You are on the ballot now and the campaign clock is ticking. Election day is coming soon whether you like it or not. One very important fact to keep in mind as you execute your campaign is that campaigns are finite. There is a definite end to the campaign and you will win or lose. Between now and election day, there are only so many weeks, days, and hours. If you want to win your election, you need to eat, breath, and sleep your campaign until election day. Life balance during a winning campaign is nearly impossible. This is not to say that you cannot set parameters and ensure you have key times for yourself or family. In fact, you should ensure you do at least one thing daily to connect with your family on an emotional level.
Just know that it is a tradeoff and, in my experience, the hardest working candidate wins most of the time. The good news, however, is that after you win the election it is very possible to serve in local public office and have life balance!
One last thing on time management. Try your best not to schedule vacations, physicals, dental check-ups, or other major projects during the course of your campaign. Either handle these things prior to kicking off your campaign or wait until after election day.
So, just what exactly do you need to do to kickstart your campaign?
1. Get on Message, Stay on Message
Develop YOUR message. The process of developing your own message will not only help you focus on why you are running, it will also provide foundational text for campaign literature, your website, stump speeches, interviews, meetings with consultants, and other campaign collateral.
Set aside time and really think, introspectively, about why you are running. Your goal is to fill one page with your narrative as to why you are running for this seat right now. Included in the narrative should be your story (who you are and why you are the most qualified person for the job), two or three reasons you are running (be specific and try and put a political lens on it), and how you are going to win.
Once your one-page narrative is developed and fine-tuned, you can then craft an elevator speech, stump speech, and campaign walk piece. You will also need to have message discipline – talk about your two to three issues every opportunity you have to talk with voters. In general, your message should be:
- Persuasive and interesting to voters
- In contrast to other candidates
- Targeted to the voters who you will be contacting
- Repeated again and again!
2. Print Your Walk Piece & Hire A Professional Photographer
Political mail is designed to communicate with a voter in the short time they walk from the mail box to the recycle bin.
Most people still read their mail & check their mailbox on a daily basis. They are even disappointed when it is empty. So they may complain about bills and ads but they actually miss it if there is nothing in the box on a given day.
Political mail works for campaigns is because it is targeted. Unlike most forms of political communications (particularly broadcast outlets like TV, radio and facebook), when you send direct mail, you don’t have to pay to have your message seen by people who don’t live in your district, or by people who don’t vote or who won’t vote for you, no matter what you say.
We live in a visual society and a picture is worth a thousand words. If you don’t have professional photographs, no one will take the time to read your message. It’s the credibility factor. Of course, don’t overpay for any campaign service. However, when it comes to photographs it is not the time to skimp.
3. Hit the Streets & Talk With Voters
You need to walk the district. Not just to help you win but to help you become a better elected official when you do win. By walking a district you have to take time to listen to voters. You will gain an understanding of the issues that effect every neighborhood and be able to better serve your constituents. Don’t just talk – listen.
A candidate can walk at any time: Volunteers only 90 days from election day.
Be observant & write notes: Homes have clues about who you are talking to. Also write notes about your conversation. Great candidates will follow-up with a handwritten note that references what you discussed.
Shake the fence: Alerts you to the presence of dogs before you enter a yard.
Stay positive: Not everyone will tell you they support you, but stay positive – talking with a voter has a lifetime impact. Most of the time a voters meets a candidate on their doorstep they will be your supporter for life.
Follow up: Write a follow-up postcard or letter for every person you spoke with.
4. Attend Community Events & Build Buzz
Winning campaigns build momentum. That momentum comes from community leaders talking about you. It’s what we call, “The Buzz.” Your goal is to be everywhere all the time. If there are five events in an evening – try and stop by all of them. Your goal is to meet the key leaders and organizers of the event, hopefully be introduced, and then get to the next event. At that event, snap a photo of something that describes the event (it’s about them not you – don’t just take selfies), and post it on social media. Also, “friend” each person you meet on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. If you do this effectively over time, people will start talking about how you are everywhere and working so hard. Before you know it, they will all predict that you are going to win – and that is what I mean when I talk about momentum.
5. Maximize Your Daily Schedule
Most people have to work full-time while running for office. The below schedule is built with that in mind. If you have the flexibility to take time off during your campaign or are retired, you can add more donor prospect meetings in the morning and walk a precinct in the afternoon.
6 a.m. – Personal reflection and exercise
7 a.m. – Confirm daily meetings and review your calendar
8 a.m. – Make fundraising calls on the way to work
Lunch – Meet with a donor prospect or endorsement prospect
Coffee – Schedule brief coffee meetings during the day, if you can, with donor or endorsement prospects
5 p.m. – Make fundraising calls on the way home from work
6 p.m. – Walk a precinct, make voter phone calls and/or attend a community meeting or event
9 p.m. – Return emails and write handwritten notes to voters, donors, or community leaders
I hope these 5 things help you kickstart your campaign. For more tips and tricks emailed directly to your inbox, go here and sign up!