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I'm not against television, but I am tired of "the 30 second sound byte" during political campaigns. Face it, in a lot of markets, T.V. and radio are the media du jur for politicals. Through the first half of the year, one quarter of a billion dollars were spent in he U.S. on political television advertising.* Notice that read 'television' advertising. As my dad would say: "that's a lot of sausage!
But don't voters read the paper? Yes they do. Maybe even more so than consumers shopping for cars and furniture. And we know that their advertising works. There's opportunity here! What we've got to do is pursue it more.
Without getting too caught up in the details, let's take a quick look at that media preference.
Political advertising comes in three distinct styles: image, issue and negative. (Guess which is the fastest growing?) Most negative ads use emotional attacks (i.e.: "..but her opponent voted against a cleaner environment."), and campaign strategist have found that using an off-key combination of images, tonality, graphics and music, emotional buttons of consumers can be pushed. Does that make it the perfect medium. No. Does that make it a useful medium? Absolutely. The perfect medium? No. But that, plus broad area coverage in state and national campaigns, keep it within the radar of major campaigns.
But how about local races? Very often, campaigns feel "you have to be on T.V." to have the same credibility. But they may be missing the perfect local medium their newspaper.
First, we've got to get out of the apology mode. We apologize for our editorials. (Newspapers have historically won more business than they've lost due to editorial content). I like to tell reluctant advertisers "you don't have to like country music to advertise on the station, and you don't have to like a certain newspaper to reach the consumers who read it." Encourage those advertisers to separate fact from emotion.
Next, we've got to get creative. During every campaign, I'll see print ads that look the same as they did 30 years ago. Small, lots of detail (schools attended, dog's name, etc.). Yawn. I'm not suggesting we try to imitate broadcast's sound byte approach, either. I see some incredible local creativity at your association's conventions, and that same creativity can bring a campaign to life, and help give your market a better appreciation for the power of print. Want a great example? Look at wireless phone ads. Attention-getting, bullet-points to highlight main features, plus all the details listed below. Broadcast can't do that, but newspapers can.
Also, take advantage of the candidate web sites. Most campaigns now include web sites where the candidate can detail their agenda. They do a good job putting it together, but are often weak on driving traffic to it. A great opportunity for you. Work with the campaign manager or candidate on building an extensive ad campaign that predominantly features the site. Make sure you balance those ads with issue ads for the percentage of non-connected households in your market.
Also, get there early! This is mostly for next year, but keep yourself informed as to scheduled races and potential candidates. Make connections with their campaign manager, treasurer or the candidate themselves ASAP. Not unlike traditional advertisers, it's important to make connections and build trust and rapport.
Joe Guertin is an advertising sales trainer, speaker and coach. His programs have informed and entertained newspapers nationwide. Your comments are welcome to email@example.com, or visit his Sales Resource Center at www.streetfighterselling.com.
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