Political Notebook

Campaign mailers 2.0? DIY websites let candidates design their own hit pieces

A screen grab of VoterPros, part of a new crop of web-based platforms that allow candidates to design and send their own campaign mailers.
A screen grab of VoterPros, part of a new crop of web-based platforms that allow candidates to design and send their own campaign mailers.

Campaign mailers promoting candidates, a staple of political races even in an age of social media appeals, are getting a reboot of sorts.

A new crop of websites allow candidates to create and mail oversized postcards without hiring their own professional operatives. Think of it as a 2.0 moment for a voter-targeting method that, for all the advances in technology, continues to be a major way candidates communicate with voters.

“An overwhelming percentage of the electorate is older voters, who literally the best way to get them information they will look at and consume is still in the mailbox,” said Joe Trippi, a veteran Democratic strategist.

The latest offering in this emerging field is from a team led by California Democratic consultants, John Shallman and Jude Barry. While the pair has worked on well-funded campaigns for major offices, their project, called VoterPros, largely targets candidates seeking local seats – city councils and water districts. The need may be great: While there are 85,000 governments and 513,000 elected officials nationwide, just 542 hold federal office and another 18,000 serve in state legislatures.

Shallman said the sweet spot is candidates with maybe $20,000 to $30,000 to spend on their grassroots campaigns – generally too little to hire consultants.

“The vast majority are local folks,” Shallman said. “We thought, let’s give them the opportunity to have a professional-looking campaign.”

“Our goal is to allow people to do this themselves,” Barry added. “They just need the right tools.”

Their site allows candidates to choose from hundreds of templates and then have a professional designer help tidy things up. They pick the specific voters they want to receive the mail, from a national database of voters. The software also integrates with NationBuilder.

Finally, candidates can choose union printers (typically a prerequisite for Democrats).

Does this mean the days of big-money strategists are numbered? Shallman said he isn’t worried about cannibalizing future business.

“There are people who will have more money and want to sit down with professional consultants,” he said.

Christopher Cadelago: 916-326-5538, @ccadelago

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