Most local campaigns have small budgets. Money for major TV or radio “buys” to create their campaign image is simply in short supply. Instead, these campaigns rely on direct mail, direct voter interaction and campaign events to draw support for the candidate. There are still ways, however, that local campaigns can create a campaign image “just like the big boys.”
Pick a Scheme – And Stay With It!
First and foremost, the campaign should be consistent in its color scheme and logo across all media. During the campaign’s inception, the staff must decide on a logo for the campaign. Simple text, such as “John Smith for County Commissioner,” should be sufficient. The logo design should look professional — if the campaign can not outsource to create the logo, it might want to think about asking a graphic design major from the local community college to create on for them. Take a look at the signs used in recent presidential or congressional campaigns in your district to see examples of “professional” logos and color schemes.
To effectively project a professional image, this logo and color scheme must be used on everything released by the campaign — signs, bumper stickers, palm cards, even direct mail pieces. It is important for both the logo and the color scheme to remain consistent. Is your campaign logo red and white? Use those colors when designing your mail piece and palm cards. Did you use a star on your campaign logo? Think about incorporating one or two more into your campaign brochure. Voters are reassured about a campaign’s professionalism when they see common elements and colors across all media. Consistency also helps them remember the candidate and form a concept of the campaign in their minds.
Excuse me – Can you Repeat That Again?
Just as colors paint an image in your voter’s minds, words play a crucial role in defining a campaign and keeping it in the voter’s thoughts. Before the campaign begins, candidates will have mapped out a strategy based on issues and local concerns. Too often, however, campaign literature rephrases the candidate’s issues and positions in several unrelated ways.
If, for example, Candidate Potter is campaigning on a platform of reducing crime, his palm card may say “John Potter is concerned about local safety.” His first campaign mail piece, however, may state that he “plans to lower crime rates throughout the county.” His second mailing then asserts “John Potter wants you to be safe in your homes.” While the campaign’s focus on one issue is an asset, it should select two or three well crafted phrases, and use them repeatedly throughout all of its literature.
Using this better approach, the campaign may decide on the wording “Isn’t it time we felt safe again?” The campaign would then put that sentence as the headline on its palm card, which would boldly ask “Isn’t it time we felt safe again?” At the end of the first mailing, the letter may implore – “When you go into the voting booth on November 10th, ask yourself……Isn’t it time we felt safe again?” Finally, the campaign’s buttons can say “John Potter for County Commissioner – Isn’t it Time We Felt Safe Again?”
While many campaigns worry that the voter will tire of hearing one single message, just the opposite is true. Voters will start to associate specific wording with the candidate, and take comfort in the fact that they know what the candidate stands for. If the campaign does the job right, every time a voter sees or hears John Potter’s name, he or she will think “Isn’t it time we felt safe again?” Hopefully, the quiet answer will be “Yes!”
Consistency, Consistency, Consistency
The key to creating a professional campaign image (even for the most local of campaigns) is consistency. The goal of the campaign is for the voter to associate a particular look and a particular phrase (or word, or issue) with the candidate. By diligently cultivating a positive image through repetition, a local campaign can ensure that voters associate the candidate with “the right message” — the message the campaign wants to get out.