Let’s Review What We Have Covered So Far
You’ve filed for candidacy, put your finance team in place, and finished your first campaign event. You likely have a small core group of volunteers now as well. Hopefully, you also have a war chest of $5,000 to $10,000 in cash on hand, a campaign manager and many of your key people in place.
Now it’s time to order your campaign collateral, or as I like to call them, “Campaign Tchotchkes.” Of all the lessons I learned from my 1994 campaign, this is one of the most important ones. By now, you’ve been bombarded by email solicitations, direct mail and phone calls, all trying to get you to buy campaign stuff, ranging from must-have items such as bumper stickers and buttons, to things you don’t need at all or will ever need in a million years. When you are a first -time candidate, all this stuff sounds great when a salesman tells you how someone got elected in East Overshoe, Wisconsin by just buying ads on milk cartons, while someone else used sky writing (yes, sky writing).
HERE ARE THE DOs
This is where you should spend your campaign treasure:
- Bumper Stickers
- Palm Cards
- Yard signs
Spend the extra money and get the bag signs with the spikes (polybag yard signs with wire u frames). They shouldn’t cost more than $2.50 to $3.50 each, and prices go down with larger orders. If you are running statewide, get 20,000; U.S. Congress, county-wide office 10,000; County Council, House of Delegates, State Senate, 1,500 to get started.
Also, depending on which office you are running for, pull aside two signs for every polling location and early voting location for early voting, primary, and primary election day, early voting /general election, and Election Day. If you have a good ground game, you should be able to retrieve and re-use signs for the general election. However keep in mind that signs will be stolen, as we all learned in 2016, when many of us had our Trump signs stolen several times.
Here’s something important to keep in mind:
Don’t go with the conventional wisdom, which questions the use of so many yard signs. After all, it’s hard to be taken seriously if you don’t have yard signs. So, spend the money and get the bag (Polybag Yard Sign with Wire U Frame). If you order prior to the election year, you might get a better deal. I see tons of specials for yards signs during the off years. If you know now that you will be running in 2018, buy the signs now and save a few bucks.
You also want to get a slug of bumper stickers (IMHO I’d say charge $2 or $3 bucks). As my old mentor, Paul Weyrich would say “…If you pay a buck or two for a bumper sticker, it’s going to get USED…” Again, the number would depend on which office you are running for: statewide, 10k; congressional or countywide, 5k; other offices, 2,500. Bumper stickers are a necessary evil that gives your campaign credibility.
One more thing:
A bumper sticker on the front bumper is worth hours of free advertising. (Front bumper is viewed by more different people than rear, since rear is the cars behind you many times same person, front constant changes) I say put on front and rear bumpers.
You will want to get the Removable Vinyl Bumper Sticker. Depending on volume, these will cost you 15 cents to 30 cents each to 33 to 60 cents each for 3” x 9” bumper stickers. Very Important: Do NOT buy bumper stickers with more than two colors. They should be clean and simple. I will have examples of good, bad and “What were you thinking?” at the end of this document. Once you have these bumper stickers, send one out to each one of your supporters, who have donated more than $100.00.
This is the most important item in your campaign collateral. You need to spend a lot of time designing your palm card, and make sure you get them proofed THREE TIMES, by three different people before you send them to press. This is your message and your voice, so you don’t want to have glaring typos or words that cut off the page. In an ideal world, you should have three different versions of the palm card: one for fairs and festivals, one for door knockers and one for Halloween (I will explain at the end). However, if money is tight, get one good card. Remember, these are palm cards, not position papers. You want to capture the reader in 30 seconds. These three cards will be the virtually the same for fairs, festivals and door knockers. The one for Halloween will be a little different. Your Halloween Palm Card might start with a picture of pumpkin or something like that, then a headline should be something like how you care about your child’s health and well-being, now let’s talk about …. Fill in the issue you want to cover. I have found that education, and school related issues work best. You will see the difference in the designs section BELOW.
