Don’t Be Like Ted: 3 Smarter Ways to Get Political Direct Mail Noticed

It happens every election cycle. A candidate running for political office sends out a direct mail effort that gets attention, but for the wrong reason. A single miscue can result in a lost opportunity to garner support, as well as provide ammunition for the opposition.

It happens every election cycle. A candidate running for political office sends out a direct mail effort that gets attention, but for the wrong reason. A single miscue can result in a lost opportunity to garner support, as well as provide ammunition for the opposition.

What sparked this post was a news story about presidential candidate Ted Cruz that was forwarded to me by Denny Hatch, former editor of Target Marketing and founder of Who’s Mailing What!

TedC_01The Cruz for President campaign recently mailed this matching gift appeal that carefully skirts the legal, if not ethical line. The #10 outer envelope bears Cruz’s signature and name in a script similar to that on official mail sent to constituents.

The recipient’s name appears on a blue-and-white lined high security-like “check” that shows through the address window. To the window’s right, there’s a promise that raised red flags for some people: “CHECK ENCLOSED.”

Now maybe people should have asked themselves why someone from the government — a U.S. Senator — would be sending them a check in the mail. Or noticed the “PERSONAL BUSINESS” disclaimer in the corner card, or the “NO CASH VALUE” note on the faux check inside.

Yes, it’s a tactic that’s been around a long time in direct mail. But why court controversy, when there are so many effective approaches to deploy?

Based on my review of direct mail I analyze for Who’s Mailing What!, here are three techniques that political campaigns can use to stand out in the mailbox and raise money.

1. Use a Teaser in the Candidate’s Voice
When you need all good people to come to the aid of your party or candidate, a tagline on the outer envelope can speak to them in a way that sounds authentic.

Here’s a good one mailed by the Rand Paul for Senate 2016 campaign.

Rand_01“The NSA Hasn’t Read This …” appears on a 9”x12” manila outer and suggests that some secret information might be inside. To an audience that cuts across the usual ideological lines, concern over snooping gets them inside to see what the chief critic of government surveillance has to say.

Some others:

“Please help me respond to the biggest threat Wall Street banks have ever made against us.” —Elizabeth Warren for Massachusetts

“President Obama doesn’t want you to open this letter. But I do!” —Rubio Victory Committee

 “[FNAME], this is our moment … are you with me?” —Hillary for America

Each of these examples, when mailed to the right target, sets up the candidate’s identity and the narrative of their campaigns, or at least the letter inside. For Elizabeth Warren, it’s opposing Wall Street. For Marco Rubio, it’s fighting “liberal elites.” For Hillary Clinton, it’s siding with “everyday Americans.”