The Campaigns Chair shall be responsible for coordinating candidate recruitment, training, and support. The following guide is provided for the benefit of the Campaigns Chair, all prospective and eventual candidates, and the campaign team, alike.
The campaign may be considered to have four phases:
Preplanning: office and candidate size-up
- Developing a plan of attack
- Campaign operations
- Post-campaign assessment
Additional tips for running a successful campaign will follow.
You must give yourself an HONEST assessment of your abilities, resources, and compatibility with the chosen office. Are you outgoing, able to make friends easily, and successful in your profession? Or are you more reserved and intellectual, and find satisfaction working on technical projects? The first personality type would be well-suited for a city council, state assembly, or state senate run; these offices will require a lot of public speaking, fundraising, and coalition-building. The second personality type would be better suited to a board position, such as a water or flood zone board.
With an honest assessment you may find running for office does not suit you. This is okay! The candidate is just the tip of the iceberg. Most of what it takes to win public office happens behind the scenes. Without a solid team, even the best candidate is likely to fail (as most of our lone wolves do!) So if candidacy is not for you, consider being part of the support team. The campaign will need your skills and knowledge!
- Office assessment
- Do you live in the proper area for the office?
- Does the office require a professional license (as is the case for Sheriff, District Attorney, Assessor, etc.)?
- In the past has there been heated competition for this post?
- What positions or background did previous officer-holders have?
- How many votes has it taken to be elected to this office?
- What level of funding did the winner(s) have?
- Who will be your competition?
- Is there an incumbent?
- Are you competing with rookies off the street, or is there a candidate backed by a local political machine?
- How big of a war chest and operation will you need?
- What are the legal and filing requirements?
- Can you file with a fee, and/or will you need to collect signatures?
- Are there fundraising declarations you must file?
(Failure to file, or improper filings, can end a run before it starts!)
- Are you ready to tackle Everest—or should you wait a season and work on building your skills, resources and supplies?
- Candidate assessment
Rate yourself (honestly!) from one through five on each of the following questions. Then rate your opponent(s) as best you can. Add up your score, then your opponent(s)’, and you will have an idea of whether you can win.
- Are you well known in your community?
- Are you in a place with your personal and professional life that you can commit long hours each week to campaigning?
- Do you enjoy meeting new people and interacting with crowds?
- Are you able to make friends quickly?
- Can you commit a substantial amount of money to the campaign?
- Do you have friends who will contribute money to your campaign?
- Do you know many people who would volunteer to help your campaign?
- Will the public see you as most qualified for the position?
- Do the majority of voters in your area tend to agree with you on most issues?
- Do you really want to win and serve in this office?
Now that you’ve scored yourself and your opponents, you have a good idea of whether this is a winnable venture. If your score is low, it does not mean you can’t be successful, just that it will take a lot of work to bring those scores up. Can you do it in the timeframe for this election? Or would it be better to either find another office or work on strengthening your weak areas for a future run.
Once you’ve decided you’re ready to be a candidate, these next steps are critical.
- Developing a plan of attack (for the candidate and campaign as a whole)
The object of a campaign is to win. If all your decisions and actions are based on this objective, you will maximize your success. If you plan to build your campaign on a single issue or are hoping that educating the public on your principles will be enough, you are destined to fail and may also compromise your future ability to effect change on these issues. In order to win, you must convey a message that will resonate with voters and motivate a sufficient number to go to the polls to vote for you.
Build a winning message. This is an area where Libertarians have failed in the past. When crafting a message you need to address issues and themes that the VOTERS (not just you) care about. As a party advocating free markets, we know that you must compete to provide value to consumers. It is no different in politics. Most people vote on issues that directly affect them, and not on a political philosophy. We must get out into the community and find out what the “hot button” issues are, then reach into our libertarian toolbox and come up with solutions that will provide value to our customers (voters).
You should pick one to three issues that resonate with the community. Don’t just build easy-to-understand-and-implement solutions, but develop them into a cohesive theme that will cast the solutions and candidate in a positive light. You need to make them seem plausible and deliver them with a “can do” attitude (use “we” and verbs to build buy-in). This should be distilled into a two to three minute pitch that will be repeated at each campaign stop. The way you are perceived to deal with issues, and your leadership qualities and temperament, will be as or more important to most voters than the specifics of your plans. It is important to know what your competitors are using for their message. This will not only allow you to prepare rebuttals, but lets you monitor how the issues being raised by both you and your competitor are resonating with the public. Always be prepared to shift gears and add or drop issues from your theme.
