Carli, a friend of mine, gave me an emergency call one evening. Her dog had passed out “from pain” and she was in a panic, not sure how to get it to the vet. Once at her place, we fashioned a makeshift stretcher out of her ironing board, got the four-month-old corgi in the back seat and drove to the vet.
After examining the dog’s inflamed paw, the cause of the emergency, the vet turned to Carli and said,
“Did you give her any pain medicine?”
As it turned out, she had. Seeing the dog in pain, Carli gave it a painkiller, hidden inside a sandwich. A painkiller meant for humans, which proved almost fatal to the dog, led to a life of animal health activism for Carli and was the catalyst behind her winning the town municipal election.
That last bit never happened. Then why am I talking about Carli’s dog in a post about municipal election campaigns?
Well just like the pill, meant for people, doesn’t suit a dog, campaign strategies meant for large-scale and national elections don’t work well when you apply them to a local election. It seems most of the practical know-how available online for running campaigns focus on large elections.
So let’s go over some dos and don’ts for a municipal election before you pick up the wrong guide and need to be rushed on an ironing board to the vet.
Know and be known in the community
A municipal government is the closest stage of government to the public. You’d be serving a single community where people lead a common way of life, have a recognized group of thought leaders and influencers and have their own local issues to deal with.
Before you campaign, make an effort to know the people first-hand. Attend council meetings and participate in community events. Talk to people to understand the issues they face. Be recognized for taking an active part in the community even before the election.
Form a core campaign committee
You’d need help from people within the community to run the campaign. So decide on a core committee to look over different functions during the campaign months.
Ask your friends, colleagues and supporters to get involved. You should have people who can provide advice and ideas on how campaign functions could be run better within your community. That would be possible if you turn to people who know the community well. Delegate goals among committee members so all the activities can be run together and establish lines of communication among the campaign team.
Distribute handwritten campaign literature
In a local election, voters expect a personal connection if they are to extend their support for a candidate. You’d have to adopt a grassroots approach to make your way into the community.
Go door-knocking in the area or host an event at the local pub to meet with people.
When you send out campaign literature to engage these people, get them all handwritten with the help of supporters. This shows that you care about winning their individual vote and are making an effort to connect with them directly.
Further engage people through the web
While a grassroots approach is the way to go for a local election, you should build a web presence to further your reach within the community. Facebook and Twitter would help you keep in direct touch with community members. Get a website up and direct people there for candidate details and updates from the campaign.
At the start of the campaign, put together a video introducing yourself and share it across social media. Videos and photos have a better chance of being viewed and shared than text ads. Establish a system to share photos and videos regularly as the campaign progresses.
Put up signs to boost exposure
Of course, there will still be people in the district who you’d not come across in any event or on social media. For those people, it is better to take the old-fashioned route of putting up signs.
Select routes leading in and out of town, important intersections and yards of community leaders who back you in the election. Invest in billboards and yard signs at these locations. Share your social media handles and site so interested people can get to know more about your position on issues.
Retort to opponent’s attacks
It is incredibly common in politics now to resort to attacking the opponent to gain ground with the public. For a first-time candidate, it could get difficult to avoid personal attacks.
Do not waste time in responding to such attacks by your opponent. Instead, focus on the people and remind them you are just a person working for a better future for the community.
Make promises just to win people over
While people in the community would want the candidate to provide actionable solutions for all their problems, it is not so simple to come up with exact measures. When you address the local issues at an event or when speaking to the media, do not promise to solve a problem unless you know what step to take.
Promises may get people to rally behind you but it will harm your credibility in the future. Instead, talk about how you have reached out to people to understand their situation and are better suited to serve them.
Engage in mudslinging
Mudslinging is the practice of damaging the opponent’s position with scandalous accusations. As we mentioned earlier, such strategies are regularly brought into play during elections.
It does nothing to improve your position in the public eye or gain ground with undecided voters. You should focus on getting people to realize you are the only credible candidate rather than try to be the least bad option.
These are the basic dos and don’ts to follow for a municipal election. The right practices will keep your campaign on track and win over the community bit by bit. Aiming to take leaps and bounds with shady practices will make you stumble in the long run. You’d lose your existing supporters and hurt yourself and then it’s back to the painkillers and ironing board.