One of the first jobs involving presentation that an election organiser or agent is often handed is sorting out the ‘leave behinds’ – the cards or leaflets that go with you when you are door knocking.
I find many candidates and party members still refer to these as ‘sorries’. Old habits certainly die hard, as leave behinds that only say ‘sorry’ are a pretty bad idea when you stop to think about it. The leave behind needs to do more than apologise – in fact it shouldn’t be apologising at all.
Let’s assume you get the idea that the card you hand over say something about you – which is why it ought to be more than a badly duplicated piece of paper. Pick up a card or leaflet that says ‘sorry we missed you’ and as often as not the reader will think ‘well, I’m not!’ So it’s a pretty weak opener, also, it’s just a daft thing to say – you weren’t to know they would be out, so why are you sorry? Stop apologising for things you’ve never done and just tell them you called to see them! Much more to the point tell them why you called.
The essential content must include a means for them to get in touch of find more about you. It is just a fact that although only a minority of people seek to contact their elected representatives the majority want to know that they CAN contact them. Being easily available to the public is an important aspect of any representative – so make sure there are several different ways of contact listed: phone, email and letter are essential, website and social network highly desirable and for elected representatives; advice sessions by appointment or drop in.
But if that’s all you do it really is a missed opportunity and a waste of money – it is as bad as only printing on one side.
Room for a little bit of politics
But it is amazing how many people think that’s enough – we called to see you and here’s how to talk to us. It isn’t.
First you need a mantra. There should be a campaign slogan or personal strapline (there is a whole other blog on this) and at election time it should be a reason to vote Labour, or even better, several reasons. It might follow from one consise key campaign ‘a Labour vote is a vote to save the local community centre’ or there may be several reasons: ‘1. Labour will restore living standards for the many, 2. Labour will build a better NHS for everyone, 3. Jackie Bloggs as your MP will fight for a fair deal for Thistown. You get the idea, but the point is this – if we can’t give people reasons to vote, they certainly won’t come up with their own! Three reasons are about right for an A6 card or leaflet – much more and things get over wordy. There is also a good argument for producing a simple ‘X reasons to vote Labour piece’ for any campaign as a general hand out and as an insert for direct mail.
Second, you need a decent picture of the candidate. Use either the chosen head and shoulders studio shot, a landmark shot, or a ‘with people’ shot – in this case the candidate needs to be easily recognised as the candidate and the main subject. This might sound bleedin’ obvious, but you would be surprised …
Third, another approach to copy can be to set out priorities for the ward or the constituency, in other words saying what you will do if/when elected in 3-5 concise bullet points. The number is important - more than five and your priorities aren’t clear, fewer than 3 and you have nothing to say. Setting out priorities tells them why you have called. I was once asked whether, instead of priorities, we should list achievements. On balance, I’d say not. There is a place for achievements in campaign publicity but elections are about the future not the past, so always combine achievements with a foward offer. Most important is to keep the copy relevant to the election you are actually fighting, not the one you would like to fight. Writing boiler plate about national policy at a local election never did add any value.
These bits of content can fit any number of items and can be used on different items. Credit card sized items are great for candidates and helpers to carry everywhere. It might seem a lot of text, but with professional design it is all quite readable, A6 postcard sized items are a good leave behinds on the doorstep but if you want to include a freepost reply piece A5 is more practical. DL (100mm x 210 mm) items are a good shape for inserts into direct mail.
In all cases you should be able, not just to leave the item when people are not at home, but you should be able to hand over the item to people who are at home and to voters you meet in other contexts.
LabourPrint by Public Impact can provide examples of how to make the best use of leave behind items.