15 things you need to do in an election.

A friend of mine wanted a quick and dirty list of ten things a person should do in an election. This is for an acquaintance of his in Wisconsin. Well, I struggled getting to ten and then five more thoughts just flowed out.

So, here's my quick and dirty list compiled over the Lunch hour of 15 things that all campaigns should do.:
1. Write a campaign plan. It doesn’t have to be much more complicated than “Spend $1000 on yard signs, $2000 on media, etc.” What is does is force you to do at least a nominal amount of planning, and put a minimum of thought into the campaign.

2. Fundraising should be done early. You don’t need your money during the last week of the election. You need it at the beginning. Hold your events and send your letters early. If your funds come in at the end, you’ll find you have trouble spending it.

3. Target those who vote. If they haven’t voted in 5 years, why are you wasting your time with them? Get a list with voter history and find out who voted in the last school board election.

4. Buy only that which is necessary. Because you will need the money. Pins, pencils, yardsticks and all of that other crap don’t win the election. People DO NOT decide who to vote for based on a yardstick. They decide during the last two weeks of an election based upon factual information.

5. Door to door is king. Take that targeted voter list and go knock on the voter’s doors. Don’t want to skip doors? Then target by precincts with the highest number of voters first. All you need to tell them is who you are, what you are running for, and briefly tell them why. Then move on.

6. Always have a job or a task ready for volunteers. If they offer to help, do not let them sit with nothing to do. Whether it’s stuffing envelopes, hanging door hangers, going door to door, making phone calls or whatever – you must have jobs for volunteers. Or you will lose them.

7. Buy your media backwards. One of the most easily preventable sins is buying too much up front and running out of money at the end. First, buy your ads for the week before the election. Next, buy for the second week before the election. You are trying to build your momentum to peak on election day, not 7 days before it.

8. Stand out from the crowd. Bigger is better. I’d rather do one 2 column by 10 inch ad than three 2x2s. Because they are less likely to get lost among the clutter of non-political advertising. Big and splashy stands out in everything a campaign does. The mundane does not get attention.

9. Offset paid media with earned media. Press releases and media events can offset what you have to spend on advertising. These must be informative, interesting, and something generally considered newsworthy.

10. In advertising a candidate, name and office are the two things that matter the most. Don’t forget that. Don’t make them confusing or unclear. Don’t try to be cute and make letters into graphic elements such as merging part of a “K” with a check mark. It makes them hard to read. Name and office are what people need to remember at the voting booth.

11. Set the agenda on your turf! If you know your opponent is an expert in public finance, don’t make that an issue. Because he or she will make you look like a fool. Stick to those issues you know.

12. Stay on message. Don’t deviate or let yourself be pulled off track. If you've gone off course, you’re losing. It takes weeks to get a campaign theme to stick. Most campaigns don't have that much time. Once your message is set, repeat it over and over. If you come out with ten different messages, none of them will resonate.

13. Think of broad visionary themes. People care about owning a home, sending their kids to college, etc. If you talk about how expenditures under “budget line 242” have risen 43% to $1,278,432 voters’ eyes will glaze over and they will go to sleep. But if you say “taxes have gone up and it’s hard on homeowners” they will generally be more receptive.

14. Stay calm. Smile. Don’t lose your composure. Don’t let your opponent make you sweat. It’s ok to tell the press that you don’t have information, as long as you get it for them later when you’re not under the gun. Uncomfortable people say and do uncomfortable things. Don’t let your passions respond to questions. You can be passionate about issues, but don’t let your passion respond on your brain’s behalf.

15. Get out the vote. That list of targeted voters that you’ve been calling? Remind them that they need to get out and vote. If you know they’re not voting for you, don’t remind them. This goes hand in hand with different types of targeting, but you get the hint.
Any to add? Any I should drop? Weigh in with your opinion, and maybe we can get to 20 before the end of the day.


Douglas said…
What you really need is an endorsement from a Democrat.

All looks good to me. Now I'll have to see if I can remember anything worthwhile from lost elections.

Oh yah, One is don't let your candidate go on a "working vacation" to the Black Hills during the campaign.

Your number 11 looks like sort of a problem. Candidate ought to learn more rather than not know anything about an issue. Although not knowing much seems to have worked pretty well for John Thune.

You have mentioned in previous posts that if you are hired as campaign manager, you and not the candidate's wife, brother, brother-in-law, et al are THE CAMPAIGN MANAGER.

I may have to give you some more hits for this post of yours and make note of it in Dakota Today.
PP said…
Wow - how in the heck did I forget my mantra?

"the candidate is not the campaign manager"
Anonymous said…
Candidate on a working vacation...

Gee, I remember that one..

And he got to be a circuit judge as I recall.
Rick Hauffe said…
Yep, that list looks pretty complete, and I'm glad you added the First Commandment: The candidate already has a big job, and it ain't managing the campaign!!!

Maybe two more points from Tip O'Neill's book "Man of the House." People like to be asked and people like to be thanked. Second point, all politics is LOCAL.

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