How to Build Credibility & Win Your Election in a Fake News Universe

By Jessica Lalua
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It's true — the Internet has changed just about every facet of daily American life. That includes politics and our elections. (For better or worse.)

But here's the good news:

Not all of the fundamentals have changed.

Politics remains first and foremost local.

Campaigns are about people. About connection. About making yourself known to potential voters and inspiring them to check yes next to your name.

So, where do you begin?

1) Plan Your Campaign Now to Save Precious Time and Money

Planning should always be your campaign's first step.

Put down to paper why you are running, what you stand for — go all out and write down the whole manifesto (if you haven't already). Then, get your highlighter out and get to work isolating your key policies. Whittle each one down to an elevator-pitch version.

Next, jot down what type of branding you want your campaign to channel. You don't have to be a graphic designer or brand manager to do this either. Here are the things you'll want to list out:

  • The primary colors you’ll use
  • Any images you want to repeat on each promotional piece (like a photo of you and/or a photo of your family)
  • A short, punchy message that summarizes what makes you unique and sets you apart from your competition

When you have all of that down in writing, test it in the field. Start with friends and family and see what they think — and hopefully they'll be honest. After surveying those close to you and applying any tweaks necessary, try your message out with people you don’t know who might be more inclined to tell you what they really think.

Once you have the kinks worked out and have perfected your political brand, stick to it throughout your entire campaign and all of your future marketing. Get it laminated, framed and nailed to the wall if it will help!

2) Use the #1 Most Trusted and Most Credible Method to Reach Voters — Direct Mail

The role of social media in politics is undeniable — as is its poor reputation where politics is concerned. So it's important to balance your social media outreach with a medium that is not embroiled in "fake news" controversy.

This is where direct mail comes in.

You might be asking, "But why direct mail?"

Because:

Time and time again, research and studies prove that direct mail is the most trusted and most credible way to reach prospective voters.

A study conducted by Epsilon found that 50% of U.S. consumers preferred direct mail to email, and another 60% said that they enjoy checking their physical mailbox.

In 2018, the United States Postal Service teamed up with the American Association of Political Consultants to conduct a study focused on credibility among voters.

They ranked political outreach techniques from most credible to least credible...

  1. Direct mail: 68% of voters believe direct mail is credible 
  2. TV ads: 59% of voters see ads on TV as credible
  3. Visits from campaign staff/volunteers: 47% of voters find this method credible
  4. Radio ads: 38% of voters think they're credible
  5. Emails: only 34% of voters see them as credible
  6. Digital ads: 26% of voters find these credible
  7. Phone calls: only 18% of voters think this is a credible tactic
  8. Text messages: a scarce 10% of voters think texts are credible

If you're new to direct mail — or if you just need a little freshening-up on your postcard game — I've written in detail before about how to win your election with postcards.

Even if you’re on a first-name basis with every voter in your district, you still need to introduce yourself as a candidate and tell them why you’re their best choice for this election.

This applies to both long-term incumbents and first-time candidates.

3) Make Your Digital Footprint a Smart One

As a potential public servant, your digital footprint needs to be comprehensive enough to make an impression and ensure that voters notice you and have access to you — but relying on internet-based outreach alone risks not building enough trust and credibility (see above).

It's best to view your website as your message's virtual home, and the rest of the web as a way to effectively and affordably amplify the messaging on your direct mail piece.

It is a mistake to think that any one medium — Facebook ads, a website, or even postcards — will be enough to win an election.

So, why is important to spread your message around and amplify it?

The answer is: repetition.

For decades (since advertising became big business), scholars and marketing big-wigs alike have been lighting up marketing circles with a simple debate:

How many times should a message be repeated in order to "land"?

Here's an explanation from Jeffrey Pilcher, the CEO of The Financial Brand:

“In advertising, the term ‘effective frequency’ is used to describe the number of times a consumer must be exposed to an advertising message before the marketer gets the desired response, whether that be buying a product, or something as simple as remembering a message.”

Although no one has nailed down an exact number, there is one thing that every marketer generally agrees on — messages are more effective when repeated.

Plan several mailings, at least 3 to 6. Then, use the Internet as a means to amplify your core message and its credible outreach.

And don't neglect your website or think of it as a window into your campaign. It should be a way for interested voters to get in touch with you and stay in touch. On every page, give visitors a way to stay in touch with you, for example, through a newsletter sign up or donation pledge.

Once someone has raised their hand to say they're interested in what you have to say, keep them updated with regular communication — send emails, newsletters, real letters, and postcards.

Keep them engaged and show them that you aren't a flash in the pan.

4) Periodically Give Your Campaign a Check-up & Tune-up

Remember the first step — planning?

Don’t neglect all that planning you've done once you’re deep into the process. Stick with your established messaging, colors and design.

Regularly set aside time — maybe set a calendar reminder for the first Monday of every month, for example — to verify that your website matches your mailings, which match the cover photo on your Facebook page and your Facebook ads, which match your website and back again.

Once you’ve introduced yourself with a political campaign postcard, build on that introduction with continuing direct mail political campaign pieces and associated emails and web updates that look familiar.

When that new mailer drops into a voter’s mailbox, they should instantly recognize it's from you. When they go to your website, they should have that same, immediate sense of familiarity.

Voters don’t want to elect leaders who are inconsistent.

Constantly changing messages, designs, colors and images will undermine the credibility you've fought to establish.

So remember:

Stick with credible, highly trusted outreach fundamentals.

Running successful campaigns on local, state or national levels is all about communication, and the right kind of communication.

With these principles in place, you have a good chance of reaching and really communicating with voters.

The rest is up to you.

Interested in claiming a FREE political marketing kit and checking out political postcards that have already helped other candidates win? There’s an entire postcard design gallery here for you.