Political Communications: What Is Paid Media?

political campaign materials

“Paid media” is what we in the politico biz call advertising.  That’s all.  I guess it sounds a little less sleazy that way?  You structure the paid media portion of your campaign plan the same way you would build your marketing strategy in a business plan.  I personally like to make a ‘marketing calendar’ for each new campaign and, once it’s basically finished, merge it with the main campaign calendar.

Paid media is broken down into these subcategories:

  • Direct mail
  • Print – newspapers, community flyers, local circulars or magazines
  • Website/Email
  • Radio
  • TV
  • Outdoor – yard signs, bus wraps, bus benches or shelters, billboards, subway stations or inside subway trains, or anything else outside
  • Campaign literature and materials – palm cards, brochures, flyers, and all the little chachkes with your name and campaign slogan on them that you give away to supporters, like pens, lapel stickers, buttons, hats, t-shirts, parade bags, etc.
It is NOT necessary to allocate money and time to every type of paid media.  You should treat this money as a miser would and only let money be spent on well-target, thought out media.  When choosing which types of media to spend money on, take a look at your district and the voter demographic.  If you live in a big city where direct voter contact is difficult and tight-knit communities don’t really exist, then airing commercials on local radio stations, during the local television newscast, and doing a lot of direct mail are all probably great uses of your money.  If you live in a really big place like New York or Chicago, public transportation is a fantastic way to reach voters, especially in the less affluent districts.
If you are running in a rural area with sprawling farms and deeply rooted community groups, local radio might still make sense, especially if you can advertise during a local radio talk show.  Local newspapers and community newsletters or weekly publications, as well as church or organization bulletins or newsletters are great, and if there’s a significant intersection that is the main thoroughfare to get to work/shopping/school, some strategically placed billboards will work wonders.
Another thing to consider is the purpose of each type of paid media.  Some paid media is better at boosting name recognition.  Some is better for addressing specific political issues.  Here’s a quick and simple guide for determining which media to use based on purpose:
  • Direct mail – works for name recognition or sending one, simple and straightforward issue message
  • Print – name recognition
  • Website/Email – in-depth issue messaging
  • Radio – name recognition
  • TV – name recognition or sending one, simple and straightforward issue message
  • Outdoor – name recognition
  • Campaign literature and materials -
    • palm cards, brochures, flyers – in-depth issue messaging
    • chachkes with your name and campaign slogan – name recognition
Now go plan your paid media strategy!

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