Websites. Smart phones. Social media. Email. Digital cameras. Video recorders. All of these modern marvels can play an important role in winning a local election, and the smart candidate will incorporate all of them into their campaign. But in a local race, your most valuable tool is actually something that was invented more than 2,000 years ago: and that something is paper.
Paper — or, more precisely, the things that you write and print on paper — can be far more influential and effective in winning a local election than any of the electronic tools I listed above. In fact, if I were forced to choose either digital assets or paper assets to use in own campaign, I’d always choose wood pulp over electronics. If you can effectively wield the power of thank you cards, post cards, door cards and mailers — all made of paper — then you’ll be unstoppable as a political candidate.
Websites, social media and other online tools can be seductive to first time political candidates, because we’ve all become so comfortable with them. Believe me, I understand the allure. I work in digital marketing, and I know how good it can feel to launch a Facebook page and see your “like” count start to increase. I know how proud you can become of a website that showcases your candidacy and has lots of bells and whistles. But while an online presence might be a nice addition to your efforts, a well-though out and masterfully implemented paper campaign is immeasurably more effective in getting votes in a local election.
There are several reasons for the effectiveness of paper campaign paraphernalia, all of which we’ll cover in more detail later in this chapter.
The first is that it allows people to physically hold a representation of you and your campaign in their hands; to feel it, to experience it, to rip it to shreds if they want. The second is that paper assets can be much more personalized than digital assets; sincere thank-you notes, hand-addressed letters, mailers micro-targeted to individuals based on their personal motivators and preferences. And the third is that paper assets are very inexpensive to produce in bulk (it’s the distributing part that takes hard work and money, not the printing part).
Like any other political campaign strategy, though, our mantra holds true for paper assets, too: the harder it is to do, the better it will work.
Hundreds of thank-you cards might need to be hand-written and mailed. Thousands of post cards might need to be hand-addressed to long lists of residents. Tens of thousands of door cards might need to be dropped in neighborhoods . . . not just enough to cover district once, but perhaps even two or three or half a dozen times. Seemingly countless micro-targeted mailers might need to be mailed in bulk to groups of voters (which, of course, means you’ll need money to pay for postage).
As with any other strategy, there’s no such thing as a shortcut when it comes to using paper assets to win an election. Paper lets you personalize and focus your campaign in ways that technology doesn’t, but it also requires a great deal of good old-fashioned elbow grease. If you want to do it the right way, you’re going to have to be willing to work smart . . . and hard. Luckily, on the pages ahead, I’m going to show you exactly what steps you need to take in order to use paper in the most effective ways possible in your local election.