- Campaign operations
Build a successful organizational structure. Starting with a well organized but flexible management structure will allow you to keep track of volunteers and resources while not being overwhelmed, or micromanaging. We suggest using a system based on the concept called “span of control.” This dictates that one person can directly manage between three to seven people, with five being ideal. This will allow the campaign manager to begin directly supervising the tasks and staff when the campaign is small. Then as it grows you will know when it’s time to expand the structure and delegate tasks.
The top position in the campaign is the Campaign Manager, not the candidate. This is because the candidate has specific tasks that require the candidate to learn and perform big-picture subjects and roles; he or she does not need to be bogged down with the minute details of the campaign. The candidate should choose as campaign manager someone whom he or she trusts and who knows the candidate’s style and values. Then the manager should be allowed to do the job!
The campaign manager will need to recruit and train an executive staff that will report directly to the manager. These positions are the Treasurer, Logistics Officer, Operations Officer and Press Officer. The first to be filled should be the Treasurer. On a small campaign, this may be all you need. In this case the campaign manager must perform the functions of the other positions. The following is a brief overview of SOME of the responsibilities of these positions.
The Treasurer will ensure that the actions of all members of the campaign are prudent and in compliance with regulations. The campaign manager and candidate must work to make sure the treasurer has access to all facets, and compliance from all members, of the campaign. The treasurer shall:
- Update campaign manager on funding status.
- Develop projections for future needs expected to occur weekly, monthly and for the duration of the campaign.
- Address Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) compliance, and file necessary documents.
- Coordinate with other officers to ensure their efforts fall within the campaign’s budgetary limits and comply with FEC and other regulations.
The logistics officer is responsible for all physical products employed by the campaign, as well as coordinating all events. This officer shall:
- Order and track campaign materials used at events and during day-to-day operations.
- Work with the Treasurer to keep records and cost projections for materials up to date.
- Identify locations for fundraisers and rallies and obtain necessary permits.
- Coordinate with Operations to enlist volunteers to set up and break down events.
- Recruit assistants for regional areas as needed.
The operations officer is responsible for organizing and training volunteers, and working with the party and other groups to register voters. This officer shall:
- Organize volunteers by region and task.
- Identify and train regional organizers.
- Work with webmaster to push information to the public/volunteers.
- Work internally with the party and externally with community groups to register Libertarians and other potential voters.
The operations officer shall organize volunteers in groups of three to seven by geographic location. Each group will have a leader that will interface with the operations officer. In the event that more than five groups are established, they will be sub-divided, again by geographic location. Operations will be responsible for training and equipping group leaders, and ensuring group leaders understand the strategy and tasks, as well as the tools available to complete the tasks. Organizing in small regional groups will give an ideal span of control, and allow each team, with their knowledge and contacts in the local area, the flexibility to employ the most effective tactics for their area. This is key to our “insurgent” style strategy.
Work teams may be further broken down by task(s). All teams, task and geographical, should report back to the executive staff level, that is, to the campaign officers. All requests for resources, such as funds, materials, volunteers, etc., between task teams and geographical teams should be made at the executive staff level.
Examples of task groups: Web operations, press team, merchandise selection.
Examples of geographic groups: neighborhoods, voter precincts.
After training and equipping our volunteers we must trust them to use their knowledge and talents to execute their tasks. Group leaders should give Operations regular updates on actions and progress. Operations will process this information for use in other areas or to take corrective action to get the group back on track and make sure goals are met.
The press officer is responsible for promoting the candidate to the public through media channels. Among the activities, the press officer shall:
- Work with staff to create a calendar of events.
- Identify members of the press/media and build relationships with them.
- Work with Logistics to identify event venues that best expose the candidate to the public and media.
- Develop promotional materials.
- Work with webmaster and bloggers to maximize exposure and mold image and tone of the campaign and candidate.
- Monitor and integrate social networking sites.
