John Tsarpalas: Name recognition, name ID, the use of signs: Commonwealthy podcast #11.
I’m here with Tina Keats. We are going to talk about something that is important to every candidate. That’s name recognition. How do you get people to know who you are, recognize your name? Name ID is sort of key. It’s one of the reasons incumbents have the edge. People know the name and they just feel comfortable, as long as something bad isn’t associated with it.
Kristina Keats: The cheapest way, simplest and most effective to get name recognition in a local race is with yard signs. They are a wonderful form of name ID because you spend thousands of dollars on advertising, whether it is mail, radio, or TV. Yeah, that’s name ID, but it is not a name ID that people trust. They are suspicious. Of course the ads on TV or the radio are going to say to how wonderful you are.
But a yard sign in someone’s yard with your name on it is not only giving you name ID; it’s an endorsement from that person for you. And it has tremendous influence. So that’s why I always advise candidates in local races to concentrate on getting yard signs.
You can never have too many. I’ve heard people say, “Well, there’s already six people on my block that have that yard sign. You don’t need another one.” Yes you do! Because more is always better when it comes to name ID and yard signs.
And later when we start talking about scripts that you use, we will teach you what you need to know to get yard signs. If you ask them the right way, once you have found a supporter, you have a sixty to eighty percent chance of getting them to put up a yard sign.
John Tsarpalas: Right.
Kristina Keats: So I can’t over emphasize how important that is. And people will often say today, “Well, you have email, you have Twitter, you have Facebook. That’s so old school to get a yard sign.” The difference with all of those (and those are all tools you should use and we will talk later about how to go about using those different tools) is a yard sign is an endorsement as well as name ID.
Obviously you want to have a well-designed yard sign. You want to make sure your name is prominent. Lots of times beginning candidates put all kinds of things on their yard sign that isn’t relevant: their position on an issue or some cute theme that they think is important. No, people have to be able to read it as they are driving by so you’ve got about four seconds at most. Your name has to be prominent.
If you are a female candidate, it is also important that your first name if it indicates that you are female is also prominent because being a female candidate in many districts means you are a two point edge, all things being equal. You have to have both of your names on there.
If your last name is the one that you are going to emphasize, then make sure that it is larger. But make sure that you can see that sign at least a half a block away.
One other thing is if you are running in a race that is in the wintertime and you live in an area where there is snow, make sure that your yard sign has a colored background, not white. The white will blend in with the snow.
Conversely, if you are running at a time when grass is going to be on the ground and it is going to be green, don’t use green as a background. So the rule for yard signs is make sure you can see them at a big distance.
Obviously other literature, you have to your palm card, which is just a small piece of literature that you can hand out and leave with people. The important thing is whenever you are out meeting people, you have must have something to give to them that has your name on it prominently with hopefully a picture and some basic information so that they have something to take home.
John Tsarpalas: Let me jump in here. Let’s go back to yard signs for a minute. A couple other things to think about for yard signs. I know in our area, even though people were running as independents, there is a little bit of color coding going on there. Democrats tended to use green in our neighborhood.
Kristina Keats: Turquoise, off colors.
John Tsarpalas: So be aware that that’s out there. The color you pick might also have another signal to it that’s going on.
Something else that happens in certain neighborhoods is you’ve got to have a union stamp on your yard sign. We used to call it a little bug. It’s the little insignia that these were printed by a union print shop, if you are in a union area. If you are not, if doesn’t matter, that doesn’t matter. But you need to think about that as well.
Again, I think it is about getting the name big and bold. Have a decent professional design done for your name, your logo, and your look. Colors do matter.
Try to keep the same theme on everything, with the same colors running on all your signs, your literature, your website, and everything else so that there’s uniformity. It has an association with it.
And then the other thought is not only yard signs, but if you are in a rural area, sometimes they go to these big four foot by eight foot signs on corners or at places. Can you get signs in windows: Store windows, downtown areas? Walk through and ask if the merchants if they will put a sign in the window for you. So you might want to print a different kind of sign with your name on it then the yard sign that is going to go on the spikes to go in the ground.
You mentioned snow. I also want to mention frost. Sometimes it is almost impossible to get a yard sign in the ground in a winter campaign. I know that’s true for the primaries up here when they are in February and the ground is frozen; this last winter was terrible.
There was a couple of different techniques. One was people were taking a hammer drill and drilling the ground first and then shoving the two metal rods into the ground into the holes.
Another technique was to take a torch and heat the metal rods. As you are pushing them in, it melts the ice. Or you just find a snow drift and get it on top of the snow drift, but it’s a problem. These are all little things that come up with trying to get yard signs up and name ID in that way.
Kristina Keats: One of the important things about yard signs is keep track of where you place them because it often happens in a tightly contested race that your yard signs will be stolen. And it is solely for the simple reason that they are effective that your opponent is going to take them out. It is illegal, but trust me, it happens all the time. Later we can give you some strategies for preventing your yard signs for getting stolen.
