Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Mistakes Campaign Consultants Make

Are you in the biz?  Or are you looking for a campaign consultant for that new campaign (The season is fast upon us.) Either way. here are some timely tips you should know  - as a manager/consultant or someone looking to hire one.

I’m always harping on mistakes candidates make, not raising money or hiring consultants, campaigning by committee, ignoring advice they paid for. I could go on and on.

But there are lots of mistake campaign consultants and managers make also.  Here are just a few of the top ones I’ve observed in others and, if I’m being honest, in myself from time to time:

1.      Don’t push your client to raise money.  No candidate likes to make fundraising calls. They’ll do anything to get out of it – wash the dog, babysit their neighbor’s cat, anything. You need to push them to sit down and pick up the phone. Write them a script. Make call lists or have a volunteer or staffer do it.  In a large campaign, a  professional fundraiser is a must.  And don’t forget that the candidate’s family and friends should be first on the list, right after the candidate herself.

2.      Don’t ensure they have minimal staff and/or competent passionate volunteers to do the crucial work on managing the elements of the campaign. Even the small down ticket race needs a few good people at a minimum to see that the following tasks get done:.
a.      Data base and volunteer coordination.
b.      Field management. Getting the volunteer out in the “hood” walking and on the phone talking.
c.       Holding the candidate’s hand through the fundraising process and dealing with the day to day stressers of campaign life
d.      Keeping track of the bank account and filing the appropriate campaign finance reports accurately and on time.

3.      Don’t research your own client.  If you don’t know the skeletons in the closet, you will not be prepared to deal with them when they are inevitably surfaced by the opposition or the press. This was recently graphically illustrated in a Congressional race in which a newcomer to the district, with a history of failed businesses she touted as giving her “experience creating middle class jobs,” turned out to have a suspect relationship with a “pay-to-pray Guru.” Besides that she had at best a spotty voting history. Once these facts were outed by the opposition, the campaign was doomed despite her strong lead in fundraising.

4.      Similarly, don’t research the opponents. If you don’t look, you may not find.  In the above case, some deep digging and use of the internet’s “wayback machine” brought up several “removed” blog posts which showed an individual whose new age platitudes were exposed, as well as her disdain for knowledge of the sort that is crucial to the day to day world of a Congressperson.   The failed businesses which also turned out to be outsourcing to China, belied her self-proclaimed business acumen and claims of creating hundreds if not thousands of middle class jobs.  Despite nearly a million dollars in the bank, and an assured campaign patter, these became her undoing and she finished a dismal fourth.   

5.      Don’t Plan and Get Buy in on the Plan by the Candidate. If you don’t plan how the campaign is t run, the strategy, the tactics, fundraising, messaging, when and how to release the message, and get buy-in from the candidate, you could be in for a rocky ride.  Money will run short, tempers will flare, no one will be available to approve last minute mailers or ads. 

6.      Don’t prep your candidate for debates, endorsement meetings and other face to face encounters with voters. Some candidates are naturally outgoing and personable, others not so much. Know which one you have and how to help them maximize their strong points to good advantage while minimizing some negatives.  While it’s great to be outgoing and friendly, you need to make sure the candidate isn’t hogging all the time in public meetings, or staying too long at one door while precinct walking.  He needs to know with whom he is speaking and tailor his presentation accordingly without going off message.  A shy candidate will need practice promoting herself. Makes sure someone on the campaign team helps them with their presentation and gets friendly faces in the crowd to bolster their confidence.

Of course there are many more tips, but this list should get us all thinking and working toward providing the best service we can. After all, the candidate has paid you good money and needs to rely on your good advice. Makes sure you can give it with confidence.

This article was published in Down Ticket Dems  a great site with lots of tips for the local campaign