Using Internet/blogging, strategic event placement and volunteer action/pressure we can gain “earned” media, which means media coverage that pursues the candidate, versus coverage the campaign purchases. We should have a candidate presence at all public events with large attendance and media presence. We will have volunteers at all opponents’ events to gather information. Community members will be recruited to hold events and fundraisers. The press officer should assist the candidate with developing commercials and setting up a video log to communicate to voters on a variety of issues in a way that builds a relationship with the voter. The officer will coordinate all press inquires and aim to coordinate interviews with events and upcoming candidate appearances.
Because it could take thousands of volunteers, or tens of thousands of dollars for TV and print media to reach out to the entire district daily—and this may not be a viable option—we must make Web operations the cornerstone of our efforts. Web-based advertising will be a key element to drive traffic to your website. Therefore, the website must be visually appealing and informative, and must possess features for search engine optimization and integration with social networking and other websites (e.g., LP sites).
We must also identify and utilize the online tools available to effectively reach out to the public; for example, using Facebook to accumulate contacts, then asking them to join our email list (and volunteer for the campaign). For large-scale campaigns we recommend using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. This will allow the campaign to easily store and access data such as emails and street addresses. (CRM is also useful for establishing volunteer call- and walk-lists, and assigning track tasks and log dispositions for staff and volunteers.)
- Post-campaign assessment
In this phase, you will break down all aspects of the campaign and mine data that will assist you and other Libertarians who will run in the future.
- Fundraising: Were your projected fundraising goals adequate? Were you able to identify and solicit donors? Did you find unexpected funding sources? Did your modes of fundraising work? Did your opponent have better systems?
- Message: Which of your issues and themes connected with voters? Were voters clear on your positions, or could you have better refined your message? Did your opponent better connect with voters, and why? Did you properly utilize the media to deliver your message?
- Demographics: Did the voters cast their ballots as your team expected? With which groups did you do best, and worst? Why did they choose you or your opponent? What, if anything, would have swayed their votes?
- Campaign staff/structure: Were the campaign’s goals and message clear to the entire team? Did the team get materials and funding in a timely manner? Were the responsibilities and reporting chain clear to all team members? Was the campaign able to cover all required tasks and areas?
- Candidate: Did people enjoy working with the candidate? Would they continue to support the candidate? Did the candidate’s stature in the community grow during the campaign? What traits or skills could the candidate improve on?
Additional guidelines and tips for a successful campaign:
Advertising development: First research to know your electorate. Check the census website for your district. Go to miscellaneous group meetings to see how they work and to learn your district’s values. Target your audience and select type of media—digital, print, radio, etc.—based on issues and demographics. For the millennial generation, digital is most effective. Baby-boomers, who are the typically the largest voting bloc, respond to print and digital. Senior voters read primarily print media.
Appearance/attire: Dress neatly and appropriately at all times. Even when a suit is too formal for the occasion, a sports jacket for men or blazer for women should be on hand at public events. It can always be removed, but will be available when needed to make a professional statement, particularly when media is present for interviews or photographs. Shoes should look to be in good condition (appearing new/un-scuffed).
Attitude: Be enthusiastic. You’re a salesperson. Find a personal story for every issue. Identify what’s special about you and why you should be respected. Confidence is imperative: act like a winner.
Communication: Make calls. Write commentaries. Have an attractive message. Don’t use the term “Libertarian” too often; aim your words to non-Libertarians. The media can’t wait to marginalize you. Tailor your speeches and brochures to the audience. Take advantage of “hot” stories. Find common ground, then give the punch line; politics is part show-biz, entertainment. The media wants ratings: ego is okay. If you get penned in, quickly move on or get back to the subject. Smile. Be positive. Don’t be too intellectual. Get a publicist if you can. Always say yes to the media, whenever they want to meet with you. Get a domain name. Understand the other side. Describe yourself, and stay away from how your opponent describes you and himself. For issues, use the format: Problem, Solution, Benefits. Be repetitive. Be ready to counteract objections. If you are short on time, don’t start a big explanation or argument. But where you have the time and opportunity, pick apart an issue down to its roots. Accuse your opponent where you can.
