By Meredith Tucker


What do your communications say about you? In one word, EVERYTHING.


I hate to be the Kanye West of this conversation, but when it comes to politics, communications are your best tool – of all time!


I know many out there would argue that fundraising is the most important part. After all, it is, without question, where a candidate spends much of their focus, but why?


To communicate their message to voters.


Ok, well what about positions on policy? Shouldn’t those be what matters most? Absolutely, but here’s how we break this down. You can have the best ideas in the world, but they need to be delivered to voters in a way that is clear, concise, and to the point. Otherwise, your message will get lost in the mud with the rest of them.


Among the many lessons we’ve learned this year, we know that voters loathe talking points and speeches that sound rehearsed. But the fact of the matter is, presenting positions on complicated issues such as strengthening the economy isn’t easy, and we have to work pretty hard to boil them down into digestible sound bites.  Unfortunately for us policy buffs, attention spans are short, and time is money. A candidate can raise all the money in the world, but they still need to be able to deliver these messages to voters.


I used to tell my candidates and their staff, “You are what you tweet.” While mostly a scare tactic to prevent them from going viral for all the wrong reasons, it also means something more. You are what you say, and you will be held accountable for it.


I’ve heard people say, “Well, I don’t think Donald Trump is as crazy {insert “racist,” “misogynistic,” etc.} as he makes himself out to be – he just says that stuff to get attention.” Sorry to say folks, but you don’t get to just “say stuff.” When Trump calls women pigs, calls Mexicans rapists, or says he will ban an entire religion’s population from entering our country, we must listen, and we must take it seriously. It’s now time for voters to hold his feet to the fire. 


Words matter. Use them wisely. 

What if chief operating officers of every company had to tell you what they’d do with a free elephant? Unfortunately, the world does not work the way things do at JVA Campaigns. For this edition of Get to Know Your Consultant, we sit down with our chief operating officer, Megan Wickersham, and ask her to ponder the questions in life that really matter



Q: If you were a piece of mail, what kind of mail piece would you be?

Megan: I’ve always been a pretty blunt and honest person, so I’d be a negative mailer that just tells it like it is.


Q: If there was a street fight between the following teams, who would win? Hillary Clinton–Tim Kaine, Barack Obama–Joe Biden, Bill Clinton–Al Gore, or Jimmy Carter–Walter Mondale.

Megan: I’m pretty sure the Obama–Biden team would come out winning. The wildcard there is Joe—he’s a super-scrappy guy from the blue-collar town of Scranton, so you know he’s been in a fight or two.


Q: If you’re on a deserted island and you have to bring a Democrat and a Republican, who are you bringing?  

Megan: If Bear Grylls is a Democrat (and let’s assume he is), I’m going to take him for obvious reasons. For the Republican, I’d bring my fiancé, Jim, because if I was stuck somewhere I’d want him to share in it with me. 


Q: What three things would I find in your refrigerator right now?

Megan: 1) Greek yogurt; 2) Craft beer, because my fiancé has really embraced the craft beer movement; and 3) Various wrapped meats because grilling weather is perfect right now in Ohio. 


Q: What’s the last thing you watched on TV and why did you choose to watch it?

Megan: The Olympics. The summer Olympics is something I look forward to every four years.


Q: What’s your favorite mail piece you’ve ever designed?

Megan: In 2014, I designed a mail piece for the Ohio state legislative independent expenditure campaign. I’m pretty proud of it and like that it’s one we showcase today.




Q: If you were an animated character, what kind of character would you be?

Megan: Between buying a new house, getting married in a couple of months, and being in the middle of a presidential year, I’d say I’m one of the cartoons with steam coming out of their ears right now.


Q: If Hollywood made a movie about your life, who would you like to see play the lead role?

Megan: Reese Witherspoon. 


Q: If you were limited to only get advice from one person the rest of your life, which person would you choose?

Megan: I’d pick my friend Beth. She’s always very honest, makes level-headed decisions, and has a knack for seeing the positive side of things.


Q: Last question. You’ve been given an elephant. You can’t give it away or sell it. What would you do with it?

Megan: Well, apparently I need to buy a bigger house. Looks like I’d be moving the elephant, my fiancé, and me to a farm in the country and then building a big fence so it couldn’t get out.



