Jude Hanlon looks through the letterbox

As well as being political activists my husband and I run our own computer support company. Recently we’ve been doing a lot of research into effective and unusual marketing techniques, and we’ve been exploring the crossover between business and political marketing.

The two problems with political marketing are getting it picked up – then getting it read. And then having enough credibility and persuasion in your content to get the reader to vote for you, and then getting the rest of their household to vote for you as well.

This spring the big hurdles were “they’re all the same” and “we never see anyone”, along with the general ennui which always underlies local elections.

One of the marketing “gurus” whose work we’ve been exploring is Dan Kennedy, and his colleague Bill Glazer. These (American) guys have an unorthodox approach.  A good place to start is Bill’s “Outrageous Marketing” . The two of them are very results-oriented, don’t suffer fools gladly, and in many ways simply present the information and tell you it works. They have a good level of confidence in what they do.

So, to leaflet #1. There is time pressure. The second candidate for the ward was selected late on. Although Noel has a strong personal vote in the area, having lived here and “worked” the area for a while, he was only confirmed as the candidate at the eleventh hour, due to a conservative borough councillor’s resignation. This meant that we had to hit the ground running once the general election was announced. We wanted to do an introductory leaflet, so, on Dan & Bill’s “advice” went with this:

You’ll see it’s in red. A mechanical problem-ette with the riso meant that we were under time pressure to print the leaflets, so single colour was our best option. We decided to go with red. Unarguably, it’s a bit eye-catching. The reaction we got from the agent was “well… OK, if that’s what you want to do”. We checked with Noel, and out it went (along with a newspaper-y leaflet from the MP’s office)

The content of the second leaflet is the same as a glossy leaflet would have been, but presented differently. The main aim here was differentiation: we knew that there would be several glossy leaflets going out, and wanted to get this one picked up off the doormat. If you had a hand-written note pushed through your door, wouldn’t you pick it up? OK, so you pretty quickly realise it’s not a desperate cry for help from auntie Mabe who’s stranded on a desert island (with a postbox) but by that time it’s in your hand, and worst case you read it a bit on the way to the recycling box.

Steve was a candidate in last year’s county elections and ran a positive campaign to build some presence in the area – the intention with this leaflet, Dear Voter, was to build on that and re-emphasize Steve and Noel’s personal connection to the area.??  It wasn’t as hard work as it possibly looks: the writing was done on a tablet PC, so one mistake didn’t mean starting again. Steve would also like me to point out the very small handwritten imprint (we have form with imprints here in West Lancs. It’s important to get it right) – he’s quite proud of that.

This leaflet went out the week before the election. Immediately after it went out, we started getting phone calls from supporters who had either already voted and wanted to reassure Steve, or with messages of support and assurances of voting intentions. And one lady who wanted a lift to the polling station to vote for the Labour candidates. We’ve had several comments since from folk who have seen the leaflet & been impressed. One of the leaflet’s shortfalls was a lack of call to action (other than the voting thing) and also the response rates were not measurable – there’s an intention to have trackable urls in future, among other plans. Also, the apology in the ps seems a bit lame. Next time we’ll almost certainly be unapologetic.

It’s important to note that these weren’t the only leaflets that went out – there were newspaper style missives from the MP’s office, a group-produced manifesto leaflet (of the reasonably glossy type) and much on-the-ground work from the parliamentary-focussed campaign team too. However, feedback in general has been positive, and if nothing else it has sparked a discussion on leaflet presentation. And most importantly, we now have two Labour borough councillors in Ormskirk where previously we had none.

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3 Responses to “Jude Hanlon looks through the letterbox”

  1. Nick says:

    A commendably honest admission of incompetence and a pathetic faith in leaflets

  2. jude says:

    Gosh, commenter. I admire your brevity, although your tone could use some work. It feels like you’re trying to belittle our attempts to engage voters in an unusual manner and have missed the fact that leaflets weren’t the only tool used here. I’m sure neither is the case.

  3. Paul says:

    Useful reflection, Jude. We need more detailed analysis of specfic communication issues like this.

    Was the group leaflet really that glossy? Just asking.

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