Lies, Damned Lies & Statistics

When you decide to run for office, you'll begin to be targeted by vendors trying to sell you stuff. Some of the products are necessary, and some won't help you get a single vote. Beware of the statistics thrown at you to convince you of a product's effectiveness. 

The salesman is likely to have numbers to "back up" how effective his product is. In all these cases, I'm not recommending you stay away from the product. But I am recommending that you know what you're buying, why you're buying it and that you ask the right questions. 

1. Phones

This is one of the toughest sells to turn away from. Phone vendors can reach voters inexpensively, which allows you to make a lot of calls. You need to be aware that while phones can reach your entire district cheaply, most people don't get the message. Caller ID and cell phone have drastically reduced the number of voters you'll actually reach with your call. If I use phones, it's for something specific: like a follow up to a targeted audience the candidate has already talked to. 

2. Television Advertising

If you are running in a city council district and you have enough money to run television ads, be sure your ads are running only in your district. Cable buys often allow you to target by zip code. You don't want to run ads throughout the city when your district covers 1/7th of the city. 

Also, it's worth your time to learn a little about Gross Ratings Points (GRP). You should know what your "frequency" is (how many times your ad runs) and what your "reach" is (the percentage of your target audience seeing the ad). Industry standards say you need about 1,000 GRP's for a message to hit home. 

3. Social Media Ads

Ads on social media sites like twitter and facebook can be inexpensive, like phones. However, remember that you need to focus on your target audience. If you're paying for people in another state to see your ads, you're throwing money away. Make sure you talk to someone who can ensure you're only paying for people in your district to see your campaign ad. 

4. Newspaper Ads

I rarely use newspaper ads in campaigns, but that doesn't mean they can't be useful. Often the local weeklies and senior-themed papers will reach out to campaigns. Make sure their audience is your audience. If you can't get numbers on that, save your money. 

If you only remember one thing here, remember to ask this question any time you consider spending money on ads you don't know much about: "How much of my target audience am I reaching?"

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