With design and color, the one thing I would say is try to keep your yard sign as simple as possible. The more complex your design, the harder it is for people to read it. If they can’t read it a half a block away, then you’ve defeated the purpose.
John Tsarpalas: Right.
Kristina Keats: They have to be able to see the name clearly. That’s something to keep in mind of a yard sign campaign. But it is critical to name ID.
John Tsarpalas: Yeah. A couple of other ideas on signs: If you have some local business people that maybe have a vacant store, they may let you put a big sign in their window. Perhaps you want to get some big signs made up and put them in different places around your area.
If you’ve got an office for your campaign, obviously signage is important there, as well as banners. You can also get a banner for a parade and have a few people carry a banner with your name on it. Again, it is all about people seeing that name and getting familiar with it.
Something too about name ID: even before your campaign, is your family well known in your area? Was your grandfather a founder? Is there a road named after him?
I’m looking out my window and there is a chimney right here that says Busse on it. There are three streets in this town named Busse. The Busse family is just well established in this town and people know their name. So it gives people a thought that they are comfortable with that name.
So was your grandfather a Ford dealer and had his name on the sign for decades? Do people know the family name? That gives you an edge; it really does.
Kristina Keats: The place where that might be relevant is if you are a female candidate and your married name is not well known, but your maiden name was, you might want to emphasize it in your campaign if you think it is helpful.
Sometimes that can work against you. It depends what the image is of that name in the town. But it still is better to have more name ID than not.
John Tsarpalas: And then let’s also think about what name is going to be on the ballot and what name you go by. You are Kristina, but everybody calls you Tina. Is there confusion there and how do we handle that?
Kristina Keats: Right. And you don’t have to run with your legal name. You can run as Tina even if your legal name is Kristina. You can run with Skip even if you legal name is George in most jurisdictions. It depends; you need to find out what your rules are to see if it is recognized. The other thing you can do is you put your real name and then your nickname in the middle, if that is helpful: Kristina (Tina) as an example.
John Tsarpalas: Right. And a couple other things for name ID: buttons, stickers. The metal button is a bit expensive. Some people still do it, especially if you are going to have people wear it over and over again. T-shirts are great if you’ve got people in a parade or things like that who are walking with you to get your name around.
These things can be expensive. The stickers are cheaper. People will put them on because it won’t put a hole in their clothing.
Kristina Keats: Right. The stickers are great for parades because you give them to all the kids and the kids all wear stickers. That’s a really good thing. But anything that is inexpensive that you can give to people with your name on it.
If you can afford to do pens, people love to throw out pens. They keep refrigerator magnets, things like that. Those are a lot more expensive. There was one campaign I worked on where everybody who we identified as a yes voter for our candidate, we sent them a letter thanking them and gave them a refrigerator magnet. It was there hanging on the refrigerator until Election Day and beyond. So it can be very helpful.
John Tsarpalas: Where I live, my Congresswoman I don’t like. Her name is Jan. She passes out little fans at parades. Usually it is summertime, Fourth of July; it is hot. So everybody has these little fans that say, “Jan Fan.” It’s cute and people have them and it works. Everyone takes one because they are hot, so they are fanning themselves with Jan Fans.
So things like this. Think about it. Be clever. Don’t spend a lot of money on it. It isn’t necessarily going to get you a vote, but think about what will work in terms of people hanging on to it, see it, use it, or whatever and help build your name ID.
The other thing about name ID is it takes time. Something I like to encourage people to think about it is if this is your first run for office, it might take another run. It might take two or three runs at something. It takes time to build your name. It takes time to get it around. It takes time for people to get comfortable and feel safe with it.
Kristina Keats: Another thing I want to say besides that is you don’t necessarily get votes from the giveaways. It helps with name ID. Yard signs get you votes, no question about it. You are getting the endorsement of your neighbors. That is why they are so important.
John Tsarpalas: Very good. Last week we talked about going door to door. Part of going door to door was asking for a yard. If the people are talking to will put a yard sign up for you in their yard. We will have an episode in the future on scripts. These will be the scripts that you will be using at the door and scripts that you will using on the phone. Both of those will have part of the script addressing how do you ask for a yard sign. Because it is important to ask if you can put a sign up and it is important to get those signs up as you just heard.
Next week on Commonwealthy, my guest will be John Tillman of the Illinois Policy Institute. We are going to talk about how do you talk about issues. John’s the best at this, so please tune in next week. I think you are really going to enjoy it.
Thanks for listening.
Kristina Keats: The one thing I would say is try to keep your yard sign as simple as possible. The more complex your design, the harder it is for people to read it. If they can’t read it a half a block away, then you’ve defeated the purpose.