I mentioned earlier my extensive use of handwritten postcards in my first run for local office, and how effective they were at catching the attention of voters as election day neared. The thousands of postcards that I mailed at the end of my campaign, however, weren’t the only hand-written assets that I sent to residents; I also consistently mailed handwritten followup postcards to every person I ever met on the campaign trail, soon after I made their acquaintance.
This tactic, although it also takes some time and hard work, is effective on several different levels.
As a first-time candidate, I got into the habit of always carrying a small notepad and pen with me, regardless of what I was doing; door-to-door campaigning, attending a local event, going to the grocery store . . . you name it. I frequently found myself running into people who lived in the community (especially during my door-to-door efforts, obviously), and I never wanted to miss an opportunity to briefly introduce myself and learn their names. After I met new people, I would always write their names down in my notebook and mail them a handwritten followup postcard as soon as I had the opportunity.
Here’s something that many new political candidates don’t realize: most people really don’t want to talk to you about your candidacy. They might be polite, shake your hand, and say hello, but they have busy lives and rarely want to spend more than a few seconds talking to a wannabe politician. As a candidate, when you do introduce yourself to a voter, it’s best to take up as little of their time as possible. Just say hello, tell them your name and what you’re running for, and let them know that they can contact you if they have any questions about your candidacy.
The handwritten followup postcard is a great way to extend that initial introduction without being overbearing or annoying. Your new acquaintance will be impressed to get a handwritten message from you so quickly, and it will reinforce your name in their head. Additionally, every person who you mail a followup postcard to should also be added to your campaign contact spreadsheet and kept up-to-date with future information about your campaign.
If you have your registered voter list, then there shouldn’t ever be a reason for you to ask someone for their address in order to mail them a followup postcard. Just make sure that you write their names down on your notepad after meeting them, so that you don’t forget. Then, back at home, check your voter list — if they are registered voters, then their address will be on the list. (This is even easier when you are going door-to-door, because you’ll be meeting people at their homes and will be able to write down the addresses right away.)
As for what kind of postcard you should use, I’ll leave that up to you. I designed a campaign postcard specifically for followups, with my photo and campaign themes on one side and a blank field for writing on the other side (these are really cheap to print out in bulk at local printers). You could just as easily use pre-printed generic postcards from the store if you want. Or, if you really want to make an impression, you could even send them a lengthier thank-you card in an envelope (this is more expensive, though, because you’ll need to use a first-class stamp rather than a cheaper postcard stamp to mail it).
Your message can be simple; it’s fine to do something along the lines of “Susan, it was a pleasure to meet you today! I’d be honored to get your support this November.” Make sure that you hand-write the address, as well, and put it in the mail as soon after meeting the person as you can.
As I mentioned earlier, this is a tactic that your opponents are almost certainly not going to use, because it’s difficult to do. You’ll probably meet hundreds of new people over the course of your campaign, and sending them all an immediate, handwritten postcard is time consuming and costs postage. It’s also an extremely effective way to familiarize voters with your name and make a great first impression.
If you’re doing everything that you should be on the campaign trail, then you should have a batch of followup postcards to mail every morning in the last few months of your campaign. Just remember: every postcard you pop in the mail is going to end up in the hands of a voter who will be impressed that you took the time to write them a personal message. And that means that they’ll remember your name fondly when they go to the polls.