The Six Questions You Should Ask When Hiring a Campaign Communications Firm
Running for office is a big undertaking, and hiring consultants to handle communications, messaging, direct mail, and/or digital is no small decision. It can be difficult to figure out in just a few meetings not only if a firm is capable and good at what they do, but also whether or not they’re a fit for your campaign.
Many of our team members have been on both sides of this decision: on the campaign side and now, of course, the agency side. We’ve been a part of a lot of these conversations, and we have some expertise on what questions to ask when you’re hiring a communications firm. Here are the top six questions you should ask when making a decision about an agency for your campaign:
1) How will my messaging be targeted?
This is a key question. Some firms will err on the side of a larger voter universe, but with the availability of so much data on individual voters, we recommend a highly targeted approach. For example, in a primary election, highly likely voters may get several pieces of mail and a larger share of digital impressions, while less likely voters would get, and see, less.
2) How much will my communications program cost?
There are several costs that figure into each piece of your communications plan, including strategy, writing, design, and data. And, for direct mail pieces, you need to include the cost of printing, postage, addressing, and delivery as well.
Every firm calculates these numbers differently, so we recommend talking to a few different firms to get a general idea of how much each piece of the plan will, and should, cost. And don’t be afraid to ask questions about the budget!
3) What kind of experience do you have winning campaigns like mine?
Ask about who some of their past clients have been. Keep in mind that direct mail and digital communications can be used for several different purposes:
- to provide message reinforcement and to persuade voters to vote for you;
- to communicate a specific issue to a smaller subset of voters who care about that issue;
- provide voter education on the voting process (ie voting absentee with a form, when polls are open), and
- Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Mail to motivate less likely voters to turn out.
Choosing a firm with experience in all areas, but especially the areas your campaign will need is important. Many direct mail and digital vendors worked on political campaigns before becoming consultants. Ask about that experience, and what kind of experience they have helping people win races like yours. At CMG, we have helped a variety of candidates and causes win at the local, state, and federal level.
4) Can you integrate my current communications program with other media?
This is an increasingly important question. With the explosion of digital media, working with a vendor who can find your direct mail universe of voters online is a huge benefit to your campaign. By integrating all of your campaign’s media into one uniform, strategically targeted media campaign, you will put yourself ahead of the field.
5) Who will I be working with?
At larger firms your account could be given to a new or junior staffer. While you may talk to a principal of a firm initially, some firms hand off smaller jobs to junior staff to handle. At CMG, you will be working directly with one of the core members of our team. We believe in giving personal attention, getting an understanding of your race and campaign, and assessing what other needs you may have as a candidate.
6) What will it take for me to win?
Asking this question is very important. Sometimes you may not like the answer — you may hear that you need to raise more money than you thought, or that you shouldn’t run the strictly positive campaign you planned to. But no matter what, don’t be satisfied if you are just being told what the agency thinks you want to hear. Winning means hard work, strong strategy, and getting out of your comfort zone. We’re here to help you do that.
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