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Thursday, January 17, 2019
HomePolitics and PolicyCampaigning: Literature 101

Campaigning: Literature 101


If you’re running for office, check two things off your list right away: Set up a Facebook page for your campaign, and get your leave-behind, door literature designed and printed. We’re in the walking season and you’ll need those card-stock flyers to leave at the doors in your district.

Typically in Alaska, campaign leave-behinds are flexible enough to use at fundraisers and fair booths, as well as something you can band to a door knob or slide in the screen door.

Your literature represents the professionalism and thrift of your candidacy. Look smart, be cogent, and not too costly. Use both sides of, say, a brochure-sized leave behind (hole punch and rubber band is a winning combination) or half of an 8.5×11 sheet of card stock.

YOUR READER ARE SCANNING: Most people will scan the front of your leave behind, and glance at the back. You’re taking up their valuable time. Use that time wisely: On the front, make sure you use a great photo of yourself (and sometimes it’s a photo of you with your family), and bulleted points that tells them what is most important about your candidacy.

“The one mistake everyone makes is making them too wordy,” says Josh Walton, who has been involved in more than a dozen campaigns across many years. “People only really glance at these things.

“Have your key components, with three or as many as five bullets that are  bold and easy to read. People need to see what somebody stands for within five to ten seconds maybe. From when they pick it up to when put it in the recycling bin,” Walton says.

WE LOVE OUR WIDE OPEN SPACES: Allow your leave-behind some visual breathing room. People can only absorb so much. This is a case of “less is more.”

DOES YOUR CAMPAIGN HAVE A SLOGAN? Some slogans define the race. Mike Gordon, running for House District 18, promises “Common Sense Leadership” on his signs. If people of District 18 are in need of that, they’ll like “Mountain Mike.” These are all part of building a brand that identifies you and what your strengths and convictions are.

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GIVE THEM ACTION ITEMS: On the back of your leave behind, put your action items together and be sure to make it a mailable piece — that’s the multitasking this leave-behind has to have.

GET THEM INVESTED: A $20 donation means you have their vote: “Your contribution will ensure we have the resources to take our message to every voter across our district.” Give them directions on how to contribute, a way to volunteer and how to get a sign from you. Drive them to your web site, or to your Facebook page to learn more about you. “Walk the district with me on Facebook!” “Follow me on Facebook so you can find me at neighborhood events.”

DISCLAIMER: Add your required “Paid for by Friends of X, address,” or you’ll be sticking those on by hand afterwards. You’d be surprised at how many candidates get tripped up on this.

As for design, the best way is to hire a political designer, which is different from other types of designers. If you have a volunteer who doesn’t have a lot of political experience but has a design background, use your Google search acumen to find samples you like or visit our growing collection on our Pinterest board. We especially like the one produced by candidates Chris Birch and Marilyn Stewart.

Remember, fewer words, more pictures, land your message.

“If pictures can tell a story, do it. Make your words count,” Walton says. “The key thing is don’t overpower people with text.”


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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

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