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How to reach youth in community elections

by Josh Gordon Published: August 16, 2016 9:55 AM

By now, you probably know how much I love marketing and communications. What you may not know is that I love politics almost as much.

First, it is a study in effective messaging. Politicians are putting out messaging every day, and not just ads and other traditional and essential marketing materials. Facebook and other social media posts, speeches and press conferences, press releases, etc. The creation and distribution of so much content is a concerted effort to get a message out.

This centralized messaging approach is a carbon copy of a good marketing campaign and promotion. So viewing it through the accelerated lens of a political campaign is great learning for a student of marketing.

The second fascination is data. With Google and about 15 minutes I can find all kinds of data on voters in any part of the country. Age, party affiliation, and much, much more.

For now, I'll stop at just two reasons why I love politics because when these particular reasons are blended they build into a vital, meaningful lesson. For the vast array of local elections this November, reaching younger voters is critical.

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Why?

For starters, there are more millennials in this country than baby boomers -- 83.1M. Many decry citizens 18-35 are too apathetic to vote. It could be apathy, or antipathy -- the process is so ugly they are just turned off from it.

Younger voters are frustrated with national politics, which is evident in their turn out every four years. What millennial voters need to see is that participating in government can cause change. The best demonstration for that is at the local level.

Reaching Young Voters

If you are running or helping support a campaign this fall, here are a few considerations for reaching the all-important young vote:

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Know your data. Understand where young folks live in your community, where they go, and what matters to them.

Know your message. You need a distilled message that is easily understood and hard to forget. Then you need to find a variety of ways to get that message out frequently in a variety of media.

Know your reach. What media do young voters in your community consume? It is a guarantee that you can reach your audience on Facebook. The audience targeting capabilities that Facebook has ensures that a message designed for a young audience is seen only by a young audience. Consider Twitter, but be ready for a major time investment if you move forward with Twitter -- you'll need to tweet between 15-20 times per day to stay relevant with a content greedy young audience. A presence in the newspaper and a website are absolute musts.

Know your community. Even if you nail the data, message, and reach part of a campaign, you still need to have an actual conversation with voters. Meet with young voters, find out what's bugging them in the community and help them understand what their vote means.

If you are questioning my comment about using newspapers, don't. Watch TV news and see what TV and cable news people cite when they report something. They cite the reporting from hundreds of local newspapers around the country. When it comes to reporting, influence, and reach in a local community, newspapers play a major role. Newspaper remains a foundational element of a successful local election marketing strategy.

Local elections decide a great deal when it comes to your day-to-day life. They decide the quality of your schools, roads, and safety services -- literally.

Do you know a young voter? If so, help them understand the importance of their vote - especially in local elections.

If you're a candidate or campaigning for an Issue on the fall ballot, make sure you understand how to reach and activate this important audience -- it might just be the difference between winning and losing.

Josh Gordon is an award-winning marketing communications professional and President of Full Spectrum Marketing, a full-service advertising agency with digital roots based in Kent, Ohio and Wooster, Ohio. You can reach Josh at jgordon@fullspectrummarketing.com.


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