The Top 5 Direct Mail Mistakes

The Top 5 Mistakes Campaigns Make with their Direct Mail

As a firm that specializes in political direct mail, we've seen everything. We've seen some really innovative, clever, creative work. We've also seen some really bad mail, often driven by the candidates themselves. As we move into a busy election season, we want to share with you the top 5 mistakes campaigns make with direct mail so you can avoid them in 2018.

1. Including everything on every mailer

Consistency is great in direct mail. And when on a budget, it makes sense to repeat the core message. But if a piece is supposed to focus on K-12 education, don't include your plan for health care reform. Your mailer should tell a story, not all the information you can think of.

2. Turning the mailer into a manifeso

A piece of direct mail is meant to be a simple advertisement for the campaign, not the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. A typical flat mailer needs no more than 100 to 150 words on it. Very few people will read more than that. The more text, the less likely it gets read.

3. Speaking in platitudes rather than specifics

A lot of us think in broad terms and reasoning, but the information that stands out when you read it is factual and specific. Don't explain how economics works on your mailer, show the reader the dollar and cent figures. Sometimes campaigns want to avoid committing to a fact or figure because it could be disputed. You know what? Bring on the dispute. Attention for a questionable stat is better than no attention at all.

4. Tinkering obsessively

Many candidates and campaign workers make the mistake of thinking, "If I just get this part a little closer to perfect..." No. Stop. Endless rounds of edits to your mail piece will not make it better. It will make it worse. To the reader who doesn't see the sausage getting made, the points you want to make will get more confusing and the artwork will look more hurried and sloppy.

5. Insisting your district number is included

Of the five mistakes, this is the least consequential. It doesn't hurt to include the district number, but it doesn't help. Candidates running for a particular district feel very connected to that number. But 99% of voters have no idea what the number of their State Senate district is. It's just not important.

And that's who and what ultimately matter: The voter reading the piece and what's important to them.

"Why I Chose HSG Campaigns"

"When I decided to run for the citywide school board seat in Milwaukee, I knew I would need professional support. HSG Campaigns helped me with every aspect of my campaign, including the direct mail, website, and overall strategy. They were experts at honing my message to fit the political environment, and they came through for me with every challenge we faced along the way. They are a great resource for all kinds of candidates."

— Terry Falk, Board Member At-Large, Milwaukee Public Schools

This April will mark 12 years Terry has served on the Milwaukee school board, including the last 8 years in the citywide seat. We are proud to have helped Terry -- a former teacher -- serve the students of Milwaukee.

What We're Reading

This week Mark is recommending the graphic novels The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars by Michael Dante DiMartino.


"As the host of a podcast about it, the one thing I cannot recommend enough is the world of 'Avatar the Last Airbender' and 'The Legend of Korra'. Both are fantastic shows that deal with complex and mature issues, all wrapped up gorgeous animation, great writing, and excellent characters. Even after the two series ended the stories continue in the form of graphic novels, with the final installment in 'The Legend of Korra: Turf Wars' coming out next month. 'Turf Wars' one and two are everything I wanted them to be. If you are a fan of the original series, the comics defy expectations sticking to same quality in art and writing and giving a satisfying continuation of the characters, and if you haven’t seen the show, well go do that as well."

- Mark

Thank you,
-Eric, Dave, Mark