The More You Write, The Less They Read: Brevity in Campaign Literature

Regardless of how great your campaign literature is, the vast majority of voters are only going to look at it for a few seconds before they throw it in the trash.

This is a tough fact for many new political candidates to accept, and some refuse to ever let themselves believe it. As the candidate, your campaign is extremely important to you. You put your lifeblood into it, and work hard on making sure that your literature is as comprehensive, impressive, and compelling as possible. You think that you have the kind of resume and story that voters should be excited to learn more about.

campaign literature

Unfortunately, that’s just not the case. The faster you accept this fact, the better you’ll do as a candidate: the voters really couldn’t care less about you. Even if you’re the most interesting candidate in the world, they aren’t going to take more than a few seconds out of their busy schedules to learn more about you. They’re bombarded every day with advertisements, commercials, spam, junk mail, and crap from countless other political candidates. To most of the voters, you’re just another person trying to sell them something.

“But wait,” I hear some candidates tell me. “This might be true for other candidates, but not for me. I know for a fact that people read every word on my campaign literature — I’ve seen them do it! I’m asking them for their vote, so they need to be given as much information as possible about me. No one ever throws my stuff away.”

The “people” who read every word on campaign literature are usually the candidate’s own friends, family members and campaign volunteers. Believe me: most voters who find your literature on their door or in their mailbox will only look at it for about five seconds before it goes in the garbage.

Smart candidates accept this fact, and realize that it gives them two options to make their campaign literature more effective: either figure out a way for people to hold on to their stuff longer, or keep it as brief as possible so that all of the information can be absorbed in those few seconds on the way to the trash.

Providing something of value in your campaign literature can be an effective to get voters to hold onto it longer, but it’s not an easy thing to accomplish; we’ll discuss that strategy later in the book. The first — and most important — lesson that you need to learn when it comes to campaign literature is to keep it brief.

Remember: the more you write, the less they’ll read. Just as with personal introductions, first impressions in campaign literature are extremely important. When a voter is presented with a flier stuffed with paragraph after paragraph of rambling text, they’re likely to just give up on it before they’ve even read a word. The opposite happens, though, when they see a door card that consists of a few easily-understood bullet points, very brief exposition, and compelling images.

At first glance, your literature should give an immediate impression that it won’t take much commitment for the voter to take it all in. It should be brief, simple, easy to comprehend, and visually engaging. It should only focus on one or two main themes.

In fact, I’m a big advocate for “breaking up” your campaign literature into bite-sized pieces that focus on one brief, granular theme per piece.

For instance, let’s say that you’re focusing on three main campaign story points: one is your family, the second is your volunteer work, and the third is your small business ownership. In this case, I’d start with an introductory piece that briefly highlights each of these; probably a photo, a tag line and a few sentences of exposition for each point. I’d then focus the next piece of literature exclusively on your first story point: family. The third piece of literature would focus on your volunteer work, and the fourth on your small business ownership.

By breaking your literature into several smaller pieces, you can make them easier to scan quickly, less intimidating to the reader, and more likely to be read before making it to the garbage can. Additionally, you’ll get a “one-two” punch effect from putting multiple pieces of (shorter) literature into the hands of individual voters that will reinforce your name and your story.

Of course, this strategy also requires that you have the ability to get each of the multiple, granular-themed pieces of literature to the voters’ doors. If you have the money to do it, they can be sent as mailers; if you don’t, then they could be delivered as door cards. If you have both the funding and the time, I’d suggest doing both. Hit the your targeted voters as many times as humanly possible with brief, focused pieces of literature that reinforce your name and campaign themes.

The more you write, the less they read; that will always remain a constant in political campaigns. But by presenting your campaign to the voters in shorter, more frequent pieces of literature, you can get them to read more of your messaging and make it easier for them to remember your name at the polls.