Five Tips for Communicating During Election Season

By Marc Brumer, Senior Vice President

Turn on the television or check your phone after Labor Day and undoubtedly you will be bombarded with campaign advertisements, articles, or social media posts about the upcoming election. Campaigns start even earlier with every passing election cycle and as more people opt to vote by mail or early vote, “election day” has now become “election season.” So how do you break through the noise and is it even worth trying? Here are 5 tips and considerations when answering that question and building the most effective communications strategy during the election season.

  1. Compliance – Federal, state, and many municipal election regulations restrict various types of communications and require additional levels of disclosure and compliance leading up to an election. Before setting the strategy to call attention to your issue, it is important to understand and plan for the limitations and requirements for paid communications during this unique time period.
  2. Timing – First, be certain election season is indeed the right time to communicate about a policy objective or critical issue. If it doesn’t lend to your strategy, you may be swimming against the current and it may be better to wait to execute a large campaign.  Then review the timeline of events leading up to the election. Certain inflection points such as debates, conventions, or campaign stops can be opportunities to connect with audiences that are otherwise hard to reach or tuned out. Many news publications also have “blackout” periods when they will not accept op-eds, place restrictions on policy opinion contributors, and even limit certain types of paid advertising in the lead up to the election. It’s important to be aware and take advantage of these and other inflection points to deliver messages to the right audience at the right time.
  3. Messengers Matter – Most audiences are skeptical of political and policy messages, especially when they’re bombarded with campaign ads. Carefully chose the right voice to deliver the message and consider additional validators who have credibility with the target audience or policy area expertise. Whether it’s an issue expert, policy organization, or local opinion leader, deploying the right messenger can mean the difference between a winning and losing communications campaign.
  4. Choose the Right Medium – Media coverage is increasingly multichannel, and consumption is more fragmented each year. Gone are the days when most voters looked to their local editorial page for cues prior to an election. Instead, political communication needs to begin earlier, be constant, and happen across platforms. Understand where your target audience consumes information and where they look for political voices they trust and reach them there, whether it’s on social media or more traditional earned media. 
  5. Leverage Technology and Targeting – If your communications plan includes paid media, the election season can be one of the most expensive periods as the cost for advertising inventory increases with demand. Still, it’s possible to wage cost-efficient campaigns that influence outcomes by carefully defining audiences and leveraging the best targeting and technology accordingly. Optimize your media mix to ensure messages reach defined target audiences across the right mix of broadcast, cable, connected television, mobile, and web platforms.

Election season is one of the toughest times to break through and deliver an effective message. When done right, it can also be one of the most rewarding and opportune times to influence your audience and drive lasting positive outcomes.