• Zach Stephens

Political mailers: do they still work?

People are on their laptops or phones a lot. Does that mean direct mail for political campaigns doesn't work? The answer is no. It's still a strategic path to victory.

In recent years, there was a survey completed by the United States Postal Service of thousands of voters after the gubernatorial race in Virginia. They wanted to know more about how voters felt about different forms of political outreach, including direct mail.

The results: voters believe direct mail to be the single most credible form of political advertising.

Direct mail beat out TV, in-home visits, radio, and digital ads. Millennials were even persuaded by mailers! 58% of Millennials surveyed said that direct mail was very or somewhat likely to have them engage with the race.

It's clear, campaigns should still utilize mailers. They play a huge part in ensuring success in races even today.

Here are three strategies to advance your campaign...

Political Mailers | Direct Mail Campaign | ZDStephens Company

1. Know Your Audience

When it comes to direct mail, there are 3 types of readers:

  • The Scanners: They read the headlines, quickly scan the photos, your name, and your slogan. All told they spend 3-4 seconds on your mail piece.

  • The Headliners: They really focus on your headline. They’ll absorb the meaning of that but only scan the copy. Headliners spend about 10-20 seconds looking at your mailer.

  • The Readers: This is your most receptive audience. They want to know more and will carefully read the headlines and text.

For larger elections, you are more likely to have a high amount of scanners, and for low-turnout elections, you will probably have more readers.

Regardless of your ratio of readers to scanners, messaging is critical for every audience. Make sure your main point comes across clearly. Spend time editing and re-writing the copy until your message is succinct and powerful. Here, bold is often better, you want to catch the reader’s eye and pique their interest. And make sure the font is big enough for elderly voters to read (and preferably a sans font).

2. Know Your Purpose

Whether you are in a competitive race, sending a survey to constituents, or working to raise your name awareness, knowing your goal and creating a strategy to reach it will yield far more results for your direct mail campaign.

Here are just a few ideas:

  • Messaging: One of the most common ways candidates use direct mail is to reinforce their political message and what they stand for.

  • Targeting: Just like you can segment email lists, you can segment your direct mail lists. Target different groups of voters based on their age, location, or the political issue they’re most passionate about.

  • Educating: You can use direct mail to keep supporters informed about things like voter registration, absentee voting, and more.

  • Constituent Survey: Incumbents will sometimes opt to send surveys to constituents to see what issues are pressing in their community and to also raise name awareness.

  • Voting: Folks are busy, and voting usually isn’t a priority. Send out a voting reminder before the election so the election date is top of mind.

3. Repeat and Reinforce

Repetition and reinforcement are the keys to success in direct mail campaigns. People need to be exposed to an idea, brand, or candidate as many as a dozen times before they can recall it. That means any direct mail campaign you send out should have 5-10 touchpoints to maximize the likelihood of a voter remembering your message.

This might sound like a lot, but it’s simple math–the more mailers you send, the more likely your audience will remember you.

When you’re sending out mail to the same people, remember to keep it fresh. You can make small changes for each mailer but remember to stay on theme and keep a consistent message.


Need some help with your direct mail campaign? ZDStephens Company can help! Call us today at 615-425-6711 or email team@zdstephens.com. Our direct mail service allows you to reach voters through effective and clear messaging. Our data-centric targeted approach delivers the right message to the right voters at the right time. At ZDStephens Company, we understand the demanding and time-critical nature of political messaging. That's why our mail is delivered on a consistent schedule every time. When you work with us, you can ensure comprehensive management throughout the entire process.