Countywide Candidates and Paid Media

//Countywide Candidates and Paid Media

Countywide Candidates and Paid Media
by Tim Roseberry, Director of Communications, LiUNA Midwest Region

Let’s face it, times are changing and so are the methods of reaching voters. The last decade has seen the explosion of social media as an integral messaging tool for candidates on all levels. But as important as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become, they remain subscriber based, which means you’re usually communicating with the already converted. Today, a well-rounded media strategy, including radio and television, can still be vitally important to any campaign, especially countywide candidates.

I know, radio and TV can be expensive, but you don’t necessarily need to amass Scrooge McDuck amounts of money to have an effective broadcast strategy. When it comes to targeting and reach, radio and TV are still two of the most powerful mediums you can use to reach voters.

Broadcast TV

Not every campaign can raise the amount of money it takes to place an extended run of advertising on network stations. But, few mediums can match the power of a well-produced thirty-second commercial airing on the local newscast for the last few weeks of a campaign. Its impact is two-fold.

First, local news audiences are generally older, better informed, and they vote. They also tend to be routine oriented, meaning they’ll usually watch the same news program at the same time night after night which assures you repeated viewings of your message, and in advertising, it’s all about repetition.

Secondly, in politics, perception is everything and a strong broadcast presence sends a powerful message to donors and opponents alike that your campaign is serious about winning.

The drawback is supply and demand. You’re competing for a finite amount of time to reach a coveted viewership against other candidates, often well-funded federal candidates. As the election draws closer, the availability of time becomes scarcer and broadcast stations adjust their prices accordingly, sometimes doubling prices. Because of FCC rules federal candidates wanting your airtime can even bump you entirely from your schedule.

Cable TV

What was once considered an afterthought in campaigns, cable television advertising has come a long way in the last few decades, thanks, in large part, to unmatched targetablity in viewers tastes and location.

Much like a mail program, cable allows you to choose your target by zip code, thus narrowing your audience by geographic boundaries.

For every demographic, for every taste there seems to be a cable channel for it. Want to reach educated women over the age of 50 with a median income of $47,000 who owns her home? Lifetime Channel. Need to speak to 40 + middle class men? ESPN. And the list goes on. Cable lets you fit your message to the demographic you want to reach.

Cable has long been considered a cost alternative to broadcast television due to its relatively lower cost per spot. Much like radio, this creates an opportunity to run your message many times a day on a channel, creating desired repetition. Costs can rise exponentially due to having to advertise on so many channels to meet all of your chosen demographics.

But don’t forget, cable is everywhere. It’s in the doctor’s office, the gym, and the bar on the corner. It’s a constant presence even when the sound is down.


The survival of terrestrial radio has depended on local stations returning to their roots and becoming, well…more local, and local content is great for county-wide candidates.

Local talk radio programming is on the rise because it creates interest in the issues that are important to our communities. Local music stations promote local causes and charities and most local sports radio stations air local high school contests throughout their region. Hey, it almost seems as if high school football season was created to coincide with the fall campaign season.

Again, demographics are everything and radio can fit your needs. Country music is the number one format across the nation and therefore the most desired demo for advertisers. Country fans are patriotic, cross all income strata, are fiercely brand loyal, and they vote. Country even subdivides into narrower genres such as Classic and New Country.

Adult Contemporary is big with the much desired demo of women aged 25 – 54. It attracts both professional and blue collar. They are family oriented and tend to vote. Again the genre breaks down into sub groups such as Soft, Modern, Hot and Urban Adult Contemporary.

Talk radio listeners are well informed, issue oriented and tend to have a stake in the local community. They definitely vote. The national shows tend to be partisan Republican, but don’t let that prevent you from advertising on local shows and newscasts. A clever or controversial :60 ad might be just the thing to spur conversation about your campaign across all media.

Aside from being the top three radio categories for political advertisers, they all offer ample opportunity to reach listeners during their daily commutes. Look for rates in morning and afternoon drive time and don’t forget to repeat.


Again, broadcast advertising is only one part of a well-rounded media strategy that should include print, web and social media as well as free and earned media. Be sure to employ a circular approach to all these mediums. If you produce a TV ad, upload it to your webpage and Facebook. On your TV ad, put your web address and Twitter. It all works together.