We’ve previously discussed the question of “Should you run for office?” So what if you’ve decided to run. Now what? Well, if you’re running for office, any office, here’s what you need to know to get off to a good start.
Running for office can be a daunting undertaking so take advantage of the five tips below which provides some great resources and will help avoid some of the most common mistakes made by candidates.
1. Craft your brand
You only get one shot at making a first impression so don’t jump the gun until you and at least one or two ‘second opinions’ sign-off on your logo and branding materials like push cards and yard signs.
Getting an effective logo for your campaign is not as difficult or costly as you may think, there are plenty of freelance graphic designers out there! If you do not know any, www.fiverr.com can connect you with multiple designers and you can choose your favorite product to purchase.
Try not to overthink it- make sure your name and the office you are running for are most prominently displayed while taking up most of the ‘white space’ without making it “too busy.
Get multiple quotes as prices can vary greatly. A good price for yard signs is $5 per sign give or take the cost of the stakes. Depending on the quantity and size of your district, this can be a tremendous cost to your campaign. If you are not flush with cash, don’t overspend on signage and try to prioritize spending your valuable resources on directly reaching your target voters.
Feel free to add a catchphrase to some of your materials that you think may resonate with a majority of your target voters.
2. Make a big splash
If you want people to vote for you, they have to know you are a candidate!
Before announcing your campaign, be sure to create a facebook page and invite all of your friends to ‘like’ it.
Put a press release together and email it to your local media outlets and you may be surprised get some “earned media” out of it.
You should also consolidate any and all emails you have accumulated personally and include them in your press release email to reach more people, drive traffic to your website, and increase the chance of donations.
Also, go ahead and ‘jump through the hoops’ that Facebook requires in order to be authorized to run political ads on the platform. Boosting your announcement is a critical part of making a big splash, even if it is just a small amount of money.
We’ll discuss more useful marketing tools later on.
3. Good data is critical
One of the most common mistakes that first-time candidates make is thinking that every resident is a voter, they are not!
Roughly half of Americans are registered to vote and of those, only half turn out to vote, even in presidential elections!
So your campaign activities will only be as effective as your data is accurate. There is no point in knocking on the wrong door or presenting your message to someone who is not planning on voting.
Similarly, if you are in a contested, closed primary it is important to target voters who affiliate with your party as other may not be able to vote in your election.
Be sure to purchase an accurate list of “likely voters” through your state’s Secretary of State (find yours here) or spend a little more through a dependable data firm like i-360 who are constantly updating their data and also offer software to help you walk, call, or text your target voters.
4. Valuable marketing tools
GoDaddy: GoDaddy.com is my preferred vendor for domain purchases and website design. They offer a very user-friendly, smooth-looking website builder which will empower you to design your own website instead of getting price-gouged by a marketing or consulting agency.
WhoIs: whois.com offers the same services at a slightly lower quality with a considerably lower cost.
Facebook/Instagram: Despite the company increasing their prices in recent years, the advertising costs remain considerably lower than any other medium of communication. Facebook also bought Instagram which may may also be beneficial to your online presence especially if you are running for statewide office and need to reach younger voters. It is worth noting that you do not need an Instagram account to advertise on Instagram, Facebook allows you to check a box to advertise on both sites.
Mailchimp: Mailchimp.com is my preferred email marketing provider and it is free for up to 2,000 email contacts. Beyond that, it goes up to $50, $75, or more per month. If you have a cash-strapped campaign, try to lean on this as your means of direct communication with your voters as mailers can be very expensive.
5. Reach the absentee voters
Not all voters are on social media, some estimates indicate that one-third of those over the age of 65 are not even on Facebook and that age group is among the most active voters out there.
In most states, voters over 65 years-old qualify to vote by absentee ballot which means they can vote early by mail, giving you a limited window to reach them. This can be as early as 30-60 days before the election.
Feel free to contact your local voter registrar’s office to get a more exact idea of when the absentee ballots will be mailed out and thus how long you have to reach qualifying voters as the timing can vary.
Consider sending them a letter to introduce yourself and, if you can afford it, send them a mailer to increase your share of absentee votes.
Good luck and stay tuned!
These are just five basic tips to help your campaign get off to a good start. If you are able to raise funds or self-fund, hiring a campaign manager may be a good investment. For larger races, hiring a political consultant can also be very beneficial.
Stay tuned for more helpful information as we continue the great American experiment of self-governance!