How to run a strong political campaign

Maximize your potential for success on the campaign trail

Story by kaitlin motley

Researching in an effective and efficient manner is the first and most critical step in creating a winning campaign.

“Find out everything in the public sphere about you and your opponents,” says Larry Jacob, partner at The Dover Group, a communications strategy company that has offices in Kansas City, Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago. After completing detailed research, Jacob says, “find out how the public reacts to that.”

Browsing public records and conducting public opinion surveys and polls are all effective ways to investigate. Completing careful, thorough research will prime you to carry out the next steps in the campaign process. Results should tell you which voters you can count on and which voters you need to persuade and to what degree.

From there, you can determine a voter profile and the avenues of communication that will most effectively reach that demographic.

Succinct, effective messaging will energize your voters.

“Move the people,” Jacob says, and don’t shy away from utilizing social media throughout the campaign. “Every piece of social media is a variation of a phone call, a two-way conversation.”

Because of the conversational, interactive nature of social media, supporters will feel like they’re part of the decision-making process, and undecided voters will feel like their concerns are being heard.

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other social media platforms can be integrated together to help rally support and engage volunteers to build your voter base. “Social media is not just a place for the campaign [staff] to post things but also to learn and interact,” Jacob says.

“Decide whom to communicate with, whom to contact and who will support you,” Jacob says.

That decision should be based on the results of your initial research. From the determined voter profile, decide on the most effective form of communication to reach that demographic.

Consider the age, gender and socioeconomic background of your target voters, and then figure out the best way to reach them. Television, radio, direct mail, online, phone calls and door-to-door visits should all be considered among the options.

“Targeting takes legwork and many avenues of communication,” Jacob says. The politician who mingles with voters, shakes hands and personally makes phone calls will always prevail over the one who simply runs television ads.

The most substantial part of any campaign budget lies in effective communication with voters. “Once [your method] is established, everything falls into place because you have a sense of scope,” Jacob says.

If you’ve researched properly, you’ll know whom to target and how, and you won’t waste money on unsuccessful targeting endeavors. When fundraising, consider the three resources of political campaigns: money, people and time. If a fundraiser won’t increase any of the three, look for another option. One commonly overlooked resource is your personal phone book.

“People like to overcomplicate [fundraising] and try to get a huge event with celebrities,” Jacob says. “Call your friends and family first. Chances are someone in your friend or family circle knows someone who can contribute.”

“As much as I’d like to say strategy or intellect, sometimes [success] is about brute discipline,” Jacob says. He suggests writing down your plan at the very beginning of the campaign process and making sure your entire team understands the intricacies of the plan and is committed to following through.

“I would have a couple people on your team that you trust from your personal circle, but it’s also important to have passionate professionals who can express a certain degree of objectivity,” Jacob says.

And no matter what type of pressure you face to spend resources frivolously, don’t stray from the original plan. “Deviations from the plan must be fact-based, research-based, conscious decisions,” Jacob says.