Thursday, August 09, 2018

Campaign Advice From Direct Mail Expert Eric Hogensen

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Eric's an old pal and I can't think of anyone better equipped top give advice on direct mail strategy. That's what he does for a living and I know almost nothing about it since I through it away along with stuff from the local grocery stores and the biweekly credit card offers from Chase. Here are his top 5 mistakes campaigns make with direct mail-- often, he says, driven by the candidates themselves:
1. Including everything on every mailer

Consistency is great in direct mail. And when on a budget, it makes sense to repeat the core message. But if a piece is supposed to focus on K-12 education, don't include your plan for health care reform. Your mailer should tell a story, not all the information you can think of.

2. Turning the mailer into a manifeso

A piece of direct mail is meant to be a simple advertisement for the campaign, not the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. A typical flat mailer needs no more than 100 to 150 words on it. Very few people will read more than that. The more text, the less likely it gets read.

3. Speaking in platitudes rather than specifics

A lot of us think in broad terms and reasoning, but the information that stands out when you read it is factual and specific. Don't explain how economics works on your mailer, show the reader the dollar and cent figures. Sometimes campaigns want to avoid committing to a fact or figure because it could be disputed. You know what? Bring on the dispute. Attention for a questionable stat is better than no attention at all.

4. Tinkering obsessively

Many candidates and campaign workers make the mistake of thinking, "If I just get this part a little closer to perfect..." No. Stop. Endless rounds of edits to your mail piece will not make it better. It will make it worse. To the reader who doesn't see the sausage getting made, the points you want to make will get more confusing and the artwork will look more hurried and sloppy.

5. Insisting your district number is included

Of the five mistakes, this is the least consequential. It doesn't hurt to include the district number, but it doesn't help. Candidates running for a particular district feel very connected to that number. But 99% of voters have no idea what the number of their State Senate district is. It's just not important.

And that's who and what ultimately matter: The voter reading the piece and what's important to them.
I asked Eric about the use of positive and negative messaging, both in primaries and in general elections. He was blunt and concise: "When it comes to the differences between primaries and general elections a good rule to follow is: Primaries are more about positives and contrasts. You need to boost your name recognition in the primary but also need to explain why you are the best fit among people who agree with you. Contrasts are essential in order to draw a distinction between you and your opponent(s) but you want to keep this from getting too nasty. Going negative in a primary is a dangerous game because it alienates you from people who mostly agree with you and can hurt feelings down the road. However in a general election, today's partisan environment has removed all niceties. Going negative is incredibly effective to both fire up our base as well as win over independents. There are no feelings to hurt and the people you might be alienating are not voting for you anyway."

 

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4 Comments:

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hate to burst your bubble, but those go directly into the recycle in 99.999% of homes.

Also, use very big print and very small words... and not very many of them. Most americans are dumber than shit. And VERY few give a shit.

 
At 10:30 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

Maybe they should include a free week long membership to Pornhub. At least then a few might actually glance at the fucking thing.

 
At 3:53 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Sounds like really good advice. Let's hope it is listened to by the Dems.

 
At 6:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Direct mail is useless. I almost never look at it, and it just gets recycled. It's the lazy way to campaign.

Take a lesson from Ocasio-Cortez and walk the neighborhoods and introduce yourself.

 

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