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Gearing Up for Election Day

By Ron Faucheux

As television ads exploded in importance as a political communications tool, newspaper ads waned as a method of campaigning. But with a more fractured media environment, where reach has become increasingly cumulative across platforms, political campaigns would be wise to consider using more newspaper in conjunction with other media.
As you plan for your final push before Election Day, here are some ideas for effective use of newspaper ads:

Endorsement Listings
If you need to show that your candidacy has won important endorsements, particularly when their number exceeds single digits, then a newspaper ad is an ideal way to display this broadened support.

Qualified examples abound. If you had primary opposition that has since come on board in the general election, a newspaper ad is a good way to show party unity. If you’re labor-backed, and want to show that you also have business support, an ad cataloging the signatures of key corporate leaders would be a good way to accomplish that task. If your opponent is supported by large environmental groups, you may want to use a newspaper ad to highlight the endorsements you’ve received from credible environmentalists who may not be affiliated with those groups. The possible strategic usages of endorsement ads go on and on. Their proper use and success will depend on your situation and strategy.

Attack Documentation
Ever try to write a 30-second attack TV spot that needs to contain complex charges and convincing documentation? It’s a tough job squeezing into that short time frame the information necessary to explain your argument and to back it up with pertinent facts and source citations.

The good way to launch an effective media attack is to do a mix of electronic media (TV and radio) plus newspaper advertising. Newspaper ads can provide details and documentation, in easy-to-read, believable black-and-white text, the way short TV and radio spot announcements can’t hope to do.

Buying online banner ads in well-trafficked newspaper Web sites can also be an important part of your campaign’s media reach.
Comparison Shopping
Newspaper ads offer a perfect vehicle to provide point-by-point comparisons between you and your opponent. If you want to show, for example, the many qualifications you have as a candidate as opposed to the scant credentials of your opponent, a newspaper ad provides an excellent visual frame. Candidate A who has 15 lines of copy next to his or her “civic involvement” section makes a strong counterpoint to Candidate B who has only three lines of copy under the same heading.

Targeted Appeals
As campaign communications become micro-targeted, direct mail has gained favor as an instrument for individualized campaign messages. Mail’s ability to zero-in on individual voters, by name, is a powerful advantage. But direct mail can be very expensive. In some cases, when you’re trying to reach a specific region or audience segment, a targeted newspaper ad can be a fairly efficient and less expensive substitute.

For example, if you want to tell voters who live in Madison County that you are opposed to a proposed hazardous waste site in their area, and there’s a strong weekly or daily newspaper that covers the entire county, then doing an ad in that paper may be the most cost effective way to get that information out to those voters.

Always On Sunday
The advantage of direct mail is its ability to communicate individually targeted campaign messages by household. When you have the available funds and the right lists for direct contact campaigning, it can be extremely effective. But it has its limits as does every medium. If you’re timing a mail piece to hit in the last few days before a Tuesday election, you may find that Sundays – when no mail is delivered – creates a problem.

Dropping a mail piece timed to hit on the Saturday or Monday before the election may be a tricky proposition. An ad in the Sunday newspaper, on the other hand, provides security in that you’ll know when your message will hit.

Depending upon budget constraints, newspaper can be used as a substitute for direct voter contact where appropriate or it can be used as part of a weekend media mix along with direct mail and even telephone contact follow-up for maximum impact.

Promote Media Activities
In many cases, candidates have found newspaper an efficient way to promote special TV programs or Web streamed town hall sessions. Placing these ads in the TV section of a local weekly or daily paper is a good idea to increase knowledge and promote viewership.

Newspaper is also a method to invite people to attend rallies and other public events that are more likely to attract large audiences in the last weeks before Election Day.
Election Information
Voters often turn to newspaper articles, editorials, sample ballots, and voter guides to fill out their own tickets either on Election Day or right before. If for no other reason, running ads in Election Day newspaper editions may be the best way to deliver your final message at the voter decision point.

Newspaper ads geared to voter turnout can also be effective, particularly since many voters read newspapers early in the morning and it serves as a prod to vote. Newspaper also provides enough space to list election information such as absentee voting rules, polling place location, dates and times.

In elections with a large number of state and local ballot propositions and bond issues, newspaper advertising is important because it gives voters a chance to see the actual ballot, to hold it in his or her hands, and to become familiar with the ballot line-up before walking into the voting booth.

When you put together your final push and get out the vote preparation, don’t forget to consider newspaper ads as a compliment to the rest of your campaign plan.

Ron Faucheux is President of Clarus Research Group, a public affairs
polling and research company based in Washington, D.C. He teaches at the
Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University
and the Public Policy Institute at Georgetown University. He is the author of
popular books on political campaigning, including Running for Office and
Winning Elections. Ron can be reached at
Click here to contact this Author

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