10 Paid Media Tips for a Winning Campaign

 In Digital Marketing, Direct Mail, Fundraising

How can you seamlessly integrate paid media into your campaign? And how can utilizing varied media actually help you win?

Our fearless leader, Amanda Stitt, recently trained prospective and current women candidates on using paid media for their campaigns  – and we wanted to share this important information with you too! Here are Amanda’s ten tips for building a winning campaign with paid media:

  1. Campaign plan should include budget and spending. Your campaign plan should clearly outline how you plan to spend your valuable campaign resources. How many votes do you need to win? Who votes? What are the most affordable ways to generate new votes? These are the key questions you must answer to guide your paid media budget decisions.
  2. Spend when people vote and are paying attention. This means you should focus much of your spending on the last 2-3 weeks of any election and also during the crucial period when absentee voters vote. Many candidates want to use limited campaign resources to build their name ID early on. If your campaign has a limited budget, only a small portion should be used for early media spending because people will forget over time. In fact, research indicates that TV ads have “strong but short-lived effect.” It is best to spend early resources getting yourself in front of donors and activists so that they can see you are organized, credible, and worthy of their support.
  3. Dominate your chosen medium or mediums and focus on repetition. Many campaigns dabble across direct mail, television, and digital, but to really drive a message, people need to see your message consistently and with appropriate repetition. For example, we recommend 6-18 digital impressions per week per target voter in the critical weeks leading up to Election Day. But, if your budget allows, appropriate levels of spending across media can have a digital multiplier effect – meaning more voters will remember you and your message.
  4. Television is still a great way to reach people – IF you have the money. Most Americans still own a TV, and television advertising can reach broad or targeted audiences with great efficiency. However, it is also very expensive and can be inefficient for some campaigns. You may end up paying to talk to some people who can’t vote for you. Budget efficiency is key and varies based on prices and geography. To find out more about TV availability and pricing, call us, a media and production company, your local broadcast stations, or your area’s cable provider.
  5. Direct mail helps many local campaigns win. Why? Television is becoming increasingly more expensive, even though it’s hitting fewer and fewer targeted voters. Every day, more households “cut the cord” and instead are watching TV on Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV. Reaching voters by phone is harder, too, as more people have transitioned from landlines to using only cell phones. Direct mail, if done right, can be highly targeted to likely voters or other key target voter segments. Many campaigns are won and lost because of direct mail campaigns. Sending targeted, effective, well-designed mail pieces helps put many campaigns over the top on Election Day.Think about it. When you get a piece of mail in your mailbox, it makes you pause, read it, turn it over, and think about what the sender is trying to communicate with you. If it’s really interesting, you might hang on to it for a couple of weeks before throwing it away.
  6. Digital is a highly targeted way to reach an audience. Today, 60%-95% of a given target voter universe can be reached online. Facebook is a great medium to communicate with paid ads  – with users spending about 4.7 hours per day on digital and the average user spending 1.72 hours per day on social platforms (50+ minutes on Facebook properties alone). Americans check their social media accounts 17 times per day, adding up to at least once per waking hour. This change in voter habits is something campaigns cannot ignore, if they want to win.With digital, you can target specific messages to key target voter audiences in a way that you can’t with television. If you need to communicate with pro-choice independents about your record on choice or motivate young people to vote, you can target different relevant content to these audiences based on your research, polling, or your campaign’s message.
  7. What about newspapers and radio? There is definitely a place for radio in many campaigns. If you have a specific demographic to reach, such as African Americans aged 35-65, there are stations you can buy advertising on that make sense for targeted demographics like this one. But remember, radio markets are broad and you can’t buy only in certain districts. Newspaper ads can be useful in very limited circumstances, but the cost per target voter impression is very high.
  8. Choose the right team. Over the course of any campaign you make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions  – some big and some very small. One of my mentors, a veteran of many statewide and national campaigns, told me, “There are only 10 things that really matter; things that will make the difference between winning and losing on Election Day. The problem is, you don’t know it when you’re making them!”That advice has really stuck with me on the campaigns I’ve worked on. To me, many of these “Top 10” decisions that have led to victory on Election Day are about one big thing: Your Team. Choosing the right people to work with on your campaign is critical to electoral success. You need people who have experience, good judgment, strong attention to detail, and understand you as a candidate and the goals of your campaign. If you are a smaller campaign, “team” decisions are about campaign manager and about volunteer advisors. If you are running a medium-sized or a large campaign, the critical “team” decisions are about campaign manager, mail vendor, digital vendor, pollster, and media or TV production vendor.
  9. Ask the right questions of potential paid media vendors. These include questions like: What kind of experience do you have winning campaigns like mine? Where will my mail be printed and mailed from? Who will I be working with? What will it take for me to win? How will my TV/digital/mail be targeted?
  10. Follow these budget allocation guidelines – no matter the size of the race. There is some flexibility based on the size of the race, but for 95% of campaigns this campaign budget template is the rule of thumb folks should follow.

Sources include Rules and Tips for Creating and Managing Your Campaign Budget, Key Paid Media Tips, and CMG internal campaign budgets.

Was this helpful? Do you have more questions about using paid media for your campaign? Get in touch by sending an email to amanda@104.255.199.13 today!


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Amanda Stitt is the Chief Results Officer of Change Media Group, responsible for new client acquisition, managing accounts, and long-range planning. Amanda has a variety of experience leading non-profits and organizations in strategic positioning, fundraising, and growth. A graduate of Kalamazoo College, she possesses a variety of skills including digital strategy, strategic planning, outreach, and communications.

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