How to Manage a Political Campaign so You Win

Political debate

There are three assets that every campaign needs in order to win: time, money, and people. Campaign managers are responsible for directing the usage of these three assets. And, the effectiveness with which time, money, and people are used is the biggest factor in what dictates the outcome of a campaign.

Political debate

This article teaches you how to manage a political campaign so as to offer the best chance of success. Learn which area’s of campaign management most often present obstacles and how to overcome. And, learn how to manage the egos, anxieties, and shortcomings of senior staff in order to maintain an effective platform.

How to Manage a Political Campaign Successfully

Winning the race is great, but only one contender takes home the gold. At the end of the day, it is up to the public if your candidate has the winning combination. For a campaign manager, there is an advantage to be taken around every corner–if you know where to look.

Public exposure is essential if voters are going to cast their ballot in your candidate’s direction at the polls. But, there is more to winning than public appeal. A popular candidate is only half of the mixture for a winning campaign.

If you want to get the votes you have to know how to manage a political campaign behind closed doors, in Washington. Public support helps to entice an endorsement from party colleagues–if your policy platform is beneficial.

Most failing campaigns fall short in a key area of management. Campaigns managers wear many hats, overseeing the campaigns marketing, research, strategizing, fundraising, finance, and more.

Core Elements of Effective Campaign Management

There are many elements of managing a political campaign, and with so many wheels spinning at once, you have to rely on your staff. A successful campaign is the result of many dedicated people trusting the heads at the top. So, remember, as the campaign manager it is your main responsibility to create and execute the overall plan.

The core responsibilities of a campaign manager are broken up into nine responsibilities. A campaign manager must…

Establish a Campaign Plan and Voter Targeting Strategy

The campaign plan and voter strategy you create is based upon the core policies, party affiliation, and battleground issues relevant to your candidate. Begin with the policy issues which your candidate brings forth. From there, compare the policy stances against policies supported by the public, and the policies of elected representatives in Washington.

This information enables you to target a voter base, as well as establish leads on coalition advocates. Look for co-party members with complimentary policy platforms, in order to build a support and advocacy base. How do they convey their message to the voters?

Find Out What’s Important to Your Base Voter Demographic

Within base voter districts, find out what issues opposition voters care about and look for ways to incorporate them into your candidate’s policy platform.

Look at information concerning the greater voter demographic. For a general election, that would be the entire United States. Running for Congress means you only have to worry about one district.

Voter demographics and past voting history is a good indicator of future voting decisions. Districts can be as independent as individual households. The average age, gender, income, and education level of a demographic is important information for targeting voters.

Build a Team of Senior Campaign Staffers

You might not have to build a team if your candidate comes to you with a team. In the event that your campaign team is already formed, it is necessary to evaluate the effectiveness of your senior staff. After all, a few months into the campaign it is the campaign managers fault if incompetency hinders success.

Hiring senior campaign staff is different than hiring for a regular managerial position. Campaigns are finite in time and every slip-up gives an advantage to the opposition. Successful campaigns need senior staff who are proactive, experienced, and reliable.

The key senior staff positions for a campaign include the treasurer, public relations coordinator, field coordinator, legal advisor, and volunteer coordinator.

Treasury Secretary

The senior treasury officer maintains the books and financial aspects of the campaign. The treasurer should be an accountant with experience in fundraising.

Public Relations Secretary

The public relations coordinator is responsible for presenting the campaign to the media and the public. A public relations coordinator builds positive relationships with media personnel, leverages print and digital campaign marketing, and oversees copy creation. They should have experience in marketing and public speaking.

Field Coordinator

The senior field coordinator oversees the management of field offices around the country. They are responsible for maintaining effective local outreach efforts at each field office location, during the campaign season.

Volunteer Coordinator

The volunteer coordinator oversees the volunteer recruitment efforts and coordinates volunteers with local field offices. They are responsible for establishing training for volunteers. And they organize and instruct volunteer supervisors on how to use volunteers for office work and in-the-field campaign work.

Campaign Manager

It is the campaign managers job to asses the senior team and determines if any other positions are needed. Today, a public relations coordinator is stretched thin, between broadcast media, digital marketing, and print copy. Many campaign managers hire a senior copywriter and senior marketing coordinator to lessen the load on public relations.

The ability to hire senior talent comes down to the campaign budget. When the budget is tight, it is up to the campaign manager to convince qualified talent to help out the campaign for free. The buck stops with the campaign manager.

Determine the Campaign Budget

The budget for your campaign determines the extent to which you can leverage tools to target voters. The bottom line is you need money to win a campaign. The budget needed for your campaign is determined upon the number of votes needed to secure a win.

The one responsible for securing most of the funding is the candidate. But, most candidates are not naturals at fundraising. It is up to the campaign manager to coach them in pitching to potential donors.

With the treasurer, the manager establishes an adaptable finance plan for the campaign. The manager is responsible for cultivating a base of potential donors and executing fundraising events. The manager also consults the senior legal advisor on the laws around political fundraising.

For general elections, many candidates and managers agree to hire a fundraising coordinator to manage the details of fundraising events and outreach to donors. If efforts are falling short, it is the manager’s responsibility to raise the funds needed for the budget, while adhering to the letter of the law.

How to Figure Out How Much Money the Campaign Needs

One way to assess the general cost of a campaign is to account for the cost of a vote. It costs about $0.50 to put a candidate face in front of a voter. And, it takes at least six instances of interaction for a voter to seriously consider voting for a candidate.

So, that means that each vote costs, around $3. If you are running a very small election campaign that only needs 50,000 votes to win, the general campaign cost is around $500k to $700k.

After all, if you only pay for 50k voters you are relying on every single voter to cast a ballot for your candidate. Odds are that some of the voters will go for the other candidate, so you have to pay for much wider exposure than the votes needed to win.

Currently, the upcoming 2020 presidential election is already gaining financial support for candidates on both sides of the aisle. Independent Senator Bernie Sanders from Vermont has already raised over $20 million in fundraising for a run for the Democratic nomination.

Meanwhile, a newcomer to national politics and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, Pete Buttigieg has raised over $7 million for a 2020 run.

Build and Diversify Political Coalitions

Political alliances are crucial in any campaign for office. Even city and state campaigns need allies in office. And, this is where the campaign manager really shines.

The campaign manager is charged with securing cooperation from officials in government, the private sector, and non-governmental organizations. Support from community leaders, religious leaders, and political leaders is crucial for swaying voters away from the opposition.

Look to unexpected allies that do not hold a vested interest in the candidacies success. When voters see that admirable figures are in support, they will likely follow. Venture outside politics, to sports, entertainment, and cultural figures.

Non-profit organizations are good advocates to have on your candidate’s side. On the other hand, activist groups and grassroots organizations provide passion and a voice that spreads your message.

Once your campaign reaches a national platform, organizations might approach the campaign to offer support in exchange for publicity.

Final Political Marketing Thoughts

Once you have established a coalition of support, it is time to get the word out to voters. The few weeks before an election campaigns kick into high-gear with advertising and outreach efforts. Don’t underestimate the power of in-person appearances for your candidate.

And, when in doubt, go after the battleground voters. Every hard-earned vote from the fence swingers matters ten times as much as the base. At the end of the day, the best way to win a political campaign is to sway the hearts and minds of the people.

If you like this article on how to manage a political campaign, share it on social media. And check out the blog for more resources about political marketing. Thanks for reading!

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