Print: The Only Effective Medium in Some Cases, and Here's One of Them
I wrote about the use of print in the midterm elections last fall. In the runup to the election, I received more than five pounds of mail from candidates. Since a typical election postcard weighs less than half an ounce, that’s a lot of mail.
But wait, there’s a sequel to this story.
In my state, we also have spring elections. These are quiet affairs that don’t draw national attention. There are no big headliners at the top of the ticket. These are elections for city councils and village, school, park and library boards.
They are all non-partisan races, so there’s no money from political party bosses. The elected offices themselves pay little or nothing. Some candidates see these elections as a stepping stone to higher office, but most simply wish to contribute their time and effort to better their community.
Comparing Various Media
In these less-than-glamorous elections there isn’t much money available for advertising. How exactly are those precious campaign funds spent? I decided to take a look. Here’s what I observed, broken down by all available media.
Television is the big player in national contests but, at the local level, it prices itself out of the market. In my area there is another drawback. Living in the shadow of a major urban center, all television is dominated by the big city. There is no way to target suburban races using TV.
Radio has the same problems as television. There are small-wattage local radio stations, but most are run by high schools, colleges and churches, and are forbidden from taking political advertising. Score 0 for broadcast media.
Social media was used fairly heavily. Actually, Facebook was the only site used to any degree. Many campaigns created a Facebook page, and their supporters liked and reposted. Others merely used their personal pages.
In my observation, no one used paid Facebook advertising. Likewise, I saw no paid Google ads for local candidates.
I received emails — both personal and blasts — but even the mass emails were done “by hand” using free services. No one to my knowledge paid for email marketing. Remember, I’m talking about dollars spent, so chalk up a big 0 for the internet.
How about robocalling, the bane of the election cycle? During a presidential election year I receive several robocalls every day in the months leading up to the election. Different story in our local elections.
I received exactly one robot phone call, on the night before the election. It sounded homemade and poorly produced. One call doesn’t even show up on my scoreboard, so score 0 for telemarketing.
What Medium Is Left?
Gee, what’s left? Is there any effective way to get a message out locally? As a matter of fact, there is a way. The only way.
Yard signs get the local message out. I wrote extensively about this in the November 2018 Johnson’s World, “Midterm Elections Show Value of Print,” so I won’t belabor it here. Suffice it to say that yard signs were everywhere in this election, for every race and every candidate.
Reader Skip Novakovich of Esprit Graphic Communications informs me that most of these are printed digitally or by silkscreen. Score 1 for print.
There are still quite a few local newspapers around, and these fill the void for local news and editorial coverage missed by radio and television. Many candidates spent freely on newspaper display advertisements. Score 1 more point for print.
How about direct mail? As in any election, oversize postcards of varying shapes and sizes were the coin of the realm. With voter rolls being a matter of public record and serving as a ready-made targeted mailing list, direct mail obviously delivers the most bang for the buck, and all candidates seemed to recognize that the cost of printing and postage was well worth the investment. Score yet another 1 for print.
Unlike most media, printed broadsides and postcards serve a dual purpose. One of the most important parts of campaigning is walking door-to-door, pressing the flesh and interacting one-on-one with voters.
Candidates need something tangible to leave behind with supporters. Only printed handouts fill that role. At the buzzer, 1 more point for print!
Tallying up the final score: Print 4, everything else 0.
In many circumstances, print is the best way to get your message across. Sometimes, it is the only way.
Steve Johnson, president and CEO of Copresco in Carol Stream, Ill., is an executive with 40 years of experience in the graphic arts. He founded Copresco, a pioneer in digital printing technology and on-demand printing, in 1987. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.copresco.com