Palm Card Design should be 4” x 9,” and here is the quantity you need for various campaign levels: State wide /50,000; Congress and county-wide/25,000 lower office/10,000. These so inexpensive that you can do an additional run for primary early voting, primary voting and early voting/general election and Election Day to give to your county parties to include in precinct bags. (you will need 100 per bag)
I am a big fan of campaign buttons and pins. But …… are they cost-effective? Yes and no. Ideally, I would start with lapel stickers, then as needed, go to pins, then buttons.
You want to have a roll of lapel stickers with you at all times to hand out to supporters along parade routes and at fairs and festivals (Check local regs, since some fairs have banned lapel stickers). The rolls are really inexpensive to do since a roll sticker will only cost you about 14 to 22 cents each per sticker. Rolls are 500 stickers per roll, and I would start with 6 rolls.
You definitely want to have tee shirts for parades, fairs and other outdoor events for your volunteers. And here’s some GOOD NEWS. The price of tee shirts has dropped so much that every candidate would be able to afford them! If you do a minimum order, a colored tee shirt with text should run about $6 – $12 per shirt. (Refer to the vendor list at www.mcgop.com/Dr-Politics/ )
Here’s the most important thing to remember:
Just because it’s cool, doesn’t mean you need it. What do I mean by that? When I ran in 1994, I was bombarded with catalogs full of stuff that I could buy and put my name on it. All sorts of vendors told me that WATER BOTTLES were sure winners, i.e. get your name on a water bottle and that will translate into advertising and votes for you.
Since I had $30,000 of my own money that was burning a hole in my pocket, I said let’s GO FOR IT! (I think I finally got rid of those water bottles about 3 years ago).
Then, another vendor sent me a catalog, and followed up with a phone call telling me what I needed the most was PENCILS with my name on them, and since they were only 11 cents each, how could I go wrong????
Today, 23 years after my campaign, I still have about a dozen boxes sitting around in my mom’s attic. They weren’t a total waste of money since I was able to get them into the classrooms. But I think they might have translated into fewer than 100 votes. My third waste of money was rulers, since I thought the rulers would go well with the pencils, and yes, I still have a box of rulers sitting around collecting dust.
Lesson learned: It’s not about the stuff – It’s about you as a candidate and your positions on the issues.
When you are a first-time candidate, everything looks really cool, and the temptation is to get the coolest, shiniest thing out there. P.S.: I have seen other candidates offer everything from highlander swords to tapes/floppy disks/CDs of their speeches.
ARE YOU CRAZY???????
This is a very special category, near and dear to me. It’s when sales guys call and sell you something that sounds great, but is a complete and total waste of money. Case in point: I had a sales guy call me up one July morning in 1994 telling me that for only $3,500, I could get a 4” x 6” ad in maps of Montgomery County that could be given away so thousands of people would see my message.
I said, deal. After I got the maps, I even incorporated them with my palm cards, so I could give the maps away when knocking on doors. Another random call I got was from a salesman who sold ads for multiple radio stations. He told me how for only $5000, I could get my name mentioned at the end of other commercials, which would say this message was brought to you by “Dwight for Delegate.”
Then I got a call suggesting that I get
“Dwight” candy made up. I thought to myself, everyone loves candy, and who
wouldn’t want candy with my name on it to give out on Halloween????
Nah, didn’t work that well. Luckily it was only $1000 worth of candy, and
I also learned that while it didn’t boost
my campaign profile, $1,000 buys you a TON of candy!!!
Here’s my best advice:
- Stick to what works: pins, buttons, bumper stickers, yard signs and palm cards
- Also consult others on your campaign team to ask their opinions regarding expenditures
- Get your campaign team to deal with the sales guys and gals.
Also, use a reputable local vendor here in
Maryland or Virginia who specializes in promotional
materials for campaigns, who will catch missing Authority lines, or typos or other gaffes. Looking back the money I spent on junk, it could have been better spent for a poll, more palm cards and more fundraising direct mail.
As always you can reach out to me if you have other questions or go more in-depth on the topics I have covered.\mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or follow me on Twitter at @DwightNation.