How to Run For Public Office

There is no singular pathway to running a successful campaign.  The pathways to victory are as varied as the many districts in which the campaigns are run.  However, there are certain best practices that can be applied to any campaign—regardless of level—that will lead you in the right direction and help you win on election day.  Politics is sales.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Your campaign will be almost identical to running a short-term sales and marketing business where the product being sold to consumers (read: voters) is not ideas or policy positions; the product being sold is you.

If you’re not comfortable with that last sentence, running for public office probably isn’t for you.  I would advise you to find another avenue to be involved and productive in the public conversation.  There are many opportunities for individuals to serve on commissions, boards, and appointed posts within your community.  Seek these out first, serve your community, and then look again later at the possibility of running for public office if you’ve become more comfortable with the idea of being the product.

Assuming you’re still with me and want to run for office, realize from the beginning that political campaigns are more a science than they are an art.  Ultimately, campaigns reduce to one thing—numbers.  If you are a credible candidate and you are running on a message that resonates with your district, everything else becomes numbers.  The number of calls you make.  The number of doors you knock.  The number of mail pieces you send out.  The number of social media ads shown to properly targeted groups.  The number of public speeches you give.  The number of fundraising efforts you conduct (unless you’re self-funding).  All these components of a campaign are measurable and completely within your control.

Typically, campaigns—large and small—all progress through five distinct phases.  The five phases are your pre-campaign activities, campaign launch activities, building your base, establishing your campaign as the front runner, imposing your campaign as the best choice for your district in the General Election.  Each of these phases contains benchmarks expressed in numbers that indicate your progress.  For example, during your campaign launch activities you’ll need to raise 90 days’ worth of expense cost in the form of donations in your first 30 days post-announcement.    If you have $10,000 worth of expenses per month, your 30-day goal should be to raise $30,000 in your first month.  This benchmark breaks down to raising $1,000 per day.  This is measurable.  Either you raised the $1,000 you needed to raise, or you didn’t.  Either you hit your 30-day benchmark, or you didn’t.  If you missed, we can look at your activity log and determine why.  If you hit your benchmark, we can determine what activities contributed to your success and then institutionalize these activities to produce similar results in the future.

Ultimately, having a consultant who understands how to work through the political process always makes sense.  Is it a requirement?  Of course not.  However, if you have the financial resources to hire a professional to help you through the electoral hurdles involved in a campaign, this makes sense.  For more information about how to run for public office, I encourage you to read our article on the four critical systems of political campaigns.  Our website has several free resources for you to learn more about how to run for political office and the best practices winning candidates use to run successful campaigns.

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