Running for Office? Good for You
Let’s face it: Campaigns are work, hard work. And sometimes it may seem that the job–volunteer, long hours, and few thank yous. So why mount a real campaign?
The reason people run for public office is that they want to make a difference: to right a wrong, to add their wisdom to the conversation, to ensure that taxpayer resources are well spent. This is important work and good on you for wanting to do it. If you are considering a run for office, you must see something in yourself that makes you think you would be good at the job. A well-run, serious campaign will tell others that you will be good at the job, too. And these others, voters, are the ones who will determine whether you get the job or not.
Even low budget campaigns can tell powerful stories about you and your vision. They can also set you up to be more successful once elected. A serious campaign will help you clarify what motivates you and what you offer to the voters. It can also communicate to them, and the influential players in your community, that you are a force to be reckoned with.
Reasons To Run A Real Campaign
- Builds your street cred: People respect people who work hard, put the effort in, and take the process of getting elected seriously. It shows that you will take the job seriously.
- Builds your power to pursue your ideas: During your campaign, you will meet many people and develop relationships with those you will work with–once elected–to implement your ideas, including community leaders, people interested in politics, and people interested in governing. You will also get better known by voters, opinion leaders and media. People you can ask for help when in office.
- Develops the discipline you will need to balance work, family and elected office. Running for office is like having a second job. You will be on the phone, at public meetings, walking door to door for months. A real campaign provides a clear structure to manage your time, a skill and technique you’ll find very helpful when in office.
- Gets you ready for further runs for office. Many people who run for school boards or other local offices discover that they have a talent for and like making decisions that are meaningful and positively affect our lives. Knowing what a real campaign entails makes it less daunting to consider running for mayor, or a legislative seat or even President! Once you do one, you are set for the next one!
- Develops your voice and public persona: Running for office means telling your story over and over and over. Sometimes in two minutes when you bump into a neighbor at the store, sometimes in front of crowds of hundreds.
Being clear and concise on the importance of the role and what you bring to the job – experience, knowledge, good ideas–is critical. Understanding how to make an effective pitch is key to being a successful candidate, and a successful leader. Remember, elections are like a job interview–with thousands wanting to know how well you will do the job.
What Entails A Real Campaign?
- Effective Communication: A basic website with your pitch, endorsements from respected community members, a way to support you (donation, sign up to volunteer/endorse), a nice picture of the candidate. It should be easily readable on a smartphone as well as tablet and computers.
- Candidate Campaign Statement: Needs to answer some basic questions about who you are, what you are running for and why, and what you want from your listener. This will be more complete on your website and for speeches. It also needs to be in bullet point form that you can’t forget when talking to voters or when time is limited.
- Flyers and Other Campaign Materials: Being seen and, more important, understood requires materials that are attractive, professional looking, easy to scan quickly and on message. Remit envelopes for contributions, business cards, window and lawn signs all help send the message that you are running and you are serious.
- Earned and Paid Media Strategy: Identifies ways to let the voters know about you through free coverage (voters pamphlets, editorial endorsements, events, social media) and paid advertising in traditional media as well as targeted ads on social media.
- Raising Money: Some people dislike asking for money. Alright, some people hate asking for money! A real campaign offers people a chance to invest in making their community better. Targeting people who give, and people who will give to you, is the foundation of a successful fundraising strategy. How to ask for money is a matter of being good at telling your story and never missing a chance to ask.
- Compliance with Campaign Financing Laws: Depending on where you live, you will probably have to keep detailed financial records of contributions and expenditures. A small glitch here can destroy a campaign and cost you a lot of money.
- Voter analysis: To win, you need to get 50% of votes, plus one more. Knowing who votes in your community and, more importantly, who votes in these races will help you target your efforts and understand the cost of reaching voters.
- Endorsement Strategy: People look to others for recommendations on all sorts of things. Candidates depend on getting endorsements from others to show their readiness for the job. Getting elected officials, newspaper editors, church leaders, firefighters, unions to publicly say, “XX will do a great job,” will help validate your candidacy.
- Campaign Budget, CashFlow and Calendar: Like any project or job, a campaign needs to manage its resources smartly. Pricing out what it costs to run–printing, postage, website development and hosting, database management, filing fees and maybe staff–is the first step. A calendar helps the candidate and her supporters manage time, an even more precious resource. A calendar includes important deadlines as well as sets out when the candidate is available for canvassing, phone calling and other campaign duties and when work and family take precedence.