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Putting Together an Effective Political Campaign Brochure Without Seeming Cheesy

written by: •edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 7/26/2011

Are you tired of seeing political campaign brochures riddled with donkeys, elephants and American flags? There are great ways for you to put together an informative and effective brochure that avoid clichés and stereotypes. If you want your campaign to be effective, follow these tips.

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    While Expensive Software Is Nice, It's Not Necessary

    When you think about graphic design and desktop publishing solutions, especially when it comes to brochure creation, you're probably apt to think about Adobe's creative software programs like Illustrator or Photoshop. While these programs are nice to have, you don't need them when creating your brochure. In fact, you could use any of the following software options and still achieve quality results (free options in parentheses):

    • Microsoft Word (or OpenOffice Writer) – This works okay, although you will have to take some time if you're adding images to make sure all images pasted in are high resolution. The biggest problem with using Word to make brochures is getting the layout just how you want it.
    • Microsoft Publisher or Serif PagePlus – These programs are specifically intended to handle desktop publishing tasks. You'll find there are pre-made brochure templates, but don't feel that you have to follow the template. You can always cut out shapes or get creative if you desire.
    • Adobe In-Design (or Scribus) - This program allows you to create very professional-looking designed documents. While you might use a program like PhotoShop (or Paint.Net) or Illustrator (or Inkscape) to create your images, this program allows you to put it all together.

    No matter which program you decide to use, you should familiarize yourself with the necessary elements for creating your brochure. I would suggest, if you're unfamiliar with the features of the program you're using, you might want to take some time to fiddle around with the different program features. On some programs, like Scribus, you might want to read the parts of the manual that pertain to your project before getting started. Don't feel intimidated though. Once you dive in and get started, it will get easier and go faster.

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    Needed Elements

    After getting the software set up, you'll want to outline what you will include within your political campaign brochure. When working on this project, it is important that you make sure to include at least the following talking points:

    1. What are the person's views on important issues? This is an important talking point since this will be the first thing your reader will be asking. If the brochure is for a measure you want people to vote on, what are the important issues involved with that measure? What are the important parts of the proposition? It is best to be honest here. Remember that in the course of a political campaign, all views will come out. You may as well start writing them down now.
    2. What is the political context? How much experience does the person have? Why is she running? Why is the measure or proposition needed? What is the background? You'll want to anchor the campaign issues into a context. This will make it so that readers will know exactly what they are voting for and why.
    3. What does the person look like? Sure there might be campaign ads on TV, but not everyone will see them, especially if the nomination is for a smaller office. Make sure you include a picture of the individual on the brochure. When photographing the nominee, make sure to watch body language. Your candidate will want to appear like a leader, but also friendly and like someone that the constituents can approach with concerns.
    4. What is the campaign slogan? The person's campaign slogan is an important part of any political campaign. You'll want to make sure it matches all of the campaigning materials. Before deciding on a slogan, sit with a few people. Make sure there are no strange connotations to the slogan. Should you string the wrong series of words together, it could be quite embarrassing.
    5. Are you targeting a particular demographic? It's important to make sure that you're creating multiple brochures targeted for different audiences. Sure, you could save money and produce only one brochure. However, when it comes to your political campaign, you'll need at least two different brochures: one for those who are registered voters in your party and one for those who are registered voters for the other party. As you build the brochure, keep in mind what demographic is being targeted.
    6. What is the voting record? This is something people will want to know if the individual has a background in politics. This ties in with the person's background and views, but you should highlight at least two or three issues the individual has voted on—particularly in conjunction with the views and values of the targeted demographic.
    7. Critique without being critical. It is so important to demonstrate how the candidate featured in the brochure is different from the other candidate without being critical of the opponent. Negative campaigns and smearing another's name can sometimes be worse than a scandal during the campaign.
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    Design Strategy

    Did you notice the difference in vibrancy between the Obama brochure and the Clinton brochure? When you're designing your campaign brochure, it is especially important to capture the attention of your potential reader. But, you also need to balance this need with the need to stay within your budget. Thus, the very first thing you will need to do when it comes to the design of your brochure is determine: Will I use color, how much color will I use, what printing technique is available to me, and what kind of paper will I print on?

