Here’s a quick and effective political campaign idea that I’ve used in my own runs for local office: the monthly press release to local newspapers and media.
Most local candidates in smaller races don’t start campaigning until the last month of election season. Many of them end up winning their race, of course, but it’s usually because the either have no competition or their opponent is every bit as lazy as they are.
Personally, I start my campaign for local office several months in advance of election day, even if it’s just starting limited grassroots efforts, reaching out to voters, and solidifying a campaign plan. If you’re a first-time new local candidate, you’ll have a head start on your opponent if you do the same–even if you’re running against an incumbent politician.
Here’s another great thing about starting your campaign several months earlier than your opponent: you’ll have much more interesting material to provide to local reporters, newspapers and media about what’s happening on the campaign trail.
For local political campaigns, I like to set myself a goal of putting out at least one interesting press release a month to all of the local media. While your press releases won’t always be picked up and covered by every newspaper or news website, it at least shows the media how seriously you take your campaign and the hard work you are putting into it.
Your monthly political campaign press release can be about many different things, but don’t just send out an announcement unless it’s something that the media and readers would be genuinely interested in. Your first press release can be about your intention to run for office, of course, and subsequent announcements should center on unique or newsworthy aspects of your campaign.
One word of warning: don’t send out too many press releases, or the media is likely to start ignoring your efforts. Once a month is fine in the first half year, and you can increase that to once a week or so in the final four weeks of the campaign. And don’t be disappointed if a press release that seems extremely noteworthy to you doesn’t end up making the paper–you’re only running in a local campaign, after all, and reporters won’t get as excited about your race as you are.
I’m going to reprint an example of one of the monthly press releases that I sent out for my last city council race to give you an idea of the format and length that your announcement should have. Of course, don’t just reproduce my campaign ideas and press releases–put some thought and hard work into your own!
Amherst Veteran Hits the Campaign Trail Early
January 21, 2009 — During his time in the United States Army as a Combat Engineer Officer, Amherst, Ohio resident Phil Van Treuren says that he learned the value of planning ahead for important missions. And as a prospective candidate for Amherst City Council At-Large, Van Treuren is using that lesson to launch his campaign in a way never before seen in Lorain County politics.
Van Treuren recently sent a full-color mailer to the homes of thousands of Amherst residents who are eligible to sign his candidacy petition, offering to personally come to their door and introduce himself. Not only was every copy of the mailer personally signed by Van Treuren, but he and his wife, Jessica, spent weeks addressing each envelope by hand.
“Starting to aggressively campaign in January isn’t something that’s usually seen in a city council race, but it’s my way of showing the people of Amherst how serious I am about serving,” Van Treuren said. “Since I want to be a councilman for everyone, I want to give every eligible resident the opportunity to take part in the first step of our campaign.”
Although Van Treuren only needs fifty valid signatures to become a city council candidate, he says that he doesn’t want to limit the opportunity for taking part to so few people.
“I don’t think this has ever been done before in Amherst politics, but the hard work is worth it to give people the opportunity to take part,” Van Treuren says. “We’re going to run an extremely aggressive campaign, and I want to show every voter how hard I’m willing to work for their interests.”
As for why Van Treuren is putting so much effort into his campaign so early in the year, he has a very simple answer: his family and neighbors.
“This is the city where my wife and I are raising our family, and where our children will go to school and grow up,” he says. “I consider it my duty to my family, and my neighbors’ families, to do everything I can to keep Amherst as safe and beautiful as possible.”
Any Amherst resident who wants Phil to personally visit their home with his campaign petition can contact him through his website at www.PhilVanTreuren.com.