Ask the Campaign Doc: What about radio?

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Why your campaign shouldn't take a pass on radio spots.


Q: In this age of social media—Twitter, YouTube and Facebook—is there still a value in spending money to run radio ads?

A: Don’t be a snob. Old and new media are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are blending together. According to the Pew Research Center, “For all the changes in technology local AM/FM radio has largely retained its presence in people’s lives over the last decade, at least at the most basic level. In 2011, nine out of 10 Americans age 12 or older (93 percent), used or owned an AM/FM radio, according to Arbitron, a drop of only three percentage points since 2001. This puts AM/FM radio second only to television as the medium most prevalent in people’s lives.”

Kevin LeGrett, vice president of Clear Channel Media + Entertainment, explains the durability of radio and its new incarnations, noting that radio talks “directly to listeners, and listeners have an emotional connection to their station and its brand.” LeGrett counsels radio advertisers to aim for a critical mass “across a spectrum of platforms,” including Facebook and social media, which are linked to radio stations and personalities.

Q: Is it okay not to pay our CPA for compliance help?

A: According to the Federal Election Commission, any entity—including corporations, unions and partnerships—may provide a campaign with free legal and accounting services as long as the services are provided only for the purpose of ensuring the campaign’s compliance with federal election law.

The entity paying for the service must also be the regular employer of the individual performing the service, the employer cannot hire additional employees to render the services or to free regular employees to perform the service, and the campaign must report the amount paid by the employer, as well as the name of each person performing the service and the date the service was provided. Similar rules may apply at the state and local level, but check with your attorney and the relevant compliance agency.

Q: We’re laying the groundwork for a local ballot measure this fall. How much should we invest in helping to vet the actual ballot language?

A: “When I use a word,” said Humpty Dumpty, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” Clearly, Humpty never ran or got skewered by a referendum or initiative campaign where words can indeed mean many different things. According to Governing Magazine, “Critics regularly contend that authorities twist the words on ballots or on petitions to try to help measures pass or to make them fail. In some instances, the critics appear to have a point. In other cases, the disagreements merely reflect the difficulty of condensing complicated legal changes into a few short sentences.”

In most states, the job of writing ballot language falls to the secretary of state or attorney general. If the measure originates in the legislature, lawmakers themselves may decide the language. Last year in Florida, for example, the state Supreme Court removed three constitutional amendments from the ballot after it ruled that “confusing or misleading summaries” had been written by the legislature.

The bottom line is that if you’re going to spend mega-bucks on advertising, you absolutely should budget real money to protect the honesty and clarity of the ballot language itself. Your plan should include fees for attorneys and expert witnesses if you need to defend (or attack) the ballot language in court. Otherwise, like Humpty Dumpty, you could be in for a fatal fall.

Craig Varoga has managed and consulted on local, state and national campaigns for more than 20 years. Send questions using LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (@CVaroga) or email CVaroga@Varoga.US.


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