For five years I had the pleasure of serving as the Executive Director of the Ohio House Democratic Caucus, overseeing the political program to elect Democrats to the state’s ninety-nine Ohio House seats. Caucus work is both rewarding and challenging as staff and leadership focus on everything from candidate recruitment and management, to fundraising and paid communications.
One of the most pressing challenges of caucus work, however, is developing an effective direct mail program that is custom-tailored to each individual candidate and district. Considering the number of races a state caucus invests in as well as limits to their budgets, it is critical that scarce resources are spent efficiently. The demographics of a legislative district will vary dramatically within a state, which means a “one-size-fits-all” approach will leave a caucus with fewer victories on election night.
A successful state legislative mail plan will begin many months before the first piece hits mail boxes, as early and thorough research into the candidate and the district lays the groundwork for the narrative that a mail piece will tell. Arguably, this early attention to detail is the most important part of the direct mail process, providing a solid foundation that will lead to more memorable and effective mail.
It is no secret that state legislative candidates receive significantly less attention and resources than those races higher on the ballot. This means that, in addition to focusing on the most pertinent issues within a district, caucus direct mail should also be creative and memorable. Investing time into the creative process in order to deliver unique mail pieces across legislative districts will set a Democratic caucus apart from its Republican counterparts. It is not enough to simply understand what messages will be most effective within a state legislative district, as the delivery of those messages is just as important.
Even on a limited budget, a thoughtful and custom-tailored mail plan can help to push a candidate across the finish line, and state legislative caucuses will be well-served to prioritize an innovative mail plan as they develop their paid communications plan.