Why Mail is Still King in Local Political Campaigns

A lot of people tell candidates that direct mail is dead. They’re wrong. Direct mail is king when it comes to winning local elections.

Sending mail to the voters is the best way for a candidate to mass communicate in a local campaign.

It’s been this way for years and it is not about to change any time soon.

The reason why mail is king is simple.

You can send a piece of mail to every voter you’re targeting in your campaign.

This is not true for every other type of mass communication.

Let’s take a closer look by examining the voters of Palm Springs, California which has city council elections this November.

There are currently 24,158 registered voters in the city of Palm Springs.

Every one of those voters provided their addresses when they registered to vote.

As a candidate you can mail each of the addresses listed for these voters.

That’s 16,888 residences when you mail to multiple individuals living in a household — which you absolutely should be doing.

Mail vs. Phone Calls

While you can mail to all 24,158 registered voters, there are only 17,641 telephone numbers available for those voters.

Using phone calls instead of mail, you’ll be missing out on 27% of the voters here.

In a close race that could cost you dearly on Election Night.

Now of those, 10,101 are landlines.  If you’re doing robo calls, the FCC prohibits them being made to mobile phones.

Calling only landlines with robo calls would drop your penetration of the voter file by a whopping 58%.

That’s would be no bueno for your campaign.

Mail vs. TV and Radio

Advertising on television and radio is a political past time.

The airwaves are saturated in the weeks leading up to an election.

And I won’t lie.  I love a good political commercial, like this one from 2016.

Unfortunately, I don’t get the opportunity to produce many TV ads since my candidates are usually running in local races where the bulk of their budgets is spent on direct mail.

You may think that’s where you need to be up on TV and the radio.

And if you’re running in a race where the jurisdiction covers multiple areas and a lot of mileage, you might need to be.

But if you’re running in a city, county, or school board seat, radio and TV won’t help you.

Like with newspaper advertising, there’s too much overlap of the broadcast.

While a radio or TV ad may hit the voters in your district, it will likely hit many more voters outside of it who cannot vote for you.

Likewise, even the people in your district who see or hear your ad may not be who your campaign wants to communicate with.

The targeting of radio and television advertisements is often far too broad to be effective in a local race.

Conversely, mail can be targeted specifically at the voting demographic you’re attempting to reach.

Mail vs. Email

Email is an extremely inexpensive way to communicate, especially when compared to physical mail.

But getting emails to all the voters tends to be a problem, as our examples of Palm Springs proves.

There are only 9,935 voters in Palm Springs with email addresses associated with their voter registration.

Again, that’s only 59% of the registered voters.  41% of them would be left out of the messaging.

Yes, you can touch this block of voters plenty through email, but email is easy to ignore.

You know it’s true. You do it all the time. We all do.

A physical piece of mail however requires your attention.

You’ll look at a mailer at least once, even if it’s simply on the way to the trash can.

That’s why your name needs to be big, message clear, and imagery powerful on your mail.

It needs to pass the five second test with the voters before they toss it in the garbage.

Candidate Take-Aways

Mail is still king when it comes to using mass communication to win a local election.

When you start your campaign, create a budget that spends heavily on mail.

Concentrate on raising enough money to get all of your mail out the door.

And until you can pay to send all of your mailers, hold back on the other things.

Yes, those things may be cheaper than sending mail, but as I hope I’ve demonstrated, you’ll get exactly what you’ve paid for.

Put your focus on sending as much mail as you can.

On Election Night you’ll probably be very happy that you did.