Monthly Archives: July 2010

Powerful Direct Mail – It Starts with Good Photos

Powerful Direct Mail – It Starts with Good Photos

If you’re like any smart candidate, you want to make an impact with voters in your district. That’s why you spend hours, days, weeks and months knocking on doors and meeting voters face to face. The “political science” behind doorknocking (proven by fact) is that if voters get to see and know you, they’ll be more inclined to vote for you, even if they don’t share your party preference or views on all the issues.

No candidate begins their day of doorknocking without getting ready. In addition to having your walk lists, literature and water this means dressing to fit your district, being properly groomed, in other words, looking the part.

That’s the same approach you should take with direct mail. You need to “look” the part and that comes with good photos. The old adage, “a picture speaks a thousand words” is absolutely true, especially in political direct mail. Any direct mail firm can take your head shot and surround it with boatloads of heavy copy and call it a day. And that’s what most campaigns do. Sure, you get a piece of mail in the hands of the voters, but it doesn’t’ really tell a story, speak to voters or show the real you.

“But I’ve got a volunteer with an expensive digital camera and she’s taken a ton of photos,” you say. O.K. Let’s sit down and go through the photos to see if the photos are close enough, have high enough resolution to use in direct mail applications, show at least two-thirds of your face and really communicate who you are. (My favorite are the parade shots where the volunteer photographer is 50 feet ahead of you and takes tons of shots where all we can see way off in the distance is the side of your face, completely void of any emotion or expression.)

Getting good photos isn’t easy. It takes time and money. But if you want direct mail that wins hearts, minds and votes, you need good photography. Yes, good photography costs money, (expect to pay $400-$600 for a 3 hour photo shoot) but it’s money well spent. Good photography turns boring into compelling, dull into eye-catching, and “throw it away” into “take another look.”

If you want more information on photography, direct mail or are looking for other ideas that influence, contact P2B Strategies today.

Here’s another article by Politics Magazine highlighting the importance of photography in political mail:

Don’t Skimp On the Visual – It Seals the Deal

Photography can be the key to a successful direct mail campaign
by Liz Chadderdon

When it comes to direct mail, you get approximately five seconds of a voter’s time between the mailbox and the trash can so you need to make those five seconds as eye catching and powerful as possible. In a misguided attempt to save resources, many campaigns skimp on one of the most crucial aspects of direct mail—photography. It’s akin to building your dream house on a dirt foundation. All of the work you put into your mail program—the research, writing and strategy—won’t be as effective if the piece is dragged down by low resolution, amateurish, overtly political photos taken by a well-meaning volunteer.

A picture is worth a thousand words, especially in political mail. A compelling and unusual photo can leap out of the rest of the clutter in the mailbox and get you those precious seconds of voter attention. A few tips on getting the right image to make your point:

  1. Hire a professional photographer, not your neighbor who has a new digital camera (unless he or she is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer in which case I hope they have better equipment). Spend the money on a real shoot with a real photographer. Your mail will cost thousands of dollars, and its success depends on the art so just do it.
  2. Remember that campaigns are not about candidates, they’re about voters. So don’t put the candidate on the front of a mail piece unless it’s a unique or unusual photo (see point 4). The front of a mail piece needs to be something the voter can relate to and a political candidate isn’t relatable for them. But photos of regular folks doing regular things, such as playing in the yard or at a park with parents looking on, make sense to voters.
  3. Candid photos are always better than posed photos. Posed photos look posed—i.e. stiff, unnatural and, most importantly, not relatable. Some posed shots are fine but the majority of shots should look as if they are capturing a moment in the candidate’s life or the voter’s life. Please, do not allow the candidate’s family to wear matching outfits for the family shot. How in the world is that normal?
  4. Get out the old photo albums and find fun childhood photos. I’m a fan of old photos such as a candidate as a kid dressed in a cowboy outfit, riding a stick horse. What better way to convey a message of “fighting crime” or “from an early age (candidate) was committed to protecting our community.” It’s funny, interesting, unique and, again, relatable. It makes the candidate seem more human. Humanizing the candidate is key. Unfortunately, most voters don’t think candidates are normal people. The images a candidate uses in their communication need to make a candidate look as “normal” as possible.

A good case study is Joel Burns who ran for the city council in Fort Worth, Texas. Joel is openly gay in a city that had never elected an openly gay candidate. His campaign communication needed an even greater emphasis on showing him as relatable with the same values, concerns and needs as his neighbors and community. Our first piece had a photo of Joel at the age of 12 with his mother and father and younger sister. Not only is it a typical 1970’s family photo, the same kind we all endured, but Joel’s Dad, Butch, is wearing a cowboy hat. As a native Texan, I can tell you nothing says “normal” in Texas like a man named Butch in a cowboy hat. And by using that photo, we portrayed Joel as someone “just like the rest of us” instead of a typical politician or the “gay” candidate who is not to be trusted.

A good example of a photo doing “your dirty work” for you is the piece “black eye” produced for the Re-elect Delegate Chuck Caputo (Va.) campaign. This piece focused on domestic violence.

It needed an image that was powerful and relatable without being too extreme. It would have been easy to pick a harsher photo to really drive the point home, but then you run the risk of turning voters off, especially women. We needed a photo that was genuine. We are proud to have won the 2009 Reed Award for Toughest Direct Mail Piece with the image we chose.

The lesson here is don’t skimp on the art. Often times, a piece of direct mail may be the only time a candidate “enters” someone’s home. So it needs to show a candidate as someone they may want to invite in. This begins and ends with well-planned, creative photography.

Liz Chadderdon is the president of The Chadderdon Group, a Democratic direct mail firm based in Virginia.

47 Lessons Learned in Politics

  1. A successful campaign must have a strong, but adaptable strategy that can be put onto paper.
  2. There is no such thing as a bandwagon effect—people will not choose to cast their vote for you simply because they believe you will win. The reverse is more likely to be true.
  3. A united party is essential for victory. If you have a contested nomination, you must secure the endorsement and support of the unsuccessful candidate(s).
  4. Timing is critical. Use sound reasoning on when and where to take positions and make statements.
  5. If something works, use it until it stops working, i.e. certain ads, messages, etc. The opposite is also true; if something is broken, admit it and fix the problem immediately.
  6. Make sure you message is clear, simple and effective. Successful campaigns will target specific groups with a specific message, but all messages should be easily understood by everyone.
  7. Negative attacks are better left to third parties and friendly media, if possible. You should be viewed by voters as the “nice guy.” (see also #23 and #27)
  8. Do not underestimate the power of radio. While there are flashier advertising mediums, few give you better bang for your buck.
  9. Unpopular national administrations often have a significant impact. If you are facing this challenge, you must successfully localize your campaign.
  10. Perception trumps reality every time. It doesn’t matter what you are as much as what voters think you are.
  11. Every aspect of your campaign should remain as simple as it can be, while still being effective.
  12. Secure the votes of your base before going after other votes.
  13. After securing your base, don’t be afraid to invade opposition territory. If you speak to a group of 100 Democrats, you won’t lose any votes, but you may gain a couple.
  14. What you say in one corner of your district will be heard in the others.
  15. Don’t self-destruct. Always choose words carefully.
  16. Do not allow your opponents charges to go unrefuted. Between the candidate, the campaign and third parties, all opposition charges should be answered before they are repeated and stick.
  17. Use endorsements primarily to compensate for your perceived weaknesses i.e., if you are a white collar businessman in rural Minnesota, secure the endorsement of prominent farmers and blue collar workers.
  18. Do not promise more than you can deliver during the campaign. Your credibility is put at risk.
  19. Know your own limitations and be willing to rely on outside expertise.
  20. No campaign is perfect and mistakes will happen. Decide immediately how to address the issue, keeping in mind that the best option is often to move on and forget about it.
  21. Dominate the dominant medium.
  22. Make sure your campaign is fun. Nothing hurts campaign morale and volunteerism more than boredom or pessimism.
  23. If you are going to go negative, your own credibility must be established first. Negative campaigning will backfire if voters do not find you believable.
  24. Voters are smarter and know more than you think. Provide them with information and a reason to vote for you.
  25. You cannot start your campaign too early. If you start late, you do not have fewer things to do, only less time in which to do them.
  26. Be confident, but never overconfident. Overconfidence will harm your perception among voters and hurt volunteer turnout. “I believe I will win, but the election will come down to the wire.”
  27. Do not oppose every position or statement by your opponent. Choose carefully, but make it hurt when you do respond.
  28. If you do not have a natural powerbase, you must start to build one immediately.
  29. You will never please everyone. This is true among voters as well as your campaign advisors.
  30. If you are a second, third, fourth-time candidate, avoid fighting the last campaign. Every campaign is different and you will need to adjust to the current climate.
  31. Just because you made a public statement doesn’t mean anyone heard it or remembers it. Stay with your message and repeat it often.
  32. Make sure you have an immediate communications system. Know how and where to contact essential campaign advisors.
  33. Be polished in explaining why you are running for office.
  34. Be ready to use late breaking news or recent developments to your advantage, but use discretion. Not all news stories are appropriate for immediate use by a political campaign.
  35. Although you should spend as much money as Minnesota law allows, how you spend your money is more important. A House or Senate candidate who spends $5,000 on fancy letterhead or a campaign headquarters is at an immediate disadvantage.
  36. All voices in a campaign are not equal. Different campaign advisors will have different levels of expertise and must be weighted accordingly.
  37. You need to have at least a basic understanding of the politically charged issues facing Minnesota. Always be able to recite the following:  What is wrong with the state, county, city, etc.?  What you will do to fix it?  Why your fix is better than your opponent’s?
  38. Every step the campaign takes must have a reason. The following questions should be answered:Why is the step being taken?  What do we gain from the step?  What are the consequences of not taking the step?  What are possible drawbacks of taking the step?  Is the step the best use of time and money?
  39. You need to have hundreds of good photos of yourself engaging in different activities around your district. Your portfolio must include a great headshot. More people will see your picture than meet you in person.
  40. Preempt negatives that are sure to be used against you in the campaign, but don’t volunteer negatives that may not be used by the opposition.
  41. Know what your opponent is doing. Keep track of the opposition’s public documents, lit pieces, public statements, finances, etc.
  42. Your enemy’s enemy may not be your friend. Carefully verify any information that comes from a former associate of your opponent.
  43. A positive public visual image is essential. Groom and dress neatly, drive a vehicle appropriate for your district, etc.
  44. Let your spouse/family take any reasonable role with the campaign that they choose. Your campaign will be miserable if you don’t keep the support of your family.
  45. This is your campaign and you have the right to make final decisions.
  46. The only way people will donate to your campaign is if you ask them to. Either you must self-finance your campaign or you must ask for money from others.
  47. Use the words “thank you” liberally. Always thank volunteers, staff, donors, etc., if you want future aid from them.

Adapted from Joe Napolitan’s “Napolitan’s Rules: 112 Lessons Learned From a Career in Politics” as published in “Winning Elections.” Joe Napolitan is a longtime political advisor and a founder of the political consulting industry.

The most crowded primary in state history?

Politics in Minnesota – Ever since nine candidates signed up to run in the DFL primary in Senate District 67, PIM’s been trying to pin down the largest such field in state history. With the help of Robbie LaFleur at the Legislative Reference Library, we thought the puzzle had been solved: Matt Dean survived a 10-candidate state House primary to win the GOP nomination in 2003. (Somehow he even managed to get more than 50 percent of the vote.)

But Republican campaign guru Gregg Peppin, who runs the consulting firm P2B Strategies, points out a contest that we’d overlooked. In 1994, Tom Bakk emerged from an 11-candidate DFL primary in House District 6A. The Iron Range race was tightly contested: three other challengers — Lee Ramsdell, Bill Kosiak and Paul Kess — trailed Bakk by less than 400 votes.

Of course, Bakk went on to win a state Senate seat in 2002 and currently chairs the Taxes Committee. He also was among this year’s crowded field of DFL gubernatorial contenders.

Originally posted by Paul Demko on July 9, 2010 | Permalink

13 could be lucky number for Senate GOP

Politics in Minnesota – Caucus hopes to end a four-decade run in minority

Around convention time in the spring, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, boasted that his caucus would retake the chamber’s majority in November. Considering Senate Republicans’ 38-year stranglehold on minority status, and the 13 seats that his troops will need to gain to make good on the pledge, it amounts to a tall order.

Republican insiders are touting a strong candidate recruiting class and a number of close 2006 contests in the 67-member chamber as reason for optimism, but a number of Republicans have their doubts about whether it will actually come to pass. One party insider told Capitol Report the Senate GOP could pick up four seats on the low end and possibly as many as 10 seats.

But longtime GOP political operative Gregg Peppin of P2B Strategies goes further: He thinks Republicans can take the full monty. “I think [a Republican takeover] is very definitely within the realm of possibility,” he said. “If you go down the map [of competitive races], the Senate [GOP] has top-tier candidates in virtually all those races.”

Senate DFL Caucus Director Mike Kennedy pointed out that the GOP has its own share of incumbents who squeaked by in the last election and will face strong DFL challengers again.

The GOP is sure to target seven seats that the DFL won by 5 percentage points or less the last time around: Sens. Mary Olson (SD 4), Lisa Fobbe (SD 16), Rick Olseen (SD 17), Ann Lynch (SD 30), John Doll (SD 40), Terri Bonoff (SD 43) and Leo Foley (SD 47).

Six other DFL incumbents won in 2006 by 10 points or less: Sens. Kevin Dahle (SD 25), the retiring Steve Murphy (SD 28), Jim Carlson (SD 38), Don Betzold (SD 51), Sandy Rummel (SD 53), and Kathy Saltzman (SD 56).

Conversely, though, five current GOP senators won by 5 percent or less in 2006: Bill Ingebrigtsen (SD 11), Joe Gimse (SD 13), David Hann (SD 42), Michael Jungbauer (SD 48), Ray Vandeveer (SD 52), and Debbie Johnson (SD 49) who is not running for re-election. While those races may have tightened because of the unpopularity of the Bush Administration at the time, it’s far from certain that the GOP will hold on to all of its incumbent seats. While those districts lean Republican in most cases, DFLers are touting candidates like Ham Lake Mayor Paul Meunier.

Observers from both sides of the aisle have noted that the GOP has fielded a formidable candidate in suburban newspaper executive Ted Lillie, who is challenging Saltzman. (Lillie’s brother, Leon, is a DFL rep from North St. Paul.) Republicans are likewise touting another candidate from the business community, Roger Chamberlain, who is a senior corporate tax accountant with Amerprise Financial in Minneapolis. Chamberlain is challenging Rummel.

Republicans have also put up two former legislators in Sean Nienow, who’s set for a rematch with Olseen, and former Rep. Carla Nelson, who is challenging Lynch.

One factor to watch: the Senate Republicans’ reshuffled campaign elite. Sen. Amy Koch, R-Buffalo, has won plaudits for the job she’s done since taking the lead role in candidate recruitment. The caucus has also brought Norm Coleman Senate campaign manager Cullen Sheehan on board as chief of staff.

For a complete rundown of House and Senate districts where DFLers won by 10 points or less in the last cycle, see the chart on page 2 of this issue.

Notes from the trail

In its rundown of 2010 state legislative races, the national magazine Governing predicts the DFL will likely retain control of both houses of the Minnesota Legislature. But the mag’s analysis deems it plausible that the GOP could return to power, particularly in the House:

“The Democrats are still favored to hold both chambers in Minnesota, but amid much angst over the state’s fiscal situation, a shift of control — especially in the House — isn’t out of the question. A determining factor could be how much blame voters place on the Democrats as opposed to outgoing Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty.” Republicans need a net pickup of 21 seats to assume control in the House….

In a heated GOP primary battle in District 29A, the candidate who is challenging the endorsed candidate could be vulnerable to sniping about a bankruptcy in her past.

Kerry Stoick, who is challenging the party’s chosen candidate, Duane Quam, was open with delegates about her foreclosure during the convention and said she has worked to correct her financial affairs, according to a GOP source.

“I was very honest about it in my endorsement campaign,” Stoick averred to Capitol Report, and she added that she does not expect her opponent to try to make a campaign issue of the bankruptcy.

Whether the foreclosure will turn into political baggage remains to be seen. A story last month in the Rochester Post Bulletin about the 29A primary race didn’t refer to Stoick’s bankruptcy. But it’s nonetheless registering on some people’s radar: A commenter on the site alluded to the bankruptcy issue and added that Stoick “should solve the money management issue.”

There are a couple of fundraisers in the offing to benefit legislative candidates in hotly contested races in Eagan. District 38, on the south side of the Minnesota River, is represented entirely by DFLers. That’s a switch from 2004, when the GOP controlled the entire suburban district.

On Monday Ted Daley, who is running against Sen. Jim Carlson, DFL-Eagan, will raise money at the Eagan home of Sandy and Gary Wiese. Contributions are $50 per person and $80 per couple. Diane Anderson, who is challenging Rep. Sandy Masin, DFL-Eagan, will raise money Tuesday at Granite City Food and Brewery. Minority Leader Kurt Zellers and conservative bloggers and radio hosts Mitch Berg and Ed Morrissey are expected to attend. On Thursday, Senate President Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, and Rep. Rick Hansen, DFL-South St. Paul, are holding a fundraiser for Masin at the home of Eagan City Council member Meg Tilley….

Not only are people writing lots of checks in Eagan, they’re also planting lots of campaign lawn signs. Apparently too many, at least for the tastes of Mayor Mike Maguire. The Pioneer Press quotes Maguire as saying the signs are “real visual noise out here in the suburbs.” He’s asking candidates to pledge to forego campaign lawn signs until Labor Day….

There are few races in which candidates’ notable names precede them as emphatically as in the District 57 Senate race in the suburbs south of St. Paul. The area is represented by state Sen. Katie Sieben, DFL-Newport. She comes from a local political dynasty that includes her father, former Rep. Mike Sieben, and her uncle, former House Speaker Harry Sieben, Jr.

Sieben is being challenged by a name that is also famous, especially to those in the hockey-loving suburbs. Karin Housley will be the Republican on the ballot in November. Her husband, Hall of Fame hockey player Phil Housley, is the second-leading scorer in NHL history and is considered the peer of legendary defensemen like Chris Chellios and Ray Borque. Perhaps fortunately for Sieben, Housley coaches high school hockey outside the district in Stillwater….

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and the members of the DFL-dominated City Council will hold a fundraiser for the House DFL Caucus on Monday. The event at Sweeney’s Saloon in St. Paul will feature eight members of St. Paul’s legislative delegation. Suggested contributions are $100, $250 and $500.

When reporters ask campaigns and caucus officials for the final tally of money collected at fundraisers, they almost always decline to be specific. So it was unusual when GOP candidate Tim Utz said in an e-mail that he raised $1,300 at a fundraiser in Columbia Heights attended by GOP gubernatorial endorsee Tom Emmer. Utz is running in House District 50A against incumbent DFL Rep. Carolyn Laine.

Originally posted by Charlie Shaw on July 9, 2010 | Permalink

Interviewed today by Tom Schec…

Interviewed today by Tom Scheck of MPR and Rachel Stassen-Berger of Star-Tribune on gov’s race & fundraising – both were tough but fair