Question: Is door knocking as good a use of time/resources as putting out newspaper ads?
Is there a way to know which are the “right” doors to knock on?
Since most local races have low voter turnout, door knocking is often the most effective way of getting out your message, especially if the candidate is committed to personally knocking on doors. A strong ground campaign allows for an upstart candidate to introduce him or herself to voters directly, in a setting that is comfortable, and to engage them on a personal level. In a race that only needs a few thousand votes to win, it’s possible for the candidate to personally speak with enough voters to win. There is, in my experience, no better way of contacting voters than having the candidate visit them in their homes. In addition, door-knocking is cheap - requiring only the candidate’s time and sweat, and some up-front costs for door-hangers or push cards.
That said, door-knocking campaigns can take several months and require advanced planning, especially if the candidate is committed to knocking on enough doors to win, or if volunteer support is low. A candidate can most effectively use his or her time for door-knocking by properly “targeting” voters - only visiting voters who are likely to vote. Start with the voters who are most likely to vote, or vote for you, based on voter histories and then expand out to other groups that may be easily swayed. Voter targeting deserves a topic on its own, but determining whose doors you knock on can be just as important as deciding much time to spend knocking on doors.
This is all a long way of saying that door-knocking is the most effective campaign strategy in local elections. Newspaper ads are rarely effective - direct mail campaigns sent directly to likely voters’ homes will have a much better bang for the buck.
I would add this also includes newspaper inserts, which cost less than a traditional ad, but are also not as effective as door knocking or sending direct mail to targeted households.
I believe that door knocking is extremely important, particularly at the local level. If you want to be representative of the people in your community, you need to meet them and speak with them on their “turf” where they feel most comfortable. It’s about conversations, not sound bites or a catchy slogan. Newspaper ads are a waste of money — have you noticed the subscription rates of newspapers — they are way down. Direct mail is throwing money in the garbage can as well because that is where that piece is going — in the garbage can. Nothing beats shaking hands and carrying babies.
County races are considered local races. In my county of 2.4 million people going door-to-door won’t win you the election because its impossible to physically knock on enough doors. Make sure you hit high density areas at least to get your name out there. Use newspapers for press releases [position statements and/or event advisory], for its endorsement of your candidacy and interviews — all of this should be free publicity.