Running For Local Office For Dummies
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Yard signs are a good way to spread your campaign brand, have supporters show their enthusiasm, and make your opponents nervous. Yard signs are an essential part of your campaign marketing, but by themselves they don’t win elections.
  • Invest in yard signs as part of your campaign strategy.
  • Don’t bother counting your opponent’s yard signs, because elections are won by votes and not the number of yard signs littering lawns and highways.
  • Check with the rules of your region with regard to yard sign placement. For example, you may be prohibited from setting a yard sign on public property in the public right-of-way.
  • Yard signs may also require a permit in some jurisdictions. Make a note when the permit allows you to set out — and remove — yard signs on your campaign calendar.
  • Yard sign wars are a real thing. They’re a great example of how even a local, nonpartisan election can rack up the immaturity points on both sides: Your opponent’s supporters will damage and steal your yard signs. They will stick their yard signs one inch in front of yours. They will illegally place their yard signs. And your supporters may do the same things to the other yard signs. Just let it go. Yard sign wars don’t win campaigns, and complaining about stolen yard signs makes you come across as desperate.

Philosophy behind yard signs

Yard signs are about name recognition. The sign’s design should be tied to your campaign branding. A car driving by at 35 MPH should be able to identify your campaign based on the yard sign, which is yet another impression in the minds of the voter.

On a practical level, yard signs are pretty much for supporters. They make wonderful handouts for meet-and-greet fundraising events. People are proud to show whom they’ve voting for, and having a yard sign makes them happy.

I provide yard signs primarily for my supporters. Rarely, if ever, is the sight of a yard sign the deciding factor in someone voting for you or, better, switching over from voting for your opponent. Otherwise, I don’t believe yard signs have any impact on the election whatsoever.

Make yard signs available

For a typical local election, print about 100 yard signs per 2,000 potential voters. If you run out, you can print more. Have them available always, ready for supporters. If you can organize volunteers to set yard signs, hand them a bunch and let them have at it — after fully informing them of the various yard sign rules and regulation.

Let other supporters know where they can pick up a yard sign. Specifically, send them to various meet-and-greet events to obtain one. That way, you draw more attendance at such events.

Yard sign details

Yard signs are about campaign marketing. The key element is your name. You can also add the position you seek. Required are any disclaimers, such as the campaign committee, treasurer, or other legally required details that must be printed on all your campaign material.

A typical yard sign measures 24-by-18 inches. Larger sizes are available, though you should check the restrictions on yard sign sizes for your locale.

The traditional yard sign is printed on a coated cardboard material. It’s weather resistant. Don’t go cheap and get a noncoated yard sign, because it will fade and flop in the weather.

One important part about the yard sign is the mounting mechanism. Most signs are mounted on wires stuck into the ground. Called H-wires, these have an additional cost beyond the yard sign expense. Larger yard signs may require you to purchase wooden stakes or other methods to mount the signs.

Yard sign do’s and don’ts

Keep the information on your yard sign minimal: Your branding and name should stick out the most. If you add too much detail, the yard sign looks cluttered. No one can read your 24-word campaign slogan in inch-high letters on a yard sign. No one wants to.

The following figure lists good and bad examples of yard signs.

Yard signs for political campaign Yard signs, good and bad.

Here’s a summary:

Avoid putting the election date on a yard sign. If you win, or if you lose and want to run again, you can re-use the same yard sign, but only if it doesn’t have a date on it.

Use the word Vote on the sign instead of Elect. If you win, you can reuse a yard sign with the word Vote on it; otherwise, you must fix Elect to say Re-elect. Or, you can avoid both terms; it’s a campaign sign, and people aren’t that slow.

Print the yard sign on both sides. Yes, it’s cheaper to use just one side. Good yard sign placement mandates that the sign be visible to both lanes of traffic.

Placement of political yard signs

It helps to have some hardy volunteers plant your yard signs. Yes, you’ll do your share of yard sign duty; keep signs in your car and at the ready. Also include some tools to help you hammer and dig, because not every location has the best soil.

Track the location of your yard signs as well as possible. You must collect them after the campaign — and you do want to keep them should you choose to run again.

Further, you don’t want your yard signs lingering long after the campaign. You’re the candidate, so these rogue yard signs are your responsibility. It’s your name on them, after all.

Rules exist for planting yard signs. Ensure that you know the rules and have informed your volunteers.

Double your yard sign visibility

It’s possible to increase your yard sign visibility without overspending. The trick is to relocate the signs, especially during the last two weeks of the campaign.

Most people tune out yard signs they’ve already seen. They recognize the bouquet of yard signs at major intersections, which eventually blend into the landscaping. However, if you go out and move the yard signs (keeping them in allowed locations), passersby will notice something different. Effectively, you’ve re-exposed the same people to a “new” yard sign without spending more money.

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