Campaigning in the Time of Coronavirus

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The 2020 campaign season will be like no other. The global pandemic has caused a shift in how voters consume information, and political direct mail is going to play a vital role in 2020 campaigns.

Even prior to the pandemic political direct mail was dramatically increasing. Spending on political mail in the 2018 midterms reached a whopping $583 million, an 11% increase over the 2016 election, and a 42% increase over the midterms in 2014.

With more people at home, and campaigns reluctant to engage voters face-to-face, campaigning in the time of coronavirus will mean even more of a focus on the mailbox.

Why mail?

There are two ways to get information directly into the hands of voters. The first way is in the field — going door to door and attending signature political events. Putting in the time and working hard to connect directly with voters has always been one of the keys to a successful campaign. But field work has virtually halted amidst the pandemic.

The second way is direct mail, which is set to explode as perhaps the go-to way for campaigns to reach voters. People are home and they are reading their mail. We have a captive audience and need to take advantage of it.

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As an example, when I received the census application in the mail I immediately got online and filled it out instead of throwing it on the counter for later. Why? Because it was there, and I was stuck at home. Again, captive audience.

In the past few election cycles direct mail and digital advertising were both avenues to directly target specific voter profiles using first party data. But now as platforms like Google are limiting that use and uncertainty continues to swirl about Facebook, direct mail is the last and most reliable way to run a targeted and sustained messaging campaign with little to no waste.

Voter education is more important than ever, and not just on political issues. My firm has done several recent mailings giving voters information on where to get tested for COVID-19. We are also educating voters on where and how to vote. Vote by mail will be one of the biggest stories coming out of the 2020 elections. Campaigns must adapt and they have a role in educating their supporters how, when and where to vote.

Direct mail is being read at 67 percent — an all time high.

According to pre-pandemic surveys in Florida and Ohio, 83 percent of voters say they check their mailbox at least five times a week. Experience leads me to believe that percentage has only grown. Some are fatigued with social media and screen time. People are not in their cars listening to the radio as much. In big races, television is still king, but it’s expensive and out of reach for some campaigns. If you want the most bang for your political buck, get in the mailbox.

Campaigns can — and should — be utilizing other forms of reaching people. Digital advertising continues to be important, especially when paired with direct mail. For those mounting serious campaigns in the time of coronavirus, direct mail must be forefront in your campaign plan.



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