6 Easy Campaign Mistakes
6 Easy Mistakes Political Campaigns Can Avoid.
1. Not having/following a written plan and budget.
Believe it or not, we’ve walked into campaigns that have raised and spent $1 million without having a budget – or anything to really show for the money they spent. Money management is key to winning elections. Don’t spend your budget on unnecessary stuff, like a band at your kickoff, knickknacks with your logo on them, balloons, etc. If direct voter contact is the top priority of your campaign – and it should be! – make sure that it’s reflected in your budget.
2. Thinking your campaign for state house is going to reinvent how elections are won.
We see this most often with candidates who struggle with fundraising, but it’s not limited to them. Deciding you’re going to win your election by putting all your money into billboards, yard signs or your latest campaign-flavor-of-the-month is crazy. Also, you’re not Barack Obama/Donald Trump/Howard Dean. Just because they raised a ton of money online doesn’t mean you don’t have to do your call time.
3. Spreading your media dollars too thin.
This is a common mistake: Campaigns will send out one direct mail piece, take out a few newspaper ads, run a radio ad and spend some money on social media. They do this in the belief that the more outlets they try, the better their chances of reaching the correct audience. Wrong! There are two principles of advertising – reach (how many people see your ad) and frequency (how often they see it). A successful ad campaign has both. Advertisers price their offerings based on reach, and you have to spend enough to obtain frequency. If you get offered “a really good deal” – it’s because nobody is seeing your ad, or it’s on a platform, like many digital areas, that requires more frequency than others.
One mail piece is not an advertising campaign! We strongly recommend that campaigns achieve coverage using one channel before adding in a second, supplemental channel. For smaller campaigns, you may only have bandwidth for one channel – and for small campaigns, that most likely will be direct mail.
CN4 Partners can streamline your media strategy. Connect with CN4 Partners (below) and we’ll see how we can help.
4. Running on the issues.
Of course, issues play a part in campaigns. However, campaigns aren’t only about issues – you want to connect the candidate’s qualities and experience to the voters’ needs. Think of issues like ornaments on a Christmas tree. They make the tree more festive, but no matter how many ornaments you have, without the tree, you have nothing to hang them on. The candidate is the tree; the issues can only be put on the tree after you establish who the candidate is, why she or he is running and connect the candidate to the voters.
So, on your campaign, don’t lead with your 10-point plan. Lead with a story that introduces the candidate to the voters in a relatable way.
Storytelling has been used by human beings for millennia to convey values. For some great reading on this, try “Don’t Think of an Elephant” by Berkeley linguistics professor George Lakoff or “The Political Brain” by Emory University psychologist Drew Westen.
5. Not spending enough time laying the groundwork for your campaign.
You might have already made this mistake and not even noticed it. If you want to run for office, don’t get in on the last day of filing and announce your availability to the world. The best candidates lay their groundwork months and even years ahead of time by being involved in local organizations; getting to know political players; conducting research on themselves, their voting records and what’s available online; and having a well-established fundraising base. Many campaigns are won before they even start.
6. Wasting time.
There are three variables in any campaign: people, time and money. Of these, time is the most important, as you can’t make any more of it. It’s the only fixed variable in your campaign. The candidate must be focused on one of two things: raising money and talking to voters. Anything beyond those two activities MUST be outsourced to other people.
What campaign mistakes have you seen? Submit them here.