My Entire Campaign Strategy
*I wrote this during my second campaign for a marketing job I was interviewing for, I thought the advice here was sound so I thought I’d make a couple edits and post it here. I did what I said here and won, this advice will work for you too.
Originally when I ran for the city council seat I was 19 years old and unknown around the city. I didn’t have a lot of money, and had zero name recognition, I also hadn’t even accomplished anything remarkable that would have been known by the general public. Making things even more difficult was that my opponent was the longest standing incumbent on the council who was a retired policeman and very well known in our community. I understood that I would have to use some self taught marketing and networking skills to to get the public to know who I am, these tactics were successful and were exactly what I used to win my last race.
Word of mouth:
Word of mouth marketing has given me the best results so far. Because I was not well known when I originally ran, I knew I had to go out and meet as many people as possible. My mindset was that if people met me, they would probably like me. There are two ways I did this,
1. I went door to door and talked with people
2. I had meetings with community leaders and people of influence.
I will expand on how I went about these tactics below:
- Door to door:
This is the cheapest and most effective way to meet as many people as possible and get them to remember you, it costs more time but will save you a lot of money. To keep my costs low I had a friend who is a graphic designer design my handouts I use. I came up with the information and pictures to be included and had him put it all together for me. I then had another friend print out the handouts from their work on an industrial printer at cost, meaning 500 multi colored front and back handouts only cost me around $40. I would also take post-it notes and hand write a message for anyone who doesn’t answer their door, I’d stick those to the handouts and would leave them at their door.
In my first race I was guessing on what routes to take and didn’t have much of a pattern, I just tried to go everywhere, however in my last race I came up with a thought out strategy that is flexible when I needed it to be. After the primary elections I was able to look over the results and see what areas in my Ward I was doing the best and worst at, and could then plan out where I needed to spend more time with. I also had a list of active voters in my area, I could target these houses when I would go out, making everything more efficient.
Each night I would plan out which route I would take the next day, and get everything I needed gathered up. I would have a pile of handouts to give to people who answered the door, and another pile to give to those who didn’t answer. Depending on how much time I spent, I could go to anywhere from 30 to 200 houses a day.
Before, during, and after each race I would go out and have multiple meetings with people in my town. After making a list of people of influence in the city I reached out to each one individually and asked them for a one on one meeting. These people included past and present councilmen, department heads, business owners, and anyone else that is well known and respected in the community. Before each meeting I would think about what information I would like to get out of each meeting, and ask questions based on that. For example, if I am going to meet with the chief of police, I will try to find out what problems the police may be having, and what I can do as a councilman to help solve these problems. When it is time to meet the police chief, one of my first questions would be “What can I do as a councilmen to help the police department?”, the rest of the meeting will probably all stem from that.
I try to have a clear goal and objective for every person I meet with, that way I do not waste their time, and so I actually learn something from each meeting.
In my town, advertising through the local newspaper will cost over $300, while that will generate some publicity that will not give the same return on investment if that same amount of money had been placed elsewhere. This is very important to keep in mind when working with a very limited budget. While paid advertising has not been the most cost effective, free placement in the same paper through interviews has proven to be very effective. I have learned how to better prepare for any interviews I have in the future by writing out what I plan to say, staying current on what’s going on in the city, and trying my best to imagine what kind of questions I will be asked.
Through proper planning, my interviews have gone smoother than when I initially ran. Now, instead of giving long drawn out answers, I try to keep my sentences short and memorable, that not only makes it easier for the journalist interviewing me, but helps the reader remember what I said as well. Getting featured in the newspaper as often as possible was a part of my marketing strategy, and it was absolutely free. If a journalist wanted a comment on something from a citizen about a certain issue, you can bet I was the first in line to talk to them.
One last thing, to maximize the amount of people who see my interviews, I would always post them on my website and social media. That’s an important detail you don’t want to miss.
Yard signs can be a fantastic tool to help get people to recognize and remember your name, however if not done correctly signs will not make much of a difference. Multiple factors come into play when using yard signs, the most important include design, placement, and timing. Some people speculate about if yard signs are actually worth getting. Although I won my first ever primary with no yard signs at all, I believe that signs are indeed important for an election.
With yard signs being expensive ($3-$6 a sign) it is important to use them correctly. Obviously when designing your signs you want want to go with a simple yet noticeable sign that is easy to read for a car driving down the street. A lot more businesses are using yard signs to advertise, this makes it more difficult when designing a sign for a campaign because there are even more signs you have to separate yourself from. My signs simply say “Vote Bechtel city council”, “Bechtel” is the biggest word on the sign, followed by “city council”. A common mistake I often see is someone running for office who will order signs that are very small so they can order more, in the hopes of saving money, and having more signs. I have never seen a candidate who has won use this approach, when the signs are too small a lot of people don’t notice them or can’t read them, meaning they just paid to have more unnoticed signs.
Understanding the state and local laws for yard signs are important for placement and timing, for most elections you can’t put your signs out until 60 days before the election. The best place to put a sign in the front yard is the grass area between the street and the sidewalk. This brings them closer and easier to read for cars.
When putting signs out it is better to start early, slowly finding more placements over a period of time. A common mistake is to wait to put out signs until a week before election day, and then suddenly put them all out at once. This is a massive mistake, by this point it is too late and the signs will go relatively unnoticed. It’s best to start with the busiest streets and noticeable areas, followed by side streets. There are public spaces you can put yard signs in but I stay away from that because I have lost more yard signs in those areas than anywhere else.
Billboards are great for political races, you can get thousands of eyes to see you at a cost isn’t that unreasonable. However, while these are great for state senate, and even mayor races, this may be unnecessary for council races. Depending on the race, a billboard may be a little over the top for some smaller races, I once had someone tell me not to do a billboard for a council race because people may begin to wonder who is paying for it, how much money you’re spending, and if you are running for the right reason. Because of this I have not used billboards, use them at your own discretion.
Social media and your online presence:
Having an online presence is important when someone wants to find out more you or contact you. As with anything else, it is best to have a thought out and professional looking website and Facebook page. I created my website and Facebook page myself, but also used friends who are professional graphic designers and photographers to give a higher quality look on my pictures. My website was very simple, yet provided information on my background as well as links to any media interviews I have done or am mentioned in, as well as a contact section.
I used my Facebook to post pictures and links to any upcoming event I would be speaking at, as well as any new media I was featured in. This is helpful when someone wants to know more about you and see what you are up to, because of this, it is important to keep everything professional and to the point. If your posts are sloppy and not well worded, people will think you’re not very well spoken and will have a harder time understanding what you’re trying to say. When I would post something I would always spend time making sure it made sense and made sure there is a reason why I was posting it.
Each of these strategies alone are great but probably will not be enough to win an election, that is why it is important to use all of these together and in a way that has a consistent message. Through using these tactics I went from being an unknown 19 year old id running for city council, to one of the youngest (probably THE youngest) elected official’s in Nebraska’s history.