Four Tips for Every Political Campaign
By Kelly Dietrich, National Democratic Training Committee
When you run for office, you get a lot of advice. After all, everyone believes they know how to run a campaign. All you need is to shake a few hands, kiss a few babies, and presto! You win. If it were only that easy.
Once you’ve decided to put your name on the ballot, you quickly realize campaigning is skill like everything else. And, given how high and how public the stakes are, you also quickly realize it is not something you want to leave to chance. You need to do it right. At National Democrat Training Committee (NDTC) there are four tips we give to every candidate who decides to run for office:
- Your campaign needs to be run like a business which means have a focus on winning,
- Be data driven
- Understand that relationships matter.
- Be self-reliant.
Let’s take these one by one:
Campaigns should be run like a business. Focused on winning.
Winning is your goal.
Everything else, within the confines of ethical and legal boundaries, is irrelevant. Businesses have plans to meet their goals, so should you. Campaign plans are critical to your success. Take the time to build them.
People will tell you to spend money on all sorts of things. They will recommend the latest high-end technology, a big name consultant, a huge poll every week, or worse. Spend your time, money and people executing your plan to meet your goals to win, not on making other people happy. Every time you deviate, you lessen your chances of victory.
Your campaign should be data driven. Since you have such limited time, money and people, you should measure everything you do. If you decide to make fundraising calls, how many did you make? How many people did you reach? If you knocked on doors, how many did you hit? How many people answered and how many agreed to vote for you?
Once you have some base line stats, you can begin to make smarter and wiser decisions about the best use of your time. Try to rely less on your gut and more on actual data whenever you can.
On every political campaign we’ve ever worked, someone has said they will raise us a ridiculous amount of money or will deliver a certain neighborhood or group of voters for us. Wonderful. Have at it. However, they should never be the entirety of our plan to run for office.
From your campaign plans, you need to know what your goals are and how you plan to meet them. The success of your campaign should never hinge on someone else who promised you the world.
We just said that when you run for office, be self-reliant. But, campaigns are also all about relationships. Relationships with the voters, donors, volunteers, media and anyone else you meet matter. Which ones you take the time to develop and grow and which you choose to ignore or let wither, affects your ability to meet your goals and ultimately win.
Every person with whom you interact, whether it is in person, online, over the phone, through a letter or even in an advertisement, is building some type of impression and relationship with you. It is your job to get what you need most from each of them.
In all the advice you receive and all the decisions you make, keep in mind there is no one right way to win an election. Yes, there are plenty sure fire ways to lose, but each victory is different. Every campaign makes mistakes and every campaign is a train wreck of organizational chaos at some point. Usually, the most organized and most focused train wreck wins.
When you make a big decision like deciding to run for office, you want to take the time to learn how to do it right. In the meantime, make plans, stay focused and follow the advice above. You’ll be well ahead of your competition.
If you’re interested in learning more about the NDTC and pre-register for access to our free trainings when we launch in a few short weeks, visit www.traindemocrats.org to sign up.