It is a little known fact about political advertising in America. Of the billions spent every election cycle, more is expended on persuasion mail than any other media.
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Political mail is one of the principle profit centers of the U.S. Postal Service. Why? It is often the only tool that candidates can afford and the most efficient way for candidates in small jurisdictions to reach their target audience.
It does offer advantages over TV or radio. When you air a TV or radio spot, you lose control over who sees or hears it. With targeted mail you have total control over which household gets your message. And you can, with a little planning, determine exactly when they are going to get it. Unlike TV or radio however, voters must make an effort to get something from your mail. They must make an effort to look at it. In an ideal world, you’d also like the recipient to read it.
When a voter opens their mail box, your piece is competing for attention with everything else they received that day. Bills. Newspapers. Credit card offers. Magazines. Catalogues. Mail from other candidates and perhaps your opponent.
Voters may not have five minutes to read your copy, or three minutes or even 30 seconds. From hand to trash can, you may have only three seconds to convey a message to the voter. The job of your designer is to make sure the voter gets a message from your piece even if they don’t read a single word. Voters read pictures before they read words. Pictures and symbols and graphics trigger things in the recesses of the human mind with far more power and clarity than mere words on a page. Make sure your piece passes the three second rule before you print it.
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The rules of effective persuasion mail?
- Know the disclaimer rules. You may be fined or prosecuted if your break them.
- Make sure the pictures or symbols or graphics visually convey the message of your piece.
- Be Brief. Tell a story. Be Emotional. Be Relevant. Be Unique. Use your pictures and symbols to convey one of the seven human emotions. Anger. Sadness. Happiness. Fear. Surprise. Disgust. Contempt.
- Hire and use a professional photographer so that you look alive, alert, interesting, engaged and professional. Your mail is only as good as the pictures you use.
- Use professional help…people who have done it before. There are many moving parts to a mail piece. The list. Proper targeting. Good design. A quality printer. Complying with post office regulations. Proper sorting and addressing of the pieces. Red tagging. And tracking once you have delivered it to the post office.
One mistake on any of those and voters may never see your piece.
When is mail a better option than TV or radio? When the cost of TV or radio is prohibitive. When the most efficient and least expensive way to reaching your election day coalition is through the mail box. It’s a matter of using simple mathematical formulas. Need help with that? Call me. I’ll explain it to you.
There are good uses for persuasion mail even if your campaign is using television and radio. An example: You have strong feelings about an issue but your polling data indicates that only a small sliver of the electorate shares your position or cares about it. Instead of running a TV or radio spot on an issue that has only narrow appeal, instead use the mailbox to reach those voters.
Want to hammer your opponent and undermine their credibility without running negative TV ads? There is a saying in politics. Spill blood on the TV screen and the whole world will know you are doing it. Use mail and not even the neighbor may know. More important, you’ll leave your opponent guessing. Your opponent can, if they want, walk into the TV station and know exactly what you are buying, what you are paying for your time and how many spots you are running. The advantage of hitting your opponent through mail is that only you will know how many pieces you’ve sent and who you have sent them to.
Have questions? You can reach me at 845-458-1210. Or email me at Jay@JayTownsend.com
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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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