Winning an election is not about what you think it is about. It is like running a business, being organized, having the right staff and getting enough money to fund a successful organization.
We don’t want to discourage anyone from running for office, but you do need to know what you are in for – and if you have lost an election before, you need to understand WHY. Here are some hopefully helpful campaign tips, based on our years of experience:
- If you do not have the money to run for office, do yourself a favor – don’t run! By engaging in an unorganized, unfunded effort, you are seriously damaging your own credibility and will never be taken seriously as a candidate. Don’t do it!
- Having said that, you need to watch out for unscrupulous campaign consultants who will encourage you to run, even though you may not be a viable candidate. They only want your money.
- Realize the world does not revolve around you. If you want to be a “Public Servant”, you’ve got to act like one.
- Don’t expect groups or people to formally endorse you if you have not been a supporter of theirs or a paid member. Groups are very wary of candidates who think only of themselves. Many groups will send out candidate surveys. If you don’t fill those out COMPLETELY and on time, you will get no endorsement.
- You must establish your campaign budget. Most big donors are going to ask to see it before they take you seriously or give you money.
- One of the very first things you should do is buy a CURRENT voter list directly from the source. It should be for your district only and if it is a partisan race, you might consider only buying the names of those who are registered with your party – especially for a primary. It is the best investment you will ever make. Do not buy lists from third parties! Your campaign manager will help you get data and they will know what to do with the data.
- Google yourself BEFORE you tell anyone that you plan to run for office. You might have some cleanup to do!
- Don’t let your ego get the best of you. Don’t think you are going to reinvent the wheel. You’re not.
- Do not make any sort of announcement whatsoever until you have cleaned up ALL your social media and you have put all your profiles on private or friends only.
- Pay attention to filing deadlines. Ideally, you want to start AT LEAST a year ahead of the primary.
- Don’t fight with ANYONE on social media. Ever. That is the dumbest thing you can do.
- If someone asks you a question, give them a straight answer.
- Always take care of your volunteers, even if they are family. Buy them lunch, give them gas cards, tell them you appreciate them.
- If you have to keep saying you are “running on principle” (that is the excuse unfunded candidates always use) you are running for the wrong reasons and you are not a serious candidate.
- Don’t be in everyone’s face all the time. Learn how to be quiet and LISTEN!
- People don’t care about all your policy positions and they hate know-it-alls. Be nice, gracious and pleasant. THAT is what people vote for. If voters cared about policy, do you think we would have the congress that we have? Trust me, people don’t care about how smart you are. It is a real turnoff when candidates think they are better than everyone else. You need to let your campaign team carefully create your policy statements. They need to be very brief and concise.
- Being able to raise money says that you have SUPPORT from someone other than yourself. People WILL look at your campaign finance reports and the media will probably report on it. You NEED the support of others, for many reasons.
- Don’t make the mistake of self-funding everything. No one likes someone who thinks they can buy an election. Raising money is important for many reasons. First of all, it gets you out there talking to voters and secondly, every dollar someone gives you is an INVESTMENT in you. Even that $5.00 donation is very important. You’d better believe that the person who gives you $5.00 feels just as vested as the guy who gives you $500.00.
- If you are a Libertarian, run as a Libertarian not a Republican or Democrat. The three parties have three totally different platforms, don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Voters aren’t that easily fooled.
- Don’t get a domain name with hyphens or numbers or abbreviations. It will be very hard for people to find you. Plus, it looks goofy. Your domain name should be a .com
- Getting a free or cheap website such as WIx, Weebly, GoDaddy, NationBuilder, etc., will make you look like you have no money and are not a serious candidate. Yes, people know the difference and your competition knows too. When inexperienced candidates announce their campaign and they have a crappy website and nothing exciting on social media, that signals to anyone else thinking of running that you are a WEAK candidate and easy to beat. However, if you have everything together BEFORE you announce, it should put the fear of God into anyone else thinking about running for that office. Yes, we offer web hosting services and web development with all the extras.
- Don’t manage your own social media and NEVER allow your family/friends to run it. You will be sorry!
- If you think you can manage a campaign AND be a candidate, you should not run for office. Managing a campaign is very hard work and is very time consuming. You won’t have time to be a candidate if you are spending all day managing the campaign. Candidates should not be spending their time dealing with vendors, media or volunteers.
- Anytime you are doing an interview, make sure to mention your website several times. Let your campaign manager come up with your talking points. That’s what they are there for.
- Be a winner, not a whiner.
- There is no need to attend events just for the sake of attending an event. Some events are just not worth the time, effort or money and when you show up there is like, 20 people there. You could have used all that time being on the phone talking to voters or donors.
- A campaign manager is not your babysitter, errand boy or shrink – we are experienced professionals.
- Be a graceful loser. Don’t be an Al Gore or a Roy Moore! Live to fight another day!
THE VERY FIRST THING YOU SHOULD DO WITH DONORS IS TO SEND THEM A THANK YOU CARD AND A CAMPAIGN BUMPER STICKER WITHIN THREE DAYS! If they donate again (a week or more later on) SEND THEM ANOTHER CARD AND STICKER!
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