Political campaigning is a herculean job and there’s a lot that could go wrong. More than often it does, just like Murphy’s law (everything that can go wrong will go wrong) and it’s only because of lack of planning.
Psychologists suggest that you can beat this law by finding easier ways to do your tasks, reducing their complexity. One way you can do that is by being aware of all the speed bumps you can come across during the process and planning around them before you get started. That’s where this post can help you.
To help you reduce those campaigning complexities, we have done the grunt work and compiled a political campaign checklist that:
- Maps out the political campaign timeline to help you know what’s next
- Helps you understand the challenges of a campaign
- Gives you to increase your chances of winning
Political campaign timeline
The political campaign checklist will cover each aspect of the political campaign timeline. For your reference, this is how we plan the timeline:
That being said, let’s cover each stage.
Even before you decide to run, there is some amount of research and planning required to help you position your candidate better (when they announce their candidature).
Example: Check out this video of Bernie Sanders’ announcing his candidature for the 2020 Presidential elections. He explains his position on a number of policies and what he plans to do.
This is an example of how you position your candidate and give people a clear picture of why they should support you right from the get-go. That is what the research helps you with.
The research entails leveraging market research tools to compile information that will inform your priorities and your overall campaign plan. To make sure that the research is on track, here is what you need to look out for:
- Do you know the rules of the election? This is crucial to maintain compliance and avoid getting your candidate barred.
- Are you aware of the election timelines? You don’t want to miss the last day of candidate registration or mistime your GOTV efforts.
- Do you know where you can access all the voter information? You will need demographics, contact details, past affiliations, etc. to strategize outreach.
- Are you aware of the social, economic, and political landscape of the region? You want to make sure your outreach and messaging resonates with the people.
- Do you have the data of the past elections? Runners and winners of the past, turnout data, etc. will be helpful in informing your efforts.
- Does the candidate in consideration have the background, experience, and strength to lead the race? It helps you be ready for attacks from the opposition over perceived weaknesses.
- Are you clear or have an idea of the opponent’s play? You want to make sure you contrast the opponent’s position on policies and issues. Otherwise, it’s just going to confuse people and make things harder.
The research will help you set goals for all your efforts and guide you throughout the campaign. You need to have the following goals at the very least to be able to move forward.
- Have you calculated your win number? Without your win number, you could end up spending more resources than required.
- Do you have a minimum fundraising goal? A political fundraising goal is needed to allocate resources smartly. You don’t want to run out of funds mid-campaign.
- Do you have the timelines for all efforts mapped out? The last thing you want is to start your GOTV or persuasion campaign too late to make a difference.
- Are you clear on the tools and resources you’ll need (and currently have) to execute your efforts efficiently? For example, the number of volunteers you have now and how many more would you need for outreach (based on the geography)?
Developing a campaign message and slogan
The research phase will give you insights into:
- The pain points of your target voters
- The reasons why an average voter would support you
- Which policies of yours will they support
Based on this data, you will need a political campaign message that addresses these pain points and resonates with the target groups.
This message will then be the basis of crafting a campaign slogan, something that people will draw people’s attention to your candidate. However, to avoid certain challenges related to it, you’ll need to ask yourself:
- Do you have multiple voter personas? Different messaging resonates with different voter segments. So ensure you have multiple personas to help you create messaging for all of them.
- Are the message and slogan adaptable? Winning slogans and messages apply to all issues that you’re fighting for. For example, “Yes, we can” applies to literally everything – “Yes, we can overcome unemployment”; “Yes, we can provide healthcare to all.”
The point above should