So you’ve decided you want to run for elected office? Good on you for wanting to dedicate your time to public service for the intended betterment of society. However, if this is your first time running, there are some critical pieces to the puzzle to make you have in place before you throw your name into the hat. Depending on what level of government you’re seeking, the points below will have different levels of importance. Putting these pieces in place will give you the best chance for winning.
Before You Announce
1. Make Sure Your Family Is On Board
Politics is divisive, there’s no question about it. You can count on your opponents to look for skeletons in your closet, along with those people closest to you in your life. This is much more common for high-profile type of races vs small state or local races. For some candidates this means you and your family will be under the microscope. It’s absolutely critical that you have their blessing, and set their expectations of how your campaign may play out, long before you decide to announce your candidacy.
Other, more common issues you may run into in this regard, is that your time is going to taken up by campaign activities. Tasks like day-to-day house work, shuttling kids to different activities, and spending time with family will likely be cut down. Your family will also need to understand that if you win your election, you may have some late night meetings, as public service positions can be a 24/7 endeavor vs your average 9-5 position.
2. Educate Yourself On Campaign Laws And Regulations
There are many rules and regulations when it comes to politics. Educate yourself on all that apply to the level of government you’re seeking. Some common items will include finance laws regarding fundraising and spending efforts, as well as outbound communication (i.e. mass email and mass sms messaging). Trail Blazer already provides some failsafe tools to make sure you aren’t spamming your base with unwanted messages, and instead are only sending messages to people who’ve explicitly opted-in. We also provide for online forms that integrate with your website to organically collect contact information from people that want to stay in touch with your campaign efforts. There’s no limit to the amount of mass emails you can send through our system.
3. Put Together A Strategy
A good strategy will go a long way when it comes to announcement day. For instance, it will be important to research the issues voters are most concerned about, and decide where you stand on these issues. You may want to collaborate with others in your party as well in an effort to get their endorsement. Strategizing on future GOTV efforts, mass email messages, voter targeting, volunteer management, and social media are just a few other topics you’ll want to have in place so that things run as smoothly as possible. There’s a plethora of research available on the web for campaign strategies that are time-tested that you may want to explore. The expert support staff at Trail Blazer will be ready to assist you with all aspects of leveraging your voter database should you decide to use us. We’ve worked with numerous campaigns over the last 18 years, from city council up to US Senate races. We’re also non-partisan so we see what strategies work on both sides of the isle.
4. Fill Key Staff Positions
Hiring key staff and/or finding people to volunteer their time for you campaign is incredibly important. People are busy with day jobs, and personal lives, so making sure that your different staff members can dedicate an adequate amount of time to your campaign is crucial. If you’re running a federal race you’ll want to make sure you have a treasurer that is abreast of current campaign finance laws, and is detail-oriented so that your books stay up-to-snuff. Since we include all of the FEC filing tools built-in, you can rest assured that your treasure’s time won’t be wasted shifting data from one system to another to file your compliance reports. If you’re running a state race, we provide export tools that make it easy to pull data from Trail Blazer into a spreadsheet for both contributions and expenses, so that you can upload it to your state’s reporting site.
What to Have In Place When You Announce
1. Implement A Website With Forms (Volunteer / Donate / Email Signup)
Many campaigns will rely on their Facebook page to keep supports up-to-date on what’s happening, but it’s still important to have, at the very least, a basic website built with a url that’s easy to say/write (e.g. you may want to broadcast your website on a radio advertisement, so people need to be able to spell it). Nearly every campaign site will have these sections:
- Donation Form
- Email Signup Form
- Volunteer Signup Form
- List Of Issues You Support
- Links To Social Media Accounts
The Trail Blazer database can easily link to your site for nearly all of these needs so that the data collected is seamlessly put into the backend database. Our software makes it very easy to embed donation, email signup, and volunteer forms on your existing website so that your website visitor never leaves your site and you can style these forms to match your website’s color scheme.
2. Activate A Way To Collect Donations
If you plan on taking donations for your campaign (which is typically more important for larger races), and is one of the best ways to win an election, then you’ll need a way to safety collect money through your site. You want it to look professional and be secure. You also need to be careful that you collect all the information you might need for campaign finance disclosure. We at Trail Blazer currently integrate with four different merchant gateway companies so that all you do is use our donation form on your site to collect that required information, and they take care of the secure credit card processing to your bank account behind the scene. One of the many benefits of using a gateway we integrate with is that it keeps the donor on your website the entire time without redirecting them to a 3rd party website to fill out a donation form.
