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Targeted Political Campaign Communication

By Jerry Dorchuck

Isn’t it amazing that with all the affordable technology that exists for the modern political campaign, candidates continue to lose because of a failure to communicate the campaign’s message, one on one, with the right voter?

Sam Rodriguez, president of KSR Strategy Group and senior advisor to National Cable Communications recently noted, “The wave of the future in political communications is understanding how to micro-target voters using the latest tools and data”.

Races on all levels will be won (or lost) based on using the latest technologies that allow the candidate to target voters individually. Technology has now advanced to the point that phone calls and direct mail can be sent directly to individual voters who are concerned with that one specific issue; the issue that may well influence how they finally cast their vote.

“How To” Target

You must determine the right target audience. It doesn’t matter what you say, if you are  saying it to the wrong people. The wrong audience will not be listening.

Demographics - What is the age group, gender, ethnic background, education level, family size, income level, geographic location, and political party of the voter?

Psychographics - Even though you have identified your demographic group, people within the group still have very different perceptions of what a candidate has to offer and will be motivated for different reasons.  I’ll call these differences psychographics.  You have to not only know who votes, but what makes them want to vote.  Accumulating this “data” is not always easy, but with the “latest tools” it is possible.

After you have taken the time to identify the right message and its need to be delivered to the right target audience, a unique message can be fashioned for each voter group based on their demographic and psychographic profile.  This will enable the campaign to send a message of concern about your issue, directly to you. From a common sense perspective, the candidate who is going to do something about “my” issues is more likely to get my vote.

Variable Data Messaging

How do I tell a single individual about my position on the issues that only I care about in a way that will motivate me to vote for my candidacy?  Variable data messaging.

As an example, let’s consider a mailing with a limited budget. You determine your target of individuals with a high “vote for” probability based on demographic and psychographic profiles.  This study lowers the cost of your mailing to 10,000 prospective voters from a district total of 25,000 registered voters.

With today’s technology, a template is designed based on individual voter information that is contained in your database regarding each planned recipient.  Since the mailer can be produced digitally, the pictures and the text on each mailer can be programmed to change based on the demographic and psychographic information in your database, on the fly, as it is printed by a digital printer. 

The first of the 10,000 mailers is addressed to Mary Johns, a 35 year old Democrat, African American, female, married, with concerns about the cost of education for her two children.  Based on programming, photos selected to appear on her mail piece would include a prominent African American female and photographs of African American children in an educational setting.  The message on the mailer would emphasize the candidate’s position on the cost of education and how it will affect Mary Johns and her children personally.  When Mary receives this direct mail piece, she is attracted to its message because it is personal to her concerns.  On inspection, Mary sees that she is directed to (MaryJohns@candidatesnamehere.com) a personal web address that has been created so that she can visit a site and learn more about how the candidate’s policies will improve the opportunity to educate her children. 

When Mary arrives at the web address provided to her on the direct mail piece, she is again treated to images and text that are based on her profile.  She will be invited to participate in an online survey designed to find out more information about Mary’s concerns.  After completing the survey, Mary will be “bounced” to a response page that will be programmed to respond to Mary’s specific concerns as they were identified from her answers to the questions on the survey page. 

Mary is encouraged to provide her e-mail address in order to learn more about how the candidate is going to specifically help her.  At the conclusion of her online experience, an email is automatically sent with the candidate’s position on the issues she identified in her survey. 

Since Mary’s visit to the web site has assisted in identifying that she received, and read the direct mail piece and the survey has identified her specific concerns, a second mailer can then be sent to Mary focused on and addressing these specific concerns and encouraging her to vote for the candidate that will respond to those concerns. In addition, this second mailer can identify her exact polling time and place, encouraging her to make a difference.

The second of the 10,000 mailers goes to Richard Smith, a Republican, 65 years old, Caucasian, male, with concerns about health care.  The process is again repeated only this time with health care as the highlighted issue.

Imagine shooting 1 or 10,000 arrows from a single bow at the same time and having each one hit its intended target – right in the bull’s eye.

Jerry Dorchuck is a campaign consultant and National Sales Manager
for Darwin Marketing. He can be reached at Click here to contact this Author 

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