Running For Local Office For Dummies
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Political campaigns benefit from branding. Smart candidates coordinate their campaign materials with a unified theme. Successful branding can help make your name and message “pop” among the voters.

The best political branding in recent memory is the O logo from Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign. It was marketing genius, since imitated but never equaled.

The material you need to run a campaign varies, depending on the number of voters, your opponent, and the campaign budget. You might not control these items, but you can prepare campaign material to deal with them in advance.

The first step to making your marketing material is to build a brand. A good marketing person works with you to develop the brand. They’ll show you thumbnails and offer ideas. You give feedback. Eventually, you come up with a branding sheet that sets your campaign’s design, colors, and other themes.

In the following figure, you see a sample branding sheet for city council candidate Tim Anderson. (The real one would be in color.) The branding sheet sets a style, fonts, colors, and graphics.

Branding sheet for political campaign Sample branding sheet.

Campaign material design is based on the branding sheet. The fonts and colors translate to any printed material, websites, letterheads, business cards, and so on.

  • The key items to get from branding are colors and fonts. Having a graphical element is also good, but not required. Name recognition is key, not a logo.
  • In the figure, details about the fonts and colors are supplied. This information allows printers and web designers to properly reproduce the brand.
  • Ask for the Adobe Illustrator or EPS file version of the branding material. You may have to pay extra for this file, though most designers provide it as part of their fee. You can use the file to have printers and others work on your marketing material if the person who designed your branding doesn’t perform that task.
  • The more colors you use, the more expensive your campaign material becomes to generate some material. The colors are red and blue with a white background. White is “free” because it’s not a color, but the second color (blue or red) adds cost to get materials such as yard signs printed.
  • If you’re in a partisan race, branding material may also list your political affiliation.

Important details for your campaign marketing material

Confirm your state or local election code for information required to be on your website and all your marketing material and handouts. For example, the law may require that you name your campaign committee or treasurer or other people involved in the campaign. This information must appear in a readable manner as the law stipulates.

The purpose of these disclaimers is to show who supports you or who is funding the campaign. The necessary details are provided in code, but check first, before you print anything. For small material, such as a business card, the information may not be required. The only way to know for certain is to check the law.

Create the traditional campaign marketing handouts

For small districts with low voter turnout, you might get by campaigning door-to-door with some handouts you make and print on your computer. If the district is larger, you need more traditional handouts for your campaign. Two common handouts are business cards and rack cards.

Business cards

Use your campaign brand to create standard business cards. Put your name, contact information, and some brief messaging on the card. You want to keep it clean and not wordy. It’s a business card, not a manifesto.

Ensure that you print on both sides of the business card. This approach gives you twice as much space, but it also means your card is always sending a message, no matter how someone holds it.

Cards printed on thick paper stock are great. Cards with raised lettering draw attention. If you want to write on the card, ensure that a finish is used that holds a felt or ink pen.

The number of cards you print depends on the size of the election. Because your goal is to hand out the cards to everyone you meet, print more than you think you need.

  • An election with low voter turnout would be one with 200 or fewer voters. Even then, going door-to-door may not be practical if the district is rural or covers a large area.
  • A good message to write on a business card is “Sorry I missed you.” Then stick the card in the door jamb when going door-to-door.

Always hand out your business cards!

Rack cards

A rack card is an envelope-sized handout, named such because this type of marketing material usually fits in a rack along with other rack cards, brochures, and trifolds. It’s perfect as an envelope-stuffer, handout, or door-knocking handout because it contains just the right amount of printed material.

As with your campaign business card, you print on both sides of the rack card. It’s large enough to hold branding, campaign photos, key issues, written material, election information, plus contact information.

If you create a rack card properly, you can even use it as a postcard mailer. In the following figure, you see the rack card mailer format, with ample space to place a stamp and address.

Rack card for political campaign Configure the rack card as a mailer.

Bring your rack cards to campaign events, fundraisers, or anywhere you’ve been invited to speak. Set out a few on each table. Hand them out to people who pass by.

Consider other printed material for your campaign marketing

Beyond letterhead, upon which you can print any letter or press release, your marketing person can help design mailers, yard signs, banners, and billboards.

It’s not important that all these items are designed right away, with perhaps the exception of yard signs, which take a while to produce. Billboards require reservations months in advance. Other items can be generated quickly, providing you have funding.

  • One item to design early might be postcards to send to early-voters. You can also use your rack cards as mailers, though if you have the money, a custom postcard targeted to an early voter is best.
  • A good strategy is to send out three direct-mail pieces during the campaign, with two of them arriving during the last two weeks.
  • If you have a campaign website, get the branding material to your webmaster as soon as possible. The website doesn’t need to be up right away, but having it available when you announce your candidacy is a must.
  • Providing you have good branding, and your marketing person has crafted a solid theme, creating your campaign material should be easy. Plus, your campaign then enjoys a consistent, professional look. The voters will notice.

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