Election Branding

Political Candidates Checklist

You have decided to run for office in an upcoming election.

Congratulations, you just checked off the very first item on your checklist. But what comes next? The following items on our checklist makes gearing up your election campaign easy.

2. Get a logo. Candidates for political office may believe that securing campaign support and funding are the next step. The next step in any political campaign is branding your campaign. This starts with a logo.

A campaign logo forces you to take a moment to decide what message you want your campaign to make. The logo sets the tone for your winning strategy. A logo is the gateway towards campaign funding and voter engagement. Those who fund campaigns want to feel they are dealing with a professional candidate. The logo makes you look professional.

3. Setup your brand. Your logo is the first step. The next step is to select colors for your campaign. One primary color helps to keep costs down by allowing you to print signs in one color, which are less expensive. Two colors give you a little more control over your brand. Using a primary color and a complementary color allows you to print single-color signs and colorful ones. A third color is useful but not necessary. If you think you can afford more color in your signs, go for a third color. But keep in mind, for most campaigns, two colors are sufficient. Remember that for most applications, black and white are two additional colors that aren’t too expensive, providing your two- or one-color pallet with an additional two colors without burdening your campaign resources.

In a partisan election, there are two fundamental colors that candidates need to strategize. Red is for GOP candidates and blue is for Democratic Party candidates. If you are running in a partisan election, make sure to keep away from the color of the opposing party.

Because of the red, white and blue of the flag, political branding tends to overuse that color combination. At Politico Campaigns, we ask candidates who want to use the red-white-and-blue pallet, imagine a sea of political signs outside the polling stations, all sporting the colors of the flag, except for one. Which one stands out?

Political candidates can stick to the flag colors but should consider changing it up a bit by looking at different tones of a particular color. Party colors as your primary color is always a good choice in partisan politics if the overall brand incorporates it properly. One color to stay away from in a partisan election is purple as it has come to symbolize a third party in recent elections. Colors have marketing meanings and choosing the right color generates positive attention to a candidate in a noisy election.

Your logo, in two versions: color and black-and-white as well as the colors of your campaign are what is known as your Brand Style Guide. A Brand Style Guide is a guide that says this is your logo and the colors of your campaign.

A style guide is indispensable when dealing with vendors and the high-stress messaging as Election Day gets closer.

The important thing to keep in mind about your brand is consistency. The more consistent your brand is - logo and colors - the more voters notice you. At Politico Campaigns we like to use the analogy of the “golden arches.” Your first thought when you saw “golden arches” is likely hamburgers. That is effective branding and a well-designed brand leads to victory.

Most important to remember after you are set on your brand is to brand everything! Everything you produce mailers, pictures, business cards, social media content and so on needs to have your branding on it. Follow your style guide in color choices. A brand doesn’t work if you don’t use it.

4. Get a URL. Yes, a website address is important in today’s digital age. A URL (domain name) needs to be easy to remember and easy to spell. Think about it this way. You are driving down the freeway and spot a website address at 60 miles per hour. You have only seconds to remember it. The easier to spell, the shorter it is and the catchier it is, the more likely a voter is to remember it.

Forget the .com suggestion most consultants tell you to use when selecting a domain name. If you can find a short and easy to spell .com domain name, go for it. But in today’s search engine optimized (SEO) digital world, most internet users don’t type in the URL directly on their browsers. Most are likely to go directly to Google or any other search engine and type in your name or what they remember about your URL to get to your website.

5. Create your social media channels. Facebook and Instagram are the two most popular social media channels today. Some consultants will tell you to get Twitter, which is fine but not as important anymore and others like TikTok. However, resources mean time and money. TikTok is a video format that requires video. Content, as in regular posts, is important. If you can afford to produce regular video content, then add TikTok. But keep in mind that in addition to the required resources to keep a TikTok channel working, it is also controversial. TikTok was banned on all federal employee government devices on June 9, 2023.

For most campaigns, Facebook and Instagram are sufficient. It is important to consistently post new content to keep growing your followers. A brand style guide should include the avatar (profile image) for your channel, a consistent color scheme and the logo. All your posts should include your logo, even the pictures of events you post.

When setting up your social media channel, try to keep your channel’s username consistent with your URL. For example, if your campaign’s URL is candidate4office.com, your social media channels should also be @candidate4office.

Remember, consistency is key for your campaign.

6. Pay for a professional headshot picture. Too many candidates get a family member to take pictures for their campaign. These are fine for most social media posts and for parts of your website. But a professionally taken high-resolution headshot is indispensable. It makes you professional and allows you to control your branding, which ultimately it is you. A headshot should have a clean white background and be at least 3,000 pixels at its shortest side at 300 dots-per-inch (dpi) or points-per-inch (ppi). At 300-dpi, a 3,000-pixel picture is 10”. Some photographers will try to convince you that 72 dpi is sufficient. In most cases they are correct, but it limits you. Pay for one picture that you can use for any application your campaign may encounter. A 300-dpi picture works on websites, social media, mailers, television and even billboards. Why pay for a 72-dpi picture when it should cost the same to get a 300-dpi one?

A competent graphics designer can take the picture and add whatever background you want to it. If you can only afford one picture, make sure it has a white background. If you can afford more pictures, then get some with scenic views, but keep in mind that digital channels require rectangle images instead of square ones in most cases so get landscape pictures instead of portrait for scenic ones.

Hint, a graphic designer needs some material to work with when an image has a scenic background to fit it into a specific application. Your scenic pictures should have plenty of background on either side to provide the graphics designer with some flexibility. Remember that at 300dpi, the graphics designer can make almost any picture work for you.

7. Get a website. It is the digital age and your campaign website is the key to winning. Your website should be your campaign’s hub. A campaign website does not need to be extravagant. For most applications, a campaign website should include: a header with some type of navigation and your logo. It should include a footer with your legally required disclaimer and links to your social media.

Your campaign website should also have an about me page, a call-to-action (CTA), your political platform and a link to where your supporters can contact you and a link to where donations can be made to your campaign.

You should also consider making a branded headshot picture and your logo easily downloadable for the news media and bloggers to use without having to ask permission first. Remember, you want to control your brand. A place for the news media and bloggers to contact you should also be included.

8. Have master templates for social media posts ready to go. If you have Facebook and Instagram, then have a 2160x2160 pixel at 72 dpi master PNG file ready to use. It should have your colors and your logo should be on one corner. Your URL and social media channel username should also be included. Do not forget to add the legally required disclaimer.

The template should have a space to drop in a picture, a meme or a message. Any graphics program available on most computers or online can be used to add content to your template. Having a template makes it easy to share content easy on your social media channels, it ensures a consistent branding on all your shares and most important, you won’t forget the important political disclaimer that is required.

While you are at it, create another template with your logo in the center that you can use on your social media for quick updates such as event locations.

9. Remember that whatever you do from this point on is to make sure that you follow your Brand Style Guide in everything you do. Give it to your sign maker, your website designer, your political consultant and your volunteers. Ask them to follow it in everything they produce.

Now you are ready to focus on campaigning.

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