Winning a political campaign is incredibly difficult, especially for newcomers who may just be starting out in their political career. With the 2022 Midterm Elections approaching, much of our focus has shifted to highlighting pro-Vet candidates and providing resources to Vets who are running for office themselves!
Successful candidates have a plan. While there is no exact formula for winning a political campaign, successful candidates often follow similar strategies when running their campaign. Below are four key things that successful candidates do when running for office:
Create an Effective Message
Donald Trump’s famous Make America Great Again slogan during 2016 was the hallmark of his successful presidential campaign. It was a phrase which captured his core message of “draining the swamp,” or returning the levers of power to the people. His messaging was simple and effective: America was falling apart, and he offered a solution. Messaging is critical when building a successful campaign and successful candidates find a message that resonates with their constituents. Effective messaging is clear and concise, identifies an issue and offers a solution, is credible, and ultimately communicates how that candidate will offer a positive solution.
Build a Network
Every successful campaign is built on a solid foundation. Networking in politics is a critical component of building this foundation. Like the National Democratic Training Committee writes in some of its online training literature, “You’re not going to win your election on your own. Successful candidates cultivate their full network of friends, relatives, colleagues, neighbors, and newfound supporters.” An easy way to start is to “rolodex” all of your contact info, build a base from people you know personally or professionally, then branch out!
Fundraising & Smart Budgeting
While running for office, whether at the local level or for a chance to be seated in the United States Congress, it takes money to win. Prominent political website FiveThiryEight noted in 2018, “For House seats, more than 90 percent of candidates who spend the most win. From 2000 through 2016, there was only one election cycle where that wasn’t true…” There are always exceptions, but like it or not, fundraising is an essential part of building a winning campaign. Raising money can take many forms, like email campaigns, fundraisers, social media posts, and even going door-to-door.
But successful candidates also know spending that money wisely is also part of the equation. Much of campaign spending is devoted to voter outreach, so, research into the cost of advertising in print and online, decide whether you’ll need rental money for a campaign office, or even campaign workers. Make contingencies for what you hope to have versus what you can realistically raise, and ultimately, don’t be afraid to change your spending strategy as you learn what gives you the biggest bang for your buck!
Effective Social Media Strategy
Reaching an audience through effective advertising has always been a cornerstone of running a political campaign. Millions of dollars are spent by candidates to connect with potential voters, curate a platform, and combat political rivals. More than ever in today’s world, this means having a strong social media presence. A recent study titled, Social Media and Political Contributions: The Impact of New Technology on Political Competition, noted in part how social media has changed the game for fundraising candidates. “Within the first month of using Twitter, politicians were able to raise between 1% and 3% of what they would have raised in a two-year traditional campaign,” researchers found. At the heart of having a good social media strategy is humanizing candidates and providing voters with greater access to connect with them across millions of potential interactions.