Local Political Campaign Strategies
I spoke with a political candidate recently who was running for town council. He needed 3,500 votes to get elected and he was very confident. As he said, he knew everyone in the area and he could probably pick up the phone to 3,500 people if he really needed to. It struck me that local elections can be very deceptive in the sense that the required number of votes may not seem big, but they can be very hard to get if you don’t have the basics in place. Luckily for the candidate, he had a campaign manager who wasn’t nearly as confident and was willing to put the infrastructure in place to run a good campaign! Some points that we would always recommend for local political campaigns would be:
Get Your Fundraising Right
You might have a very simple fundraising strategy, “I’ll pay for everything myself”, but the likelihood is that even a local campaign will need to raise some money in order to run successfully. Pull together a list of possible sources of income and work from there. Some tried and tested methods of fundraising for local campaigns are fundraising dinners, local events, donation buttons on your website, your political party, and through your existing network.On the plus side, you will learn quickly whether you should be running at all by the reaction you get to asking for cash!
Get Out In The Field
Whatever about larger campaigns that span huge areas, any local campaign should be able to get out and canvass voters. The advantages to doing this voter contact work are two-fold. Firstly, you have a great opportunity to introduce yourself (or your candidate) and get that person to vote for you. And secondly, you will learn so much about your local area, voter issues, and so many other insights that will help your campaign. Good canvassing outreach informs campaign messaging, highlights stronghold areas, and captures voter contact information that is used in digital follow-up work like email blasts and digital advertising.
Be Tech Savvy
There is no excuse in 2018 for not understanding how technology can impact on local political campaigns. Everything from voter targeting to advertising, to team communication is now best managed through technology or political technology. We have put together a list of tech that you can use this year that will not cost you much but will save you a lot of time and make your campaign efforts far more effective. Local elections often come down to a handful of votes to determine who is successful or not and technology is usually the difference in getting these final votes locked down. To put things in perspective, a tech-stack of Wix, Ecanvasser, Whatsapp, Facebook, Slack, Twitter and Survey Monkey will cost you less than $100 a month for the few months of your campaign but deliver for you something comparable to what a large regional campaign would have access to. This is unheard of even up to recently so why not take advantage of it?
Build Your Campaign Message
Your campaign messaging is where you get a chance to show off how much you understand about your local area and your voters. If what you are saying, resonates with voters it will be very hard for them to ignore you on election day. To put it simply, you need to understand the range of issues (10 maximum) that voters feel are the priority and you need to have a clear position on each of these. If you have no idea what these issues are you might want to reconsider running for office but you will want to do some research to make sure you are not missing something important. Check on your competitor's website and social media to see what they are discussing as an obvious first step. Do voter contact work as outlined above to get issues directly from voters. Read local newspapers and online forums to see what people are talking about regularly.Once you have your topic areas put you're messaging together in a clear and concise way and then test it. Test it first with your campaign team and then begin to test it on the doorsteps and in the community with voters themselves. It should become apparent which messaging is working for voters from their reactions.
Do a recruitment drive early to get your team up and running. Obvious places to recruit would be among family and friends, at any of your community meetings or engagements, or through your website volunteer page. Once you have a core team around you make sure that that team knows how to onboard others. Supporters identified in the community or online should be invited to join the effort either by online form or through capturing their email address face-to-face. All emails from supporters who indicate that they are willing to volunteer can then be input into your supporter database and invited to join your campaign efforts through your campaign software. A good rule of thumb is that every member of your team will deliver 10 votes just from their family and friends, on top of all the votes they deliver through their campaign activities.
Just as important as fundraising is a coherent and realistic budget. Assigning the correct budget to each area of the campaign is tricky and benefits from previous experience. Key areas that will require funding include technology, promotional materials, and general expenses. We would recommend having a specific amount of the budget set aside for election day activities including transport to the polls, GOTV ops and campaign wrap up. You should be able to get a very clear picture of what you are going to spend quite early on as promotional materials will all be costed and produced in advance. The technology used is likely to be invoiced on a monthly basis or as an upfront cost, for example, voter files, email marketing software, and campaign software. A war chest for election day can be nominated at the beginning with sufficient to cover the basics of your GOTV ops. Two final points, assign one of your campaign team to be your treasurer as this will simplify the entire process. Also, be prepared to put some of your own money forward as a campaign loan as fundraising efforts can be patchy!
Doing microtargeting of your voters really means having good quality information in spreadsheet or database format, and then having a plan around what types of filtering to apply. So, purchased voter files often come with a lot of information on voters’ history of voting, their interests, as well as their demographic info. However, if you are beginning with a basic electoral register and adding information to this through voter outreach then you can make sure to only ask for the information that you will subsequently use for your microtargeting. For example, if you do a round of phone-banking in a particular geographic area, you could ask three questions, Do they intend to vote? Will they consider voting for you? Do they need a plan for getting to the polls on election day? With just these bits of information, you can then segment the voters into those who might vote for you and don’t need help getting to the polls, or those who might be convinced to vote for you but do need help getting to the polls. You can see that these segments are both likely to yield votes for you but may need different approaches to your follow up work. Draw up a plan at the beginning of your campaign of what types of targets you would like to see, like Strong Supporters, Swing Voters, Concerned about Healthcare, etc. Build a core proposition for each of these groups and it will direct all your campaign team when interacting with that group.
Get out the vote
GOTV operations are what so much of your campaign work is directed towards. All of your voter outreach, all of your campaign messaging, all of your microtargeting is designed to encourage people to come out and vote for you. Having built a clear picture of who is on your GOTV list (pledged support for you) you will want to set up your election day to contact those people and track who has lived up to their pledge. Poll-striking at the poll centers should give your central command an idea of who can be marked off the GOTV list. A team of transport options like cars, buses and so on should be mobilized to help anyone who needs help getting to the polls. Targeted emails, advertising, and canvassing should shake out all remaining pledges. Remember to make a ‘voting plan’ with all supporters in advance of election day. This plan might be as simple as getting them registered to vote and knowing how they will vote on the day. This voting plan is proven to increase voter turnout. Check out the linked resource that goes into further detail on how to set up your election day operations.
This list isn't exhaustive obviously, but it will help you structure a solid political strategy. If you need help in any other aspect of your campaign, why not join our global community and sign up for Ecanvasser today?
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