[Note: The observations, impressions and interpretations found here are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of Jeff Johnson, who's campaign this series is about. This series is about the marketing behind Jeff's campaign. This is part x in a series. Parts one, two and three can be found here (part one), here (part two), here (part three), here (part four), here (part five), here (part six) and here (part seven).]
As alluded to earlier, for the first few weeks of Jeff Johnson’s campaign, the messaging didn’t quite feel right.
I thought we had captured the right tone for the kind of person Jeff is, and he had been making a consistent impression on people as the tone of our communications. But I didn’t feel like we had quite hit the core of the message.
Then one Saturday morning, while running, it suddenly hit me. I had been thinking about this constantly because, as I tend to do, I like to mentally disassemble and reassemble a problem I’m facing until I come up with right solution. In this case, I knew I had nailed it.
This, to me, represented what our campaign was really all about:
“Only 14% of our City Council (1 of 7 members) represents the 78% of Lake Forest Park residents (including myself) who voted against the Prop. 1 tax increase. The other 86% of the Council – including candidates Paulsen, Stanford, Sterner and Thompson – designed the Prop. 1 tax increase, placed it on the ballot and supported it with their own personal funding.
Government should represent the people it serves. Ours does not. That, to me, is why I’m running and what this election is really all about. Vote for a Council candidate who represents Lake Forest Park citizens. Please vote for Jeff Johnson.”
This had it all. It addressed the idea that our Council members who say in their campaign materials that they listen by illustrating they don’t.
It spoke to the representative democracy we all idealize and proved, with statistics, how the Council is 180 degrees out of phase with the people of Lake Forest Park. It made Jeff’s main goal to realign our Council so it represents and does the bidding of the people who elected it – and emphasizes that the voters are in charge, not the Council.
And finally, it lumped candidates Paulsen, Stanford, Sterner and Thompson together and tied a big ball and chain around all four of them. It called attention to their role in the conception of Prop. 1 and illustrated their passion for it by pointing out they all contributed their own private money to trying to pass it. Finally, it tied them together by revealing they had all endorsed and donated money to each other’s campaign. We knew, at that time, that 53% of the people who donated to any one of their campaigns donated to at least 3 out of the 4 campaigns – but we never used that because it was a bit clumsy (as you can see).
(It also was as close as I got to using the “PSST” acronym that I was really enjoying using in private conversations with Jeff.)
It didn’t take much to get Jeff’s buy-in. He was concerned that it might be a bit aggressive and possibly seen as negative campaigning, but since we were leading with a statistical analysis of our situation that was absolutely true, and it accurately represented one of his main reasons for running, he went with it.
Once we agreed, we moved quickly. We both believed in it so strongly, we adjusted the website and placed it front and center on the homepage.
At that same time, our direct mail piece was at the printer about a day away from printing. We were able to reach them in time, and I rewrote the entire front and part of the back to reflect our new approach. This was also when we finally crystalized our impressions on all of the candidates saying they would listen with the simple phrase – “Actions speak louder than words.” This ended up being the perfect lead-in headline to the idea that what our Council claims about listening isn’t necessarily what it does.
The finishing touch was when Jeff told me that he really wanted to make a quoted statement on the back that summed up his thoughts on his campaign experiences so far. This is what led to his direct quote on the backside below.
This is the direct mail piece that we sent to every household in Lake Forest Park, to be mailed the day most residents received their voter guide:
Looking back, the only problem I had with the direct mail piece was that it looked too much like our handout. My fear was that if they saw the handout, they wouldn’t read the direct mail piece, thinking it said the same thing.
In that respect, it probably served as a great A/B message test – one for which I would never receive the results…
To read about our digital marketing, click to part nine.
-My name is Jon Friesch, and this is what I did on my summer vacation.