. . . this is a continuation of a previous post. You can go check out the first part at this link.
3. Hold a Campaign Kickoff Reception or Event
Many first time candidates for smaller offices think that kickoff events are only appropriate for large campaigns, but nothing could be further from the truth. Your race might not be high-profile enough to launch with a press conference, but a small reception is a great way to build excitement among your supporters, spread the word about your candidacy, and raise a little start-up money (if you decide to make it a fundraiser).
I had my first campaign kickoff reception in my own home, and invited a small group of friends and family members to attend. We served appetizers and drinks, and I talked to our guests about plans for the campaign and ways that they could possibly help. I asked them to start talking to their friends and neighbors about my candidacy, and got their feedback on issues that were important to local residents.
You could launch your campaign with a small reception at your home like I did, or you could have a larger event at a local venue. In one mayor’s race that I helped out with, we held a kickoff event at a popular coffee shop that was attended by nearly a hundred residents. We provided free coffee and pastries, and had campaign literature ready for guests to check out. We even had a dozen or so yard signs made for the event, and displayed them along with some balloons to give it a more exciting, professional feel.
Should you turn your campaign kickoff into a fundraiser, and ask for donations from the people who you invite? You certainly could, and there’s nothing wrong with aggressively focusing on fundraising from the beginning. Personally, I don’t like asking for money at a campaign launch for one simple reason: it depresses turnout at an event where you want as many people as possible in attendance to make a good first impression. (One possibility is to have a free event, but let people know that “campaign donations are encouraged, but not required.”)
There’s one more reason why having a larger kickoff event could be a great strategic move for your campaign: it’s an opportunity to send out a postcard to the people on your contact list, invite them to the get-together, and give them more information about your candidacy. The more you can cultivate your relationship and familiarity with your contact list, the better. Paying for a small mailer inviting them to your launch reception is a worthwhile early investment in your campaign.
4. Hit The Neighborhoods With a Door Card Announcing Your Candidacy
I’m a huge advocate of door-to-door campaigning (as we’ll discuss later in this book) — in fact, if it’s done correctly, I think it’s the single most effective thing you can do in a local campaign. Your campaign launch is a perfect opportunity to walk neighborhoods and hand out a door card announcing your candidacy to residents and introducing yourself to them.
Hitting your entire district with an introductory door card will probably take you more than a few days . . . and might even take months, depending on its size. One way to get it done faster is to ask each person who attends your kickoff event to take a small stack of literature, and pass it out to houses in their neighborhood. You could also focus your kickoff door card on a much smaller, targeted section of your district that you feel is strategically important to your campaign.
One variation on this plan is to send out a district-wide mailer announcing your campaign to targeted voters. If you have the money to do so, this is an extremely effective strategy, and is much more time-efficient than spending weeks dropping an announcement card at homes yourself. Direct mail comes with a cost, though, and many new candidates don’t have the funds to pay for such a large amount of postage in the earliest days of the campaign.
5. Make an Announcement Video
Don’t let this one scare you; I’m not saying that you should pay to have a professional campaign video made. But a short, unpolished announcement video filmed with your smartphone and uploaded to social media can be very effective. The video could be scripted (if you want to memorize a short, focused message) or impromptu.
In fact, spontaneous, off-the-cuff video — even if it’s not perfect — is often more effective with today’s social media audiences, who appreciate authenticity. Just let the camera capture your unique personality, be yourself, and don’t worry about trying to come across as a savvy, professional politician. No one wants that kind of a candidate in a local election, anyway!
One bit of important advice, however: don’t make your announcement video too long or rambling. Social media audiences are starting to engage with video content at a higher and higher level, but you need to be brief and to-the-point. A quick message about who you are, why you’re running and how people can help is enough for your first foray into video.
6. Launch Social Media Efforts and Start Paid Facebook Page Promotion
Social media –and Facebook in particular — is becoming a more and more important element of successful political campaigns . . . even in local elections. If done correctly, social media can allow your campaign to circumvent media coverage, micro-target voters, and reach a massive audience with a relatively small budget.
Launching your campaign Facebook page (and other social media properties) should not just be an afterthought in your kickoff strategy. After you’ve setup your Facebook page and added information, photos and video about your campaign, you should seriously consider dedicating a small amount of spend toward pay-promoting the page, increasing relevant likes, and growing your targeted audience. Your you campaign’s social media presence should be cultivated from day one, and you shouldn’t wait until a few months before the election to start growing and engaging with your audience.
On the day that you launch your campaign, you should have paid ads running on Facebook that are targeted to people who live in your district and fit specific demographics. We’ll focus more on social media advertising later, but the targeting options you have available to you as a Facebook page administrator are amazing . . . and they’re getting more amazing as the platform develops. With as little as a hundred bucks a month, you can use Facebook to super-charge your introduction to voters and make your campaign launch an even bigger success.