The following is an extract from the ALDC book ‘Pick a ward and win it’ which has been written for aspiring campaigners and candidates who want to go out and win a ward for the Liberal Democrats, make a difference for their communities and empower their residents. Buy the book online now (£5+£3.50 postage and packaging for ALDC members).
Voters need to believe we can win to vote for us – it’s a lesson that has been learnt over many years. We need to create a feeling where voters will see us as contenders and a really easy way of doing this is with a good poster campaign.
Residents can see that their friends and neighbours are voting for us with a good display, which helps with third-party endorsement. It is essential for a “squeeze” message to work for the third party supporters to genuinely believe that you could win.
Generic or personal?
The campaign team needs to decide whether the posters should be generic Lib Dem or those featuring the candidate’s name.
Where you have only local elections and one candidate then to have the candidate’s name is an advantage but it makes preparation, pasting boards, etc. more difficult.
The compromise is to have sufficient generic Lib Dem boards pasted up and erected first but to introduce individual candidates boards later in the election period. In General Elections some target seats are also able to split their expenses for posters by using generic boards, with the authorisation of the national party.
How to get a good poster display
There is one key to getting a good poster display – ask every supporter to display a poster. It is amazing how many canvassers never ask and then say “no-one ever wants to put up posters around here” but the reality is no one asks.
You should always explain to people that displaying a poster will really help the campaign and if possible ask if you can put it up yourself. Canvassers should be trained to record who takes posters and puts them up and this information should be preserved for the next election.
Where you already have a list of stakeboard sites you should write or preferably telephone to confirm the site is still available three months before the anticipated date of election.
Growing your display
The closer you get to election time, it is also worth looking at your list from Connect and identifying main road sites that are missing a good display.
To do this, simply build a list of current poster sites in each ward (using the relevant question in Connect) and click the “Map” option at the top of the list results screen. If you see any main roads that don’t have a good set of poster sites, we need to target them.
Doing this is also really easy. Simply build a list of strong Lib Dems in each ward, and then use Connect’s Turf Cutter tool to select just those houses that are on the main roads you want to target. This will give you a list of strong supporters on each main road, which make ideal targets for poster sites.
Many people wonder about when to put posters up. If they are given out too early, they may not be put up or will probably start coming down – which makes it look as though your support is falling.
In really intensive campaigns you should aim to get a “flying start” of stakeboards and window posters by getting a large number up in the first few days of the campaign.
One way of achieving this, which was done in a number of target parliamentary seats, is to ask stakeboard sites to sign an approval form in advance of the election then you can just go round as soon as the campaign starts without having all the bother of finding them in.
All posters which are intended to be displayed in window should have a small piece of double sided sticky tape stuck on the corners – if you just give someone a poster and rely on them finding the sellotape it will probably never appear.
These should be in every canvass pack as you near the election. Another ideal way of getting window posters out is put one in a mailing to members and supporters at the beginning of the campaign. There is no reason why you should not be able to get this ready well in advance and ready to post/deliver as soon as election time begins.
Stakeboards are often made from Correx to withstand the elements and most of the time need stakes to be placed in the ground. This requires the services of someone with a van.
The list of sites needs dividing up both by area (wards and divisions) and priority. Once the election is called it is important to get a display of boards on the main roads and key intersections throughout the constituency by the end of the first weekend.
You can beef up the sites by erecting more boards per site or larger boards later during the campaign. The minor roads and cul-de-sacs can be left until later.
Routes to polling stations are also a priority in the last week of the election. You also need to work out whether particular teams need to have a store of boards, stakes and equipment near to the area they are working. Some of our teams were allocated their own areas to save on travelling time and came to the centre once a week. The teams reported progress by telephone each day.
Lists of stakeboard sites including names, addresses and telephone numbers will be required each day. The lists are printed from Connect. The teams should plan their routes for the first few days of the campaign a week beforehand. It is helpful that the full address and postcode is set out so that Sat Nav can be used to locate the isolated rural houses.
Every time you put up a stakeboard you should leave a note thanking the site owner/occupier for allowing you to put up the board and a contact number so that if there are any problems they have someone to call.
If the board is vandalised or disappears, then they can phone the contact to have it replaced.
Stakeboards should be taken down as soon as possible after the election and none should be left up for more than two weekends after polling day. After the election you should also make sure poster sites are invited to your thank you party as well as informed of the election result. It is also worth making sure your poster sites are kept regularly updated with your campaigning.
Your poster campaign flowchart
Thanks to John Studholme’s help, who has devised the plan.
You really need lots of people across a constituency to make a poster team, who have the skills and agility to help with stakeboards.
You need to think about the impact of your delivery on the poster team – you still need to make sure all of your literature can be delivered as well as posters being put up.
The guide for your team
Pat Ost has kindly shared a brilliant guide which you can download. If you’re looking at how to fit your posters and put them up properly, please act on this excellent guide. It’s been thoroughly tested and is worth passing onto any members of your poster team.