Donors: Donors may contribute directly, make pledges, or give in-kind. The campaign’s finance officer will manage and track the donations. It’s the candidate who should be asking for money for two reasons: the candidate needs to be meeting donors one-on-one; it’s harder for people to turn down the candidate than other members of the campaign. As the candidate, 1) Find out something personal about the prospective donor and mention it when you greet him or her; 2) Ask family, friends and spouses to donate; 3) Network with special interest groups to do events big and small; 4) Check nonprofit groups’ donor lists; 5) Always ask for a specific dollar amount; 6) Ask for a monthly pledge; 7) Ask if it’s okay to request a future donation; 8) If the donor is a big corporation, connect with its lobbyist.
Put donors at ease; taking their money is a very personal thing, but it also makes them feel special. Make them feel vested in your success. Watch body language. Invite big donors to attend events free of charge. Give a private briefing of your campaign to make them feel like an insider.
In terms of donor motivations, these are the general tendencies: Low-level donors are issues-driven. Mid-level donors give for social reasons. Big donors give for access to the political machine. Target low donors with direct mail and internet advertising, mid-level donors with fundraisers and larger donors with a personal touch.
Door-to-door canvassing: Visiting people at their front doors reaches more voters than yard signs and creates a valuable personal connection. Precincts have 1500-5000 households. Walk twice. Find one good volunteer so he or she can find others. Contact new volunteers within 24 hours. Say thank you and “we’re looking for a place for you.” Carry a list showing what each volunteer will do, and have tasks available. Always ask if they can bring a friend. Hold a meeting before canvassing. Assign only certain people to speak on behalf of the candidate. They should know five topics well and have bullets for the others. It’s okay to say “I’ll get the candidate to call you.” This is better than risking a volunteer saying the wrong thing. In major campaigns it makes sense to interview and background-check front-line volunteers. Be strict but show appreciation.
Endorsements: Who is partial to you? Who are the influential people? Network with them. Build coalitions. Ask for their endorsements and other support.
Events: Plan 6-8 weeks ahead. Check conflicting dates with other groups. Find an influential person to be the host. Find inexpensive venues; serve food. Ask donors/businesses for in-kind donations to help fund the event. Send nice invitations. Cast a large net. Expect a lot. People will come because they enjoy being sociable. Offer tiered events: pay more to get more, e.g., photo with a celebrity. Decorate. Get media coverage! Send handwritten thank you notes.
Fundraising letters: These should be as long as you need them to be. The more you tell, the more you sell. Show how you can benefit them, not just the features of your candidacy. High donors, especially, want to know a lot before they give. Target the recipient. Use short words, sentences, paragraphs. Use bullets, underlining. Write the way you speak. Use white space freely to keep it flowing. Be realistic. Say why your campaign is important. Demonstrate how you can win. Do an honest assessment. Use numbers, history, facts. The top of the letter should not be a logo; it should be an attention-grabbing headline. Get a supporter to sign—the more well known, the better. Always have a “P.S.” as a quick summary (don’t ask for money again). Offer something free, even if it’s just your website address. The headline and P.S. are most important. Capture some drama. Use action words. Be scintillating.
Mailings: Send no earlier than 90 days prior to election. Tailor messages by precinct. First mailing may be used as an issue poll.
Surveys and polling: These will help you research stakeholders, those who share your positions on issues and/or your philosophical principles. Hold a focus group. Send out surveys. Conduct a telephone poll (see Telephone Outreach).
Telephone outreach: Use robo-calls to send an invitation to an event, have someone endorse you, say “get out and vote,” do a polling survey, give your stand on an issue, etc. Robo-calls are cost effective. Do two to three times if you can: the first before the vote-by-mail deadline, the second halfway to election day, the third in the morning the day before election day. Always use most current data. Use your voice or a woman’s voice (women vote more), or use a well-known person (or even a child if it’s appropriate). Make it an energetic 20-25 seconds. Say “None of us really like these recorded messages…” Phone trees with voicemail are easy and inexpensive. Be aware of “Truth in Caller ID” laws. It’s illegal to send recorded messages to cell phones. Some states only allow recorded messages to go to answering machines. Some states restrict times you can call, but it’s usually between 8am and 9pm. Recommendation is 10am to 5pm. There are big fines by the FCC. Check with a telecommunications attorney. Always use a disclaimer, i.e. “paid for by…” Don’t make a negative statement unless it’s true.