We don’t know what the next few months will hold. One thing is for certain, though: There will be an election on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
For new candidates and those running for reelection, the questions we’re getting are very much the same. How do I plan and run an effective campaign when the world isn’t making sense?
The short answer is you have to be flexible. There are too many forces outside of your control, so focus on the things you can control, and be flexible on the rest.
Here’s what you can control:
Buy advertising now.
Everyone is consuming more news and media right now, so it is a great time to buy advertising. As more businesses lay off workers and pull back on advertising budgets, the rate of media consumption continues to grow.
Right now, we’re seeing the most efficient ad buying atmosphere in recent memory. Lots of eyeballs looking at content and not as many advertisers. Lower CPMS on Facebook and Google are a great opportunity in terms of bang for the buck.
Digital advertising is still very viable and really good targeting is available. The quality of content is incredibly important here. Are your ads relevant? Are your ads interesting? Do your ads look like tv commercials or mail pieces (hint: they should not)?
Rethink your mail program.
Direct mail is the most targeted of your options, and the key to efficient use is updated lists. Vote by mail is expanding. Vote by mail and absentee voting will be at historic levels this year. Confusion and misinformation will also be at record levels. Campaigns need to plan accordingly and treat different audiences differently in terms of voter contact. There’s also a need for education as well as persuasion. Campaigns need to work harder at answering questions for them before voting by mail periods occur.
Are you talking to vote-by-mail voters sooner than others? Are you scrubbing your list of people who have already cast ballots?
Don’t ignore your volunteers.
While most people can’t go door to door for you right now, they can make phone calls, send emails, or, even better, do some friend-to-friend handwritten cards. Have them do some street theater for you, holding signs at major intersections. They want to be involved and are looking for safe things to do. Peer-to-peer texting (P2P) is a great opportunity for volunteers to use targeted lists for voter contact.
When it comes to your P2P program, be prepared for more engagement than usual. People are at home and might actually be more interested in talking to you than they normally would be.
Keep engaging with voters on social media.
Your hair might be unkept, and you might be searching for the right words, but this isn’t the time to slow down your social media program. Facebook Live is a great tool, and you should do it unscripted. Engage with voters on the things that they’re most worried about and don’t worry about your toddler running naked in the background or your dog barking at the UPS truck.
These are things that all people are experiencing, and it helps humanize you.
During those interactions, be empathetic. It sounds easy, but candidates often suck at it. In the middle of a global pandemic, emotion is good. Feelings are good. Let the robotic candidate go and talk to people about what you feel, and what they care about.
Step away from national messages.
Remember that all politics is local and that every locality can be different in terms of how people “feel” about the pandemic. There are voters in New York City who feel like they are living a post-apocalyptic end of the world movie. There’s a pissed off surfer in Redondo Beach who doesn’t see why opening the beach is dangerous.
There are towns in Michigan where half of the people at a local nursing home have died and many nurses have been infected. There’s a small town in Texas where life hasn’t changed much. Know what your audience/voters/constituents think and let the rest go.
As you’re looking to engage with your voters, remember that normal people — also known as persuadable voters — are thinking about things in their immediate surrounding: is my family safe? Do I have a job? When will my kids go back to school? Is this ever going to end? The things people are concerned about now don’t include the national debt or foreign policy, so when you’re talking to voters, talk to them about the things that matter.
Chris Faulkner is a Senior National Strategist with Majority Strategies, a full-service data, digital and print firm that specializes in influencing the opinion and behavior of voters, constituents, and consumers.