Friday, September 12, 2014

Proofread everything - Even your own name

Did I tell you about the campaign where the candidate's mail had him running for office in a completely different town? That guy didn't proofread his own materials.

Better than doing it yourself (though you are ultimately responsible, so do it yourself too) is to have a good proofreader in the form of a trusted staffer with a good eye and spelling skills do it for you.

A fresh set of eyes on the mailer before it goes to the printer and when the proof comes back can catch something your jaded set of peepers might just miss. Like when you, or your mail consultant,  spells your own name wrong. This happened. A candidate named, let's say Alison, had a consultant who created some eye catching mail with a logo that read "Vote for Allison." See the problem?

When Alison looked at, she wasn't looking at the spelling of her name. She was looking for typos in endorsement names, or punctuation errors, something she was good at, having been an English teacher for 20 years.

It wasn't until the mail was printed and sitting in people's mailboxes, that she caught the error, on the mail that arrived in her own mailbox.

Then it was obvious. Luckily most people wouldn't notice the difference between one l Alison and two l Allison. But the guy with the wrong town? You can bet people noticed that!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Consultants - Are they a shady crowd?

I got to thinking about consultants and whether they are, or seem to be, more "shady" than those in other professions. As a member of this profession, I like to think of myself as ethical and anything but shady. Unfortunately, I have come across too many of my brethren and, less frequently, sisthren (not a word I know), who might be less than totally above board. Even in small local races.

An example. The guy who laundered his own client's money to sent out a gratuitous hit piece full of outright lies and slander about his opponent in a water board race. Through a labyrinthine process by which the money went all over the state and eluded disclosure at several levels, it took five years for the truth to out. The candidate, now the sitting water board member got a slap on the wrist in the form of piddling $5000 fine. He's still there.

How about the guy who took the name of a well known and well regarded, but languishing organization and made his own slate card out of it to benefit his wife, running for a City Council race? How about imaginary money for work he did on her campaign and claimed was paid for by a loan - from her.

Then there's the one who stole a campaign from yours truly, lost the race, then came up to me at a party where he was attempting to again wrest a client away, and flashed his materials (the ones that lost the previous race remember) under my nose.

Some consultants just have gall.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Everyone has an opinion on how to run YOUR campaign

Invariably. in any campaign, your best friend, your cousin Al, your neighbor's uncle's barber, will tell you what you're doing wrong in your campaign and how to fix it.

If you are an inexperienced campaigner, or even a little bit insecure, you may listen to these people, even if you have hired a consultant for the purpose of listening to her advice. I can't count the number of times a candidate has called or emailed me in a panic, saying "People are complaining that I don't have a picture of the City Hall steps on my brochure. They say no one will know what I'm running for if I don't have it!" or "I have to do a completely separate handout for Republicans."

Relax. When I ask who "everybody" is, it's usually one or two people several steps removed from the campaign, who think they know better, or just want to be involved.

Of course you do need some trusted advisers in your area who know the issues and the players. Whose opinion you value and who can work well with others. We often ask the candidate to choose one or at most two people to share an ad or a mailer with before it goes to the printer, just for an other pair of trusted eyes, closer to the campaign. But that's it, when you start running everything past a committee or all your friends and neighbors, it gets muddled, time is lost and your consultants pull out their hair. (if not yours!)

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Campaigns with a technical twist

Some local offices attract people with an expertise in the field, water board, sewer board, fire board, for instances. And conversely, voters are attracted to those candidates who sound like they have the needed expertise to do the job.

Perception is everything when it comes to the down ticket race for a position that involves managing a recourse or public safety. Especially for the low-information voter. I've seen many races won and lost because the person with "water engineer," "environmental scientist," or "former firefighter" as their ballot designation. even though they had never held public office, had no managerial experience nor a history of interacting with the District they are running for.

This is true even against a better funded candidate with more voter contacts and a professionally run campaign who has studied the issues facing the District for years. Even former elected officials have a hard time moving from Town Council or School Board to Water District or Sanitary District.

So if you seek a technical sounding position, think of the voter who will do no more than read the ballot designation, and see if you can come up with one that sounds impressive and conveys actual expertise in the field.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

To slate or not to slate?

At this time each election season, a plethora of slate cards appear in all our in-boxes. Buy me! they shout. The candidates all get the pitches directly too. Shouldn't I be on this one? they ask, anxiously.

The answer of course is it all depends. Here is a list of just a few slate mailers I've been pitched in the past and recently.

COPS  just what it sounds like, law enforcement leaning slate mailer, but caveat, NOT sanctioned by the police unions.

California Voter Guide     Target – Republicans 

Budget Watchdogs        No pure Dem HH's. Translation: these are the anti-pension people

Election Digest             Target – Democrat and Decline To State

Senior                          Seniors

there are also cards aimed at ethnic voting blocks, Latino, Chinese and sometimes environmental cards.

The Local Democratic Party and clubs often do their own mailers. These are paid for by the Party or the Club and will put on their endorsed candidates. If you have to buy it, it's NOT an official Party mailing.

The problem with all of these is you don't necessarily know the company you will be keeping. That is, what other candidates and which ballot measures will also appear on the mailer? 

Some mix up Dems and Republicans as the example below. Some say they are a Democratic mailer, but put ballot measures on that the Democratic Party opposes. So it's a crap shoot.

Campaign Slut rule of thumb - Save your money for your own mailing and media. Only buy space on a slate mailer if there is plenty in the bank and you trust the vendor of the slate. And do work those endorsements from legitimate groups who do their own slates.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Marin Women's PAC Training video

Here is a video of the training we did the last week, with some other consultants, union and newspaper folks and Young Democrats.

Watch the video here in which I attempt to give out some fundraising advice. And more of course.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What about a website?

What about it? Do you have your website up for your 2014 campaign? There are services like Nationbuilder and even do-it-youself web kits, but whatever you use, make sure you work with a design consultant who knows campaigns and can integrate the look and feel of yours on your website. You don't want a site that looks off the shelf when it's easy to get a custom look with good graphics, your brand (or logo) and readable, informative content.
This candidate put his ballot statement on a webpage
Then all your materials should have your web address prominently listed for people to refer to to get more information on your campaign.

Make sure the fonts are large, the colors bright, but not hallucinogenic, and the whole thing scalable for easy viewing on a phone or tablet.

Link to the site from your Facebook page. (You do have a Facebook page don't you?) and when those web ads go up (more about them later), have them link back to the site when people click on them.

And make sure you have your name on every page. If you're in a field with many candidates for the same office, people won't start confusing your positions with those of the opponents when they're scrolling through sites.