Behind the Campaign Curtain
We’ve all seen “The Wizard of Oz” right? I love the scene near the end where Dorothy is meeting “The Great and Powerful Oz” only to realize he’s some dude behind a curtain with a lot of smoke and mirrors and microphones.
I recently assisted Marc Abrams getting elected to the Winchester Commonwealth’s Attorney position, so I’ve now spent some time behind the curtain, experiencing and learning how an election campaign really works. I learned several useful nuggets of information, but my biggest takeaways, I’ve realized, were what I contributed to his campaign this time, and what I can assist him with, as well as other candidates in the future, next time.
Marc Abrams is a fine man, well-admired in the law enforcement community. However, he’s very humble about his talents and accomplishments, and, in his words, “not a politician”. I feel certain he could’ve been elected without my efforts on his behalf. But he wouldn’t have looked nearly as good, and I’d bet a loan payment that it wouldn’t have been by as wide a margin.
The power of professional photography, combined with professional graphic design, and a positive, consistent social media message were my specific contributions to the talent pool that was his campaign committee.
Once he made the decision to run, he knew he would need professional portraits to get started. It started with his family portraits and professional head shots over the summer. As I got to know him and his family, I observed that here was a highly intelligent, excellent attorney who really knew the prosecution process inside and out. I also learned that he was a very compassionate man who, along with his staff and the folks with the Victim-Witness Program, truly looked out for victims and their families. I realized that this “not a politician” gentleman really needed help with a campaign image and communicating his message; he just didn’t know it yet. And that’s how I became a part of his volunteer campaign committee.
In running his Facebook page, Abrams 4 CA, I combed the local newspaper every morning for positive letters to the editor and other writings that flattered Marc (I also specifically avoided letters that merely slammed his opponent too). Each morning, said articles were posted, with credit, on his page, in a professional, easily readable manner. I coached his committee on how to share these posts. I invited dozens of friends that lived in or near the city to “like” his page, and the momentum took off. His posts were now reaching hundreds, and then thousands of voters. More “likes” and “shares” of the page continued, and within 30 days, his fan base of supporters had doubled. Even people that “don’t do Facebook” were watching. And it was fun.
Many election ads are humdrum, boring, and easily missed. I purposely designed Marc’s ads with only one point per ad, lots of white space, and in both color and black and white so they looked great both online and on newsprint. I developed my own template, so that each ad had its own focus, but was instantly recognizable as a series. A consistent look made them easier to spot amongst all the other candidates’ ads, which raised his visibility. This too, was fun.
Finally, there was the actual photo shoot for the election piece mailed to voters. Marc’s piece involved creating professional images of him “in action” in the courtroom. A consistent, positive message, combined with professional images, proper copy, and strong endorsement quotes rounded out this mailer, which really impressed several voters receiving it. While I was shooting, I kept the experience light and fun while setting up. During the actual shoot, Marc was questioning a “witness” who in her storytelling on the witness stand, made us all laugh with her “tales of woe”. I kept all the “models” informed of what I was doing and how the process worked, and was very conscious of their time constraints—this went a long way in gaining cooperation and executing a great shoot.
Would I travel this particular “yellow brick road” again? You betcha. Do I have specific recommendations for doing things a bit differently next time? Absolutely. Do you know someone considering a run for public office? That candidate will need some help and should call me—because every candidate needs someone behind their particular curtain.