By Mary Bogus


Earlier this week, I watched First Lady Michelle Obama speak on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. In between bursts of tears and clapping, I started to think about the difference between what she was saying and what we heard the week before from many of the speakers at the Republican National Convention. While the RNC painted a picture of an America that was no longer “great,” ratified the most anti-LGBTQ platform in our history, mocked “political correctness” as being a sign of weakness, and gave story after story about how undocumented immigrants are “ruining” our country, the First Lady was in stark contrast. Touching on issues of race, feminism, family, unity, and rebuking Donald Trump’s claim that America needed to be made “great” again, Michelle Obama reflected our values as a country through her own perspective as the First Lady, a woman of color, and a mom:


"I wake up every morning in a house that was built by slaves. And I watch my daughters, two beautiful, intelligent, black young women, playing with their dogs on the White House lawn. And because of Hillary Clinton, my daughters and all our sons and daughters now take for granted that a woman can be president of the United States."


This line had me and everyone I know high-fiving, clapping, cheering, crying, and feeling more proud than ever before to be a Democrat. Messages like these can reshape the conversation and mobilize our people in a way that not all of our messages or messengers can. And the messages and the values that she conveys make an impact because they are shaped by her own unique experience and her many diverse identities.


More than ever before, it’s critical that as we build our campaigns and our movements, we must centralize the experiences of those most impacted. This means building diverse communications plans that tell the stories of the people who will benefit or be hurt the most by our wins and our losses. We have a unique opportunity to use our stories to clearly counter the America that Donald Trump and politicians like him would like to see. By incorporating diverse communications, our campaigns will cut through the noise. We as Democrats already believe America is great because of our diversity, and one way we communicate that to all voters is by making sure that campaign communications are reflective of that greatness.








Why should I invest in mail and digital advertising and not just pour all of my money into television, radio, or newspaper ads?


We believe a campaign is best served when multiple forms of communication are employed. However, too often campaign budgets don’t allow unlimited spending of money. When your campaign is working on a budget, as most campaigns are, you need to think about how you can maximize the efficacy of your dollars.


Let’s use fishing as an analogy. When fishing for shrimp, a net is cast as wide as possible. Yes, you’ll end up with shrimp in the net when you bring it on the boat, but you’ll also end up with various types of other sea-dwelling creatures and the occasional driftwood and other unwanted items that you weren’t looking to attract. Think of fishing for shrimp as television or radio because you’re casting a wide net across your district. Although you’ll undoubtedly reach voters who either are receptive to your message or are going to vote in your election, you’re also spending money on reaching people who are not part of your target audience.


Whereas television and radio are fishing for shrimp, think of mail and digital communications as sports fishing. In these situations, you’re honing in on a specific section of the lake where the fish live, setting your line with a specialized lure that specifically targets this type of fish, examining and constantly revaluating the type of cast you’re making to entice the fish, and so on. Mail and digital operate in the same way. With these types of communication, you can use a variety of metrics, often recommended by your communications consultant, on how to find the “right voters”—the people who are not only receptive to the type of message you’re using, but those who are going to show up on election day. At the end of the day, if you’re looking to target the “right” type of voter, as many campaigns are, you’re better off “fishing” with the right approach and equipment. 


Have a question you'd like answered? Submit yours by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., sending us a message on Facebook, or tweeting at us @JVACampaigns.  

Whether you’re a first-time candidate or you’ve served your community for decades but are now working with a professional communications firm, you probably have questions. In our decades of experience, there’s not much we haven’t been asked.


Over the next few weeks we’re introducing a Question of the Week miniseries in which we’ll be answering questions we get asked most, along with questions from our readers. You can submit a question by emailing us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., sending us a message on Facebook, or tweeting at us @JVACampaigns.  


Do people even read mail anymore? But younger voters don’t read mail, do they?


Although the advent of new technology has changed the way people get their news, pay their bills, and do their shopping, direct mail still proves to be one of the most effective forms of political communication. In fact, according to the USPS’s “Household Diary Study,” 79 percent of households scan their direct mail daily, and 55 percent report they read all of their direct mail daily. That’s compared to 47 percent in 1987. This high level of readership can be attributed to a number of obstacles standing in the way of newer forms of communication, including companies overflowing peoples’ in-boxes with marketing emails and online users constantly having to close out or watch a 15-second ad to get to the user’s desired site. For these reasons and many others, direct mail continues to serve as an avenue no campaign can afford to overlook. 


So now you’re convinced that people do read their mail, but you still have questions about mail efficacy among younger voters. We hear that a lot.


This year, the American Association of Political Consultants (AAPC) issued a study, Political Mail and Millennials, to address this very topic. Through polling and focus groups, the AAPC determined not only that younger voters read their political mail, but that they do so at higher rates than older voters. Furthermore, in this study it was found that younger voters use pieces of political mail to prompt further investigation into candidates and issues, resulting in a more educated voter. This verification of information—reading something on a mailer but then doing independent research of their own—solidifies a campaign’s need to echo the message they use on mailers with those they’ve instituted on the doors and online.