists

Whether you use Votebuilder or PDI, work with others to come up with effective lists to send your mail. You may want to send a piece of mail to unaffiliated voters or persuadable Republicans. Another effort may go to your Democratic voters to remind them to turn out on election day.

But using bad lists, or incorrectly structured lists, can result in expenditures that gain your campaign absolutely nothing. Before you assemble your mail universe, get some help from your local state or county Democratic organization who can help double check the list to make sure you are spending effectively.

If you can—and if your district is large enough—realize that mail sent to those under 30 rarely gets read, no matter how good the design. Younger people largely sweep mail from their mailbox to a trash can, some leaving it piled up for days and weeks if they are apartment dwellers with community post offices. Depending on the cost of your mail service, and how you leverage volume to get discounts, consider cutting those under 30 out of your plan and instead focusing on them through a digital ad campaign.

Next week: Social Media Gotchas!

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