    It is much less expensive to print in black and white, or even high quality black and white than it is to print in color. If you keep the color on your brochure limited to only a few places, you might also be able to keep the cost down if you're using a standard printing press method of creating the physical brochure. Finally, high-quality heavier stock paper will be more expensive than a lighter weight paper. You might be better-off purchasing regular paper and folding it than you would buying pre-folded brochure paper.

    In the media gallery, I have uploaded a template for creating your political campaigning brochure. In both this template (meant for use with Scribus, a freeware program for creating professional-looking desktop publishing projects), and in the image just above to the right, you'll notice that there hasn't been much use of images while the brochure used for Obama's campaign made heavy use of images, but only used a little bit of text.

    What you do with your text to image ratio will be important. I suggest you have no more than one image per brochure section. Otherwise what will happen is your reader will lose track of the purpose of your brochure—that is, to convey information—and it could create distrust in the candidate. You'll notice that in the template, there is space for captions for the images. While you don't have to use captions, it can be a great way to get in a few one-liners like "Candidate x values education" or "Candidate x had an approval rating of yz%."

    Once again, make absolutely sure that any images you use are high resolution. Otherwise, you run the risk of having blurred or indistinguishable images when the brochure prints. Believe it or not, this is even more important if you're printing in grayscale.

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    Writing Tips

    When writing your brochure, be honest! Do not say things that are not true about your candidate and his or her views on important issues. It's not okay to gloss over facts that would influence a voter's choice.

    You'll also want to make sure to use active as opposed to passive language. You want to make the candidate sound like someone who gets things done! Note the differences between the following two sentences:

    The moon was jumped over by the cow.

    The cow jumped over the moon.

    Not only does the second sentence demonstrate greater economy of words, but it's also more exciting. Rather than being a passive actor, the cow is taking charge and really going for that achievement of jumping over the moon.

    You'll also want to break the information you're conveying up into sections. Each paragraph should be no more than ten lines on the printed brochure. Otherwise it will appear to your reader as being too much to read. In the image with the frog in the next section, you'll notice that the text appears in short bursts of information.

    Finally, make sure that readers know how to find both your campaign office and your website (as well as any social media outlet your candidate belongs to) in order to be sure that readers have a way to reach the candidate should they wish to talk more about the positions on issues.

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    What Not to Do

    It was already mentioned that you should avoid attacking your opponent. This is bad form and reflects poorly on you and your character. While it's fine to disagree with a position, and you can critique the other side, steer clear from smear campaigns and ad hominum arguments.

    Make sure you back up any statement you need to argue for with clear and concise facts. Having mistakes in your brochure will look really bad for the candidate or position you're espousing. This doesn't just happen when it comes to candidates or text. In the brochure to the right, you'll notice a frog. While this is a brochure supporting a campaign issue to keep waterways and open spaces, the frog depicted in that brochure is an invasive species that is actually very harmful and not helpful to the environment. Had the creators done a little bit more research, they'd have realized that there would be a better amphibian to use there.

    Finally, while it's important to mix things up a bit to avoid being cheesy (how many times have you seen the political brochure with the candidate sitting in front of an American flag on beige paper?), it's also important that you don't stray too much from tradition. Political candidates for the House, Senate, and Presidency should always use red white and blue in their design. Local and state candidates can incorporate elements from the state and local symbols and colors. It's important to be innovative; but it's also important that your constituents aren't too lost by your campaign materials.

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    References

    Scribus http://www.scribus.net/canvas/Scribus

    "Campaign Literature" http://www.p2012.org/comms/campaignlitintro.html

    "Clinton" brochure courtesy of Hakes.com

    Obama "Committed Christian" brochure courtesy of Salon.com

    Gary Johnson "Our America" brochure courtesy of P2012 Race for the White House

    Screenshot of template courtesy of Ronda Roberts

    Waterways and Open Space brochure courtesy of Political Blotter

    Disclosure: Use of these brochures does not in any way condone the candidacy of any of the individuals depicted. They are merely intended to help illustrate the points made within this article.