3. Put A Database In Place And Learn Said Database
One of the most important things you can do to win an election is to engage with likely supporters, and get them to the polling place on Election Day. A voter database like Trail Blazer makes it very easy to target people by geographic location, age, gender, vote history, and hundreds of other data points you may be tracking. Our software has been utilized by campaigns since 2001 and is constantly improved from feedback from our customers.
Purchasing a database is pretty easy, and there are plenty on the market, but making sure that your staff members who need to use the system are well-trained on it is equally important. We provide a 1-hour introduction class to get you up to speed, and ongoing training at no additional cost. We also provide articles and videos that cover just about everything.
4. Compile A List Of Contacts / Prospects / Voters
You’re going to need data to put into your database. There are different ways of going about this. Typically, you can purchase voter data from your state (the cost may vary from free, to very expensive depending on your state). Putting in the research to make sure your voter data is up-to-date, and contains the information you’ll need (such as voter history) is very important. Trail Blazer has many voter lists, if you live in a state where we already have voter data, you can simply let us know what area your race is taking place, and we’ll import those voters (along with the data the state board of elections provides). If you don’t, or you’ve acquired data that you would prefer to use, one of our onboarding steps is to upload your data within 7 business days from the time we receive it; you can hire us to perform subsequent imports, or import data on your own free-of-charge.
Besides voter data, you may want to compile a list of personal contacts to reach out to. This can be accomplished in different ways, but a common method is exporting a list from your personal email service.
5. Social Media Pages
Make sure that you have social media accounts up on announcement day. Spending the time to brand them with your unique style, images, etc., is also important. Getting people to engage via social media is one of the “newer” and typically free ways that people can discover your campaign, and share items that you post. Verify all the links on your website and future mass emails are properly linked to your social accounts, and your social media is linked back to your website.
After You Announce
1. Mass Email Donors
Now that you’ve officially announced, it’s time to start engaging with your supporters. If you’re fortunate enough to have a list of contacts that you’ve compiled, or that another candidate has shared with you, you can send out a mass email to engage with these folks. Trail Blazer makes it easy to send as many emails as you need to people who’ve opted in, track the results as its going out, and handles unsubscribes/bounces automatically. If you’re really prepared you could build and schedule these emails to be ready as soon as you announce. Some people will start to do this before they even announce to start garnering interest.
2. Monitor Social Media Accounts
Stay up-to-date on new “likes”, “followers”, “shares”, etc. on your social media accounts. For larger races you may have some staff members dedicated to this task. Posting unique stories about your campaign, videos, or pictures are great ways to get your name out there. Responding to comments (where appropriate) will make your supports feel more engaged as well. You’ll also want to keep a close eye out for negative comments, or abuse from “internet trolls”, and report these to the social media companies as needed. This all goes back to your campaign strategy (see section 1 c. above) where your campaign team will want to include a social media strategy and tactics to ensure that you’re steering the conversation, keeping the topic on YOUR brand and message.
3. Meet With Constituents
Attending town halls, debates, and fundraising events are all important. Getting out from behind your computer and into the community makes constituents feel like you’re authentic, and care about their issues. There are a variety of ways you can do this, remember capturing those that attended so you can customize any email or do other follow up is vital. In addition Trail Blazer software comes with a robust event tool, so if you want to sell tickets and products for fundraising events you don’t need to purchase 3rd party software to do so.
4. Retain Supporters
No that people are showing their support for you, both in the real world and the virtual world, it’s good to make sure that you thank them for their support. This can come in many forms, such as phone calls, email follow-ups, mail-merged letters, etc. We include many different tools to make this easy, such as our free mobile apps that allow you to perform these tasks through your phone while you’re on the go.
5. Get Out the Vote (GOTV) Activities
As Election Day approaches you’ll want to ramp up GOTV efforts. Here are just a few ways you can do this (all of which our software makes easy to do):
- Phone Banking
- Turf-Cutting and Mobile Canvassing
- Paper Walk Lists
- Mass Email Reminders
- Lawn Sign Management
So as you can see, running for office requires adequate planning and execution in order to give yourself the best chances possible to win the seat you’re running for. Putting a winning strategy in place regarding the software you use, the people you work with, and day-to-day campaign tasks you’ll need to stay on top of is no trivial task, but rest assured that following this outline will help to make your efforts as effective as possible.
By: Joel Kristenson Date: 12/10/2018