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Marketing Yourself in an Election: A Primer (Part 2)

Yesterday we discussed a few things that can help a candidate stand out in an election campaign. Today, a few more.

If you are new to the politics scene in your neighborhood, you’ve likely got an uphill battle. You’ve probably got an unknown product (you), up against an established, successful product (the incumbent). Make an impression. Stand out. Be a purple cow.

Social Media: Important, but don’t take on more than you can handle. It is far better to have one active Twitter account then inactive accounts on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest, and whatever else you might want to connect with. Connect is the key word. If you haven’t got time to connect because you have far too many social media channels running, you’re not going to make an impression.

Engage on Social Media: but know when to disengage. Politics can inspire some spirited conversations. Letting yourself get bogged down in a heated debate in a public forum leaves a negative impression. When things do turn negative, or you’re in danger of being mired in minutia, gracefully disengage. Offer a more detailed response via email, telephone, or in person. Be polite.

QR Codes: don’t bother. Once thought of as the Next Big Thing in social media, QR codes really haven’t hit critical mass. Yes, they are different, and do stand out, but how many more people do they help you engage? If the code is on an outdoor sign, thinking people will stop a vehicle to scan your code is not realistic. If it’s on a flyer delivered to the home, isn’t it easier just to list the website? It stands out but does not give you any advantage. Worst of all, if your code leads to a website that is not readable on a mobile screen, you’ve just turned off a potential voter and wasted their time.

Your picture: have one, but not the one you think. You aren’t going to stand out with the usual smiling-into-the-camera head shot; taken, of course, while wearing your best suit and tie. In radio advertising, active verbs cut through the clutter, help get past the gatekeeper and inspire action. Similarly, in visual marketing, action pictures are more compelling than static headshots. Use a picture of you actively engaged in your community. It will stand out, and it will connect.

Your Opponent(s): be nice. Politics can be a rough business. It is not for the thin-skinned. Be the candidate that sticks to the issues, and explains to the voters what you can do for them. Time spent talking negatively about other candidates is time wasted indeed. It’s a negative that sticks to you. Negative campaigning turns off voters. Be the candidate that encourages voting, not the one that sours people on the process. Yes, at a national level, sometimes negative campaigning is used as a tactic. However, all it does is re-energize the “base”, or the people most likely to vote, and it encourages those who are just moderately engaged to not vote at all. At a local, municipal level, going negative is not likely to produce any positive results.

Be different. Don’t do the same things as everyone else. Stand out, and you’ll be noticed.

Marketing Yourself in an Election: A Primer

Election campaigns boil down to a lot of marketing messages crammed into a month. It’s cluttered and messy.

Our province is just heading into municipal election season. The campaign has been running on low heat for a couple of months, but with all the nomination deadlines this week, high gear is now on.

As with business, standing out from the crowd is the key to getting noticed. Follow these tips for a better chance at sticking out like a sore thumb. (Hint: these tips also apply to your business)

Campaign Signs: The subject of much debate. Are they necessary? Do they work? Are they just colorful litter? In most cases, no, no, yes. Most campaign signs look exactly the same as the ten signs next to them. Like any outdoor marketing medium, signs need to make an impression in seconds. You have that long to stand out from the cluster of signs. Be clean and simple, and keep information to a minimum. Be different than the others. Make sure the sign is high-contrast and can be easily seen.

326px-Vote_icon.svgWebsite: have one. Like the sign, it needs to be simple. Include information on how voters can contact you. Engaged voters are more likely voters! Clearly state your goals, your positions, and a little about yourself. Make sure, no matter what else you do, that your website has a mobile version. If you direct people to a website from your outdoor marketing, a lot of voters are likely to access your site via a mobile device. If your website is unreadable on a smartphone, you’ve lost the opportunity to make an impression.

State your case: clearly. Make your goals clear, attainable, realistic, and measurable. A campaign promise to “engage residents” is meaningless. How do you plan to engage those residents? “Improve services” similarly says nothing. What services would you like to improve, and how are you going to do it? The more specific plans you lay out, the more those plans will connect with voters.

Youth: find a way to connect. Older people are more likely to vote. That’s a given. That’s why candidates for every election visit every community center and retirement community possible. However, the youth vote is a huge, largely untapped market. If you’ve got an idea to connect with younger voters and actually get them out to vote, you will have that group all to yourself.

Shake hands: it works. Meeting people, looking them in the eye, and asking them to vote for you is still a great way to make an impression. It seems shallow, but people will vote for you if they like you.

Running in an election is the same as marketing a business or product. It’s just that the product is you. Be different, be clear, and connect.

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