Whether running a first-time candidate or a former officeholder mounting a comeback, campaigns need to start formulating a marketing strategy right out of the gate.
For some candidates, that strategy might involve repositioning on certain policies or zeroing in on a part of their personal narrative worth highlighting. Others might need a complete makeover down to how they dress.
But once that heavy lifting is done, the candidate has to be marketed effectively to voters. Here are attention-grabbing tips.
Brand the Candidate
By some estimates, you only have seven seconds to make a first impression. Your candidate and his or her graphical branding are the frontline introduction to the effort. The branding should convey trustworthiness and be easy to understand. Can someone know what your candidate stands for just from your branding? Do you have branding guidelines that determine colors, fonts, and uses of the logo and corresponding advertising? If not, it’s time to engage the services of a professional branding firm or designer with this experience. It’s money well spent.
Develop Materials That Tell a Story
It’s nearly impossible to pitch a candidate without some sort of literature to help educate voters. That could be a brochure, flyer, or push card. Whatever it is, these materials should do two things: match the candidate’s branding and tell a story. They should answer the five important questions: who, what, when, where, and why?
Have a Legitimate Website
A professionally designed website that matches your candidate’s branding, provides pertinent information (but not too much), and is responsive (mobile-friendly) is a must. Will this cost you some money? Yes, but so long as it’s developed on an easy-to-use content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal, it can be self-managed after development.
Invest in Content
There’s not much worse than a stale web presence. Without continually adding to your website, your traffic will flatline. Blog posts are an easy way to invest in content — all it takes is your time. Consider that photos, infographics, sharable social media images, and video are also content. They have a cost to them, but the investment is worthwhile.
Get Involved on Social Media
I can hear it already: “Are you saying you want me to tweet and pin stuff and play on Facebook?” Yes and no. Too many campaigns think they have to be on every social media network. This is the wrong approach. Start with only one or two social media networks. Your target audience will weigh heavily on what social media network is best for you to start with. Regardless of what networks you choose, focus on learning your audience’s patterns, lingo, and habits. Take that understanding to inform your social media strategy.
Advertise Smartly, Starting Online
At some point, you must spend money to reach your audience. This starts with understanding who your audience is. Include what they look like demographically and pay attention to behavioral patterns. With this information at hand, figure out what advertising avenues help you reach those people for the lowest cost. We tend to drive our clients toward search engine marketing (SEM), digital display ads, and Facebook ads, because they’re highly targeted, cost-effective, and measurable. Lastly, realize that time may be a limiting factor for you, so keep in mind there are a lot of great firms out there that will help you create and execute a branding and advertising plan. Consider using one, because they can help you focus more on the candidate’s core job – raising money and meeting voters. At a minimum, write down your marketing plan and spend time executing it weekly.
This might seem like a lot to accomplish, but any further steps you take to expand the reach of your candidacy or campaign will be hampered if you don’t start by focusing on these basic areas.
Lindo Deyi kaMjoli is a managing partner at THE RAINBOW TREE, which provides data management, targeting, integrated communications and media strategies for candidates, groups and businesses.