Running for office requires a lot. A lot of research. A lot of organization. A lot of planning. And campaigns – especially at the federal level – often even build their own campaign management tools and materials. Sounds like a lot...
When you’re a candidate looking to make an impression on voters and potential donors, campaign flyers are a versatile marketing tool that helps you reach both groups, for a simple reason. Campaign flyers can be tailored to align with many aspects of your campaign (fundraising, canvassing, GOTV, etc.).
Political mailers are especially useful to local and state races where campaign budgets don’t allow for more cost-prohibitive paid media such as TV spots. Mailers are cost-effective and very easy to customize to reach your target audiences.
But what’s the best way to play to those strengths? Planning is key, and there’s a number of factors to consider when planning this branch of your campaign advertising.
Know the Difference
First, there are a couple different types of flyers, so you need to plan for both—and that starts with knowing the different purpose of each type of campaign flyer.
Knowing the different purposes helps a lot when organizing both the design and the distribution. A key point is that campaign literature functions much differently for messaging than campaign mailers. Here’s a quick distinction in this regard:
- Campaign Literature: These types of flyers are designed to capitalize on single-exposure opportunities for you as a candidate. For that reason, campaign literature is handed out during canvassing and political events. These are the flyers that volunteers leave wedged in screen doors and tucked under doormats. They can also be handed out during fundraising events, meet-and-greets, and other in-person events.
Wherever it’s handed out, political literature is used to convey a complete overview of your message or your campaign. Look at the flyer below from the 2008 presidential election.
This flyer was left at people’s doors as part of a Get Out The Vote effort for Democratic candidates. Notice that it provides information on voting dates, times, and places. It also tells voters who the candidates are up and down the ballot. With this single interaction, an entire story is told through the campaign flyer.
- Campaign Mailers: Political mailers are flyers that are mailed directly to people’s houses. These mailers don’t require volunteers or events to distribute. Instead, they’re a much more targeted way of distributing campaign flyers, for a simple reason. You have the voter’s home address and can mail them multiple flyers over the course of the election cycle.
This option for repeated interactions allows you as a candidate to focus on specific topics or issues. Plus, the pacing also gives you time to guide voters into a deeper understanding of your campaign. Check out the collection of images below for an example.
Through this series of mailers, Mike Fong introduces potential voters to his campaign, lays out several of his policies, and shows off who endorses him. Each mailer can stand on its own, but taken as a series, the pieces build on each other, with each mailer building off the information in the last.
As you plan for your campaign flyers, keep track of your goals and the number of chances you’ll have to reach out to voters or donors. Don’t let unpolished messaging—one of first-time candidates’ biggest mistakes—unnecessarily derail your campaign!
How to Make Campaign Flyers Work for You
Creating political flyers is similar to making political yard signs in that flyers are designed, printed, and distributed on behalf of your campaign. In fact, both campaign flyers and yard signs can often be done with the same print shop.
For flyers, though, your main goals are to identify your universes, distill your messaging, design the flyers, and organize distribution.
How to Identify Universes
A universe is essentially a specific list of people who share a voting behavior that you want to target with a specific message (e.g., a persuasive mailer to convince someone to vote for you or a piece of literature reminding them how and when to vote). Your campaign will have multiple universes.
At the most basic level, they’ll be made up of (1) high turnout voters who need to be persuaded to vote for you and (2) supportive low turnout (or unregistered) voters who need a reminder or application to actually vote. Splitting these groups up into universes allows you to map out ahead of time how you target your flyers. The benefit? You’ll know how many of each type you’ll need and what messaging to put on each piece.
Once you know who you’re sending campaign literature to, it’s time to map out an overview of your campaign. How many mailers will you send to each voter? How many variations will you need to reach each universe you target?
If this all seems overwhelming, don’t worry. There’s plenty of help for identifying universes and for the next step in the process: designing your campaign flyers.
How to Design Campaign Flyers
Hiring a political consultant who specializes in political flyers (often referred to as a “mail consultant”) is the most common approach campaigns take to design flyers. These consultants will be familiar with graphic design and how it serves political campaigns.
Mail consultants will identify the appropriate universes either on their own or through collaboration with your campaign field director. Then, the consultants will use this data to help your campaign determine the number of flyers you’ll need. You’ll know, based on your budget, whether to go wide and use a blanketing technique or whether to opt for a deeper, more targeted approach. The consultants will be well-versed in structuring the content of both campaign mailers and campaign literature to best meet the needs of each universe.
Typically, a consultant will design the flyers and send the designs to the candidate for final approval. Once the design is finalized, the consultant or campaign has the flyers printed and distributed through a mailhouse.
If you’re running for a local office with a very limited budget, you can use campaign flyer templates to create your own designs. Just know that using non-union print shops for your campaign is seriously frowned upon.
How do you find a union print shop in your area? The next section covers two great options for you to try.
How to Print Campaign Flyers
You can start your search for properly unionized print shops one of two ways:
- Utilize the Communications Workers of America directory of union printers, which allows you to find union print shops in your area.
- Contact your local Democratic party organization, who will often have campaign-friendly resources (e.g., union print shop lists).
Search these lists for individual sites, and reach out for quotes. Many shops will assign you a sales representative for ongoing support while you do business with them. A lot of shops also offer onsite graphic design, but they might not be as knowledgeable in political campaign marketing as a consultant would be.
Once you find a shop you like, submit your designs, and the shop will start the process of printing your flyers. After printing, you need to find a way to distribute your campaign literature or mailers to voters. Mail consultants will help you with mailers, while volunteers can help leave literature at targeted voters houses when canvassing.
Bring It All Together
If you know who’s reading the flyers you’re distributing, then you’ll know how to sculpt your messaging to have the most impact on voters. You’re ultimately telling the story of your campaign and what you, the candidate, can do for the voters you seek to represent.
Mold your strategies so that the format of the flyer—be it mailer or literature—is fully utilized. Create polished graphics and carefully cultivated messaging that tells a complete story about you. Identify the goals of each piece, and create a dynamic presentation for voters and donors to interact with.
When you do all of the above successfully, you’re certain to crush it with your campaign flyers program.