Friday, October 18, 2013

Never Stop Campaigning

You may think with all the new absentee registrants, up to 80% in some Districts, that there’s not much you can do in the final days of the campaign to influence voters. After all haven’t most of hem case their ballots already?

You’d be wrong.

An increasing number of permanent absentee voters are holding on to their ballots until the week before Election Day, many opting to walk them into the precinct place themselves. 

Last minute campaigning can make all the difference, especially in close races.  I know. As a campaign consultant I have seen razor thin races decided in the weeks following the election, when the late absentee and provisional ballots are counted.

Because of that, you need to keep on campaigning down to the wire. Here are some tips to be sure you are prepared to campaign til the end: 

  1. Have a good campaign plan in place early with your late precinct walking, phoning, last minute mail drops and GOTV built in.
  2. Budget wisely.  Make sure you have sufficient funds for late contingencies. Never stop fundraising. Your biggest donors may well be the most wiling to help fund last minute mail or robo calls
  3. Treat your volunteers well, so they are not burned out by the last week. You will need them to make those last phone calls and walk those last precincts
  4. Be ready to respond to a negative attack ad or mail piece by having sufficient funds to strike back.
  5. Cultivate a good relationship with the press, so you are assured of coverage for the late breaking stories with a positive spin for you.
  6. Letters to the editor can keep coming through that last important weekend. Have someone ready to write them and others to sign them.
  7. Check with the Registrar’s office for names of those who have already voted and purge them from your lists. 
  8. Get the weekly lists of new absentee applications and send a special piece of mail, even a short note from the candidate personally to them.
  9. Save enough signs for a visibility program and last weekend “Honk and wave” events at key intersections.  
Never stop campaigning.  

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Campaign Tip of the Day: Those pesky questionnaires

Campaign questionnaires. You know what I mean.  Every group that endorses in your race is sending you a million questions about where you stand on their particular set of issues, as well as how you will finance your campaign, who's on your team, what your experience is and a dozen other queries.

You are sick of them and tempted to write the shortest answer you can. Well, the last tip did say "less is more," but in this case, just the right amount is right. That is, you don't need to go into long philosophical arguments on your viewpoints on every topic, but do give enough information to let the readers know where you stand.

Yes, you can use the same background information on multiple questionnaires, but take the time to answer the particular questions thoroughly, including any disagreements you may have with certain of their positions, and how you will still keep an open mind.

Word of caution.  Be careful, as you must be in appearances and in your messaging, to be consistent. Don't say one thing to one group, such as telling the Chamber of Commerce you're all for more big businesses opening up downtown, while you tell the Sierra Club it's time for a moratorium on commercial enterprises.

But you would never do that, as you are a thoughtful campaigner with a trusted team of campaign allies advising you. Make sure someone reviews and proofreads the questionnaires and that you always get them in on time. Neatness counts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tip of the Day: Campaign Manager? Campaign Consultant? What the heck is the difference?

Many people, including many candidates, don't understand the difference between a campaign consultant and a campaign manager. So let's talk about each a bit.

There are a variety of campaign consultants, some specializing in different aspects of a campaign, such as fundraising, direct mail, media or polling.  What we are talking about here is a general consultant, or GC, who acts as a chief strategist and helps define the campaign's direction, message and budget.  The GC often hires the other consultants necessary or as in my firm, GreenDog Campaigns, performs some, if not all, the functions in-house. The GC does not need to be in the same geographic location as the candidate, but should be able to have a good understanding of the office sought and the needs of the District, as well as the practices of past campaigns, in terms of money spent, important endorsements and the like.

A campaign manager, on the other hand, is someone who works with the campaign on a day to day basis, making sure that local staff are hired, volunteers are in place, the candidate knows where he or she is to be at any given time, often accompanying the candidate to endorsement and other meetings.

The campaign manager is he chief cheerleader and campaign nag, all rolled into one. The GC will rely on the campaign manager for insights into the campaign's doings. If the GC is out of the area, there will often be frequent phone conference between the candidate, the campaign manager and the GC or a member of his/her staff.

Smaller campaigns often do without a GC. Conversely, some GC's also act as campaign managers for their candidates in smaller races, often supplemented by a volunteer coordinator and other volunteer or part time staff.

         Some casual advice from a seasoned campaign consultant at a fundraiser can be very helpful!

One thing I know for sure.  As the old saying goes, "a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client," so too, a candidate who tries to do his own campaign, if not a fool, is surely in for a very tough ride.  Even if your campaign manager is a trusted volunteer and you have no GC, it pays to have campaign professionals design your mail, target your audience and vet your messaging along the way. It could well be the difference between victory or defeat on Election Day.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Campaign tip of the day - Fundraising Fundamentals, Part 2

Making the follow up phone call

So you have your list in hand, and you're ready to make those calls. Here are some tips for making the calls count, and the campaign cash register go ka-ching.

1. Know who you are calling. Have some information about the potential donor. What are they capable of giving? What have they given in the past? What is your relationship with the person?
Is this someone you know well, or a relative stranger who has donated to others in the past but not you yet?

2. Start with the basics, why you are calling, how you know the person (or got their name); if it's a close friend or family member, make some small talk, but not too much.

If it's someone who are "cold calling" get right to the point. You are following up on your fund appeal letter or email, and asking for their contribution to your campaign.

You can add that you are a friend of so and so, or have similar values to so and so whom they have donated to before, or that you are highlighting an issue you know they care about in your campaign to spark their interest. Also mention what you need funds for -a mailing, a poll, some literature to walk precincts with. You want them to know their money will be put to good work.

3. Ask for the specific amount you think the person can afford.

4. Then Shut Up. Wait.

Wait for them to speak next. They may ask for more information, and you will offer it or refer them to your website. They may ask for the letter to be sent again. If so, get it right out with another envelope and a personal note.

They may turn you down cold. If so, ask if you might use their name as an endorser, unless they make it clear they are supporting someone else.

But - and this happens often enough if you are doing it right that you will feel rewarded - they will offer you a smaller amount than what you asked for, but more than you would have got if you never made the call.

5. Thank them profusely, ask to use their name on your endorsement list, and make sure you collect the money in a timely manner.