People are forgetful. They are busy. They don’t care about the same things you do. You’re interested in politics… your candidate, campaign manager, and major donors are all most likely interested in politics. They probably read political websites, always read/watch the news, tune in to the national political conventions and presidential debates, and generally think about politics quite a lot.
The success of your political communication efforts rests in remembering that most people are not like you, your campaign manager, or major donors. Most people, Average Joes and Janes, don’t have a lot of time for politics. They’ve got jobs, families, kids soccer games, PTA meetings, the chamber of commerce, Aunt Jen’s birthday party and that graduation gift they have to buy for the kid around the corner. In short, their lives don’t revolve around politics.
Why is that important? Because, unlike you, most people don’t always have their “political radar” up. If you are anything like me, when a political ad comes on TV that you haven’t seen before, you stop to watch it, then you think through the strategy behind running it. Most people just change the channel or zone out until Wheel of Fortune comes back on. You probably look through your political direct mail, just to see who is doing what. Most people don’t. Most people are too busy figuring out if they have enough money to pay the bills that just came in the mail.
To Break Through, You Need to Repeat, Repeat, Repeat Your Message
The way to get through to “most people” is repetition – your campaign has to constantly get the candidate’s name and message in front of the voters. You can do this through any of the tactics outlined in your campaign plan: paid media, earned media, speeches, rallies, events, door to door, your website, etc. Your goal is to start getting your name in front of your targeted voters, and to keep it there. A typical scenario might look like this:
-Mrs. Jones gets an oversized “bio” post card in the mail.
-Two weeks later, Mrs. Jones notices your campaign billboard on her way to work.
-The next week, Mrs. Jones sees your yard sign start sprouting up all over the neighborhood.
-Two weeks later, your candidate knocks on Mrs. Jones’ door to say hello.
-Three days later, Mrs. Jones gets a “nice to meet you” post card from the candidate.
-One week later, Mrs. Jones gets a comparison piece from your campaign in the mail.
-The next week, Mrs. Jones starts to see your TV ads.
-Three weeks later, Mrs. Jones gets a reminder to go vote (GOTV mail piece) and a get out the vote call from one of your campaign volunteers.
Do all that, and Mrs. Jones might remember your name and message – if you do the above items well. Getting your name and message in front of the voters early and often – and doing so through a variety of different media and tactics – substantially increases the odds that Mrs. Jones knows who you are and what you stand for.
Of course, the kind of repetition we’re talking about takes time and money – lots of it! Unless you are in a very small district, or have substantial financial resources or lots of volunteers, your campaign is unlikely to be able to present this kind of repetition to every voter. That’s why targeting is so important.
You have to target which voters are most likely to vote for you, or to be swing voters who you think you can sway. Then, go out and repeat your message to them, over and over. Don’t try and perform this kind of repetition for every voter in your district – not only is it likely impossible, but it is definitely a waste of valuable campaign resources. To learn more about how to use targeting, read: How to Target Your Campaign Tactics.