Political Mail: How To Have a (Realistic) Plan
If you’re thinking about using direct mail in your political campaign, you’re going to need a plan, and then put it into practice.
Don’t worry about your budget or your USPS deadlines – not right now, anyway. They won’t matter if you don’t get everything else right. Read on for some tips on building a strategy, and the direct mail tactics that will help you.
Name Your Audience
Your audience isn’t everyone who can vote. It’s those voters whose values and political beliefs align best with yours. The thing is that they may not have heard of your candidate, even if they’re a current officeholder. Assume nothing. Use list rentals to target them first.
Set Up A Contact Schedule
Try mapping out your direct mail outreach program well in advance of the actual election day. Start with writing an introduction piece that provides some background on the candidate as well as how he or she stands on some of the current issues. Then pick ballpark dates for follow-up pieces.
Reinforce Your Message
More voters pay attention the closer it gets to an election. But they’re not all geniuses or political junkies either. To keep them interested in and even psyched for your candidate, send political mail that repeats the main points from previous mail pieces. Remember, you can’t make assumptions of what people “know”.
Create A Contrast
I think we all have our own definition of “going negative”, but whatever it is – don’t get nasty. Just be ready – if needed – to truthfully point out in your political mail where your opponent stands, and how that is different from your core voters.
Be Ready to Respond
The news cycle used to be days, but now, it’s often far less. Keep an eye on the issues that are trending, and prepare to send a quick postcard to take advantage of them … before your opponent does.
Ideas to Use
- Mail most often in the last 2 weeks or so before an election.
- Drill down into your voter contact database by targeting people using specific demographics, as well as building personas.
- Your audience doesn’t hang out by the door waiting for your mail. So coordinate your social, TV, radio, and door-to-door efforts to reinforce your messaging, especially as the campaign intensifies.
Here’s how you can save money.
USPS uses 3 levels of presort when pricing, 5-Digit, AADC, and Mixed AADC. With the 5-Digit tray preparation (mail with the same 5-digit zip code), the current per piece rate is 25.7 cents, a savings of up to 2 cents per postcard over the other 2 options.
Ideas to Use
- As long as you meet thickness guidelines, use UV coating on the front side to make your postcard’s color images and graphics pop more.
- On the address side, set up clear zones for the placement of postage indicia, IMb, and the address on the postcard. Consult the Domestic Mail Manual for more details.
- If timing is not a big deal for your postcard campaign, you may want to use Marketing Mail instead of First Class. But remember letters and postcards all mail at the same rates in that class. And you miss out on forwarding and return services that come with First Class.
Fortunately for everybody, USPS has several pre-processing address file tools to supplement commercial list hygiene solutions that are available.
For example, you can use Coding Accuracy Support System (CASS) certification to verify and standardize your addresses, and National Change of Address (NCOA) to catch any new movers. And bonus! They’ll also help you be eligible for automation discounts.
Know Your Formats
Mail has to comply with USPS regulations in order to get through its processing equipment. Normally, that isn’t a problem if you’re mailing standard envelope, postcard, and folded self-mailer formats.
But if you want to try a very different kind of mailpiece, talk to your printer first. They’ll know all about the right size, weight, postage, tabbing, and folding requirements to pass muster, or they’ll reach out to the USPS for an OK.