Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Advice for the New Year and some Imaginary Dialogue for the 2015 Candidate

ADVENTURES OF CAMPAIGN GIRL A not totally imaginary dialogue with a candidate I didn’t kill

Working on campaigns sounds glamorous, adventuresome and nail biting.

Well, it can be all of those, but judging from the length of my nails, I’d say number three has the others beat by a mile. They forget to tell you about hair pulling, sleep losing and client murdering.

At least there are plenty of times, you want to murder the client.

Like the thirtieth time she says, “We have to cut back on expenses, like graphic design, or I won’t have any money left at the end of the campaign.”

Hand me the knife. Maybe I could just fall on it myself. Instead, I just smile, and say, “I know how you feel. It’s very frustrating to ask people, especially strangers for money, but if we don’t have enough money, we can’t get your message out. Part of getting your message out is having good graphics. It’s not something we can skimp on.”
This is only the beginning: “But I’m running on a campaign finance reform platform. People won’t respect me if I spend a lot of money on expensive graphics.”

“People won’t know anything about you if you don’t have good graphics. Worse, they’ll think you’re cheap and careless and how much do you think they’ll respect you then?”

“I’d rather spend the money on signs.”

“Signs don’t win elections. The best they can do is remind people to vote.”

“When people hear me talk, they always like what they hear.”

“You can only reach a handful of prospective voters in person. You need to have good mail to reach the voters. You need to reach them again and again. That’s why we need to raise money and spend it on good graphics, plus signs, plus ads, plus publicity for your events.”

“And that’s another thing. I don’t think people want to spend a lot of money coming to a fancy event in a restaurant. If they like me, they’d be just as happy coming to a private home. My friend Signe said we could use her home anytime.”

“And she’ll do the catering?”

“No, you can get volunteers to make things. Maybe we can find local restaurants to donate some food, too.”

And so it goes. Anyone who’s in this business long enough has heard the stories, met the clients.  Why do we stay in it?
Not for the big bucks. You can’t get rich from the local school board race or town council in a town with a population of 7500.

Most campaign consultants I know have other gigs that pay the rent.  They do media for business and non-profits; they teach at the community college or even sell real estate or practice law.

It’s a labor of love. When your candidate scores an upset victory over a much better funded opponent, the high is incomparable.  My guilty secret is the high is better for me than for the candidate; she has to face the prospect of all those meetings, all those constituents with demands.

I get to go on to the next campaign and answer another set of questions from skeptical clients:

“Why should I use a Union printer, instead of my uncle Jack who does the Chamber of Commerce newsletter?

“Do I have to walk precincts? Can’t I just take out an ad in the Shopping News? Why must I call people during their dinner hour; won’t that make them mad?”

And my all-time favorite:

“Why would my opponent say that about me? I thought he was a nice guy. Can I tear his guts out now?”

If you plan a run this year, be prepared for your consultant to gently explain why most of these ideas won’t work if you really want to win your campaign. Happy New Year!