This Presidential election season is proving to be one of the most contentious (not to mention utterly bizarre) since perhaps the 1960s. But even in 2016, newspapers continue to be very important and an influential media channel. In the past week, for example, the Washington Post and the Houston Chronicle have made headlines by endorsing Hillary Clinton very early in the general election campaign. They both cited their primary reason as the ”danger” that Trump poses to our country. But while Hillary and Trump get most of the big media attention, as an ad salesperson for a local daily or weekly community paper there are plenty of sales opportunities in races for state and/or local municipal positions and issue campaigns.
As a media buyer by training and as someone active in local politics, here’s my advice to local print ad sellers who want to be rock stars in selling to local political campaigns:
- Make Sure They Know You – Contact the local town or county committee chairperson in your area -often these folks may know reporters or editorial personnel at your paper but they’re not likely to know you. Call them -email will likely get ignored- and ask them about the upcoming elections. Committee chairpersons will likely know, and have the direct contact info, for the campaign managers and other key people involved in any and all local races. Elections at the local level are not big ”organizations.” Other than the candidate, there are usually only one to two other people in the inner circle.
- Know Your Value To The Campaign – While there are billions being spent on national and statewide elections –see AdAge– campaigns at the local level (even races for the state assembly) are usually on a shoestring. There’s also generally limits to how much a candidate can contribute to their own campaign and at the local level this amount can be very low. Among the largest line items in a local campaign’s budget are for campaign signage, events and direct mail. You have an opportunity to grab some of the direct mail budget but you have to show how you can reach households at a very cost-effective and competitive price point. Also, be sure the powers that be in the campaign know that your newspaper can do the graphic design and ad production work at little to no cost. Don’t let the campaign think they can’t ”do print” simply because they don’t have the ad design expertise.
- Run a Special Local Election Supplement – Voters look to newspapers for guidance and information. In reading your pages, voters are actively thinking about the election and the issues that matter. If a campaign has an ad there, it’s not unlike having an AdWords text ad show up in search results on Google. A campaign ad in a local paper is an ideal placement but campaigns sometimes need to be sold on this reality – especially if the candidate is new politics and campaigns. One way to really entice a campaign to advertise in your paper is to run a special election supplement. My local weekly paper sends all the candidates the same set of questions and they use the responses as the main content for a local election supplement that runs the week before the election. Once you have one campaign advertiser….others will follow, believe me. The last thing a political campaign wants to have happen is to be absent when the opposition is present.
Generally speaking, local campaigns really begin in earnest after Labor Day. So forget about Hillary and Trump, now is the time to begin laying the groundwork for garnering a slice of the billions and billions spent in political campaigns in 2016. Good luck!
Post by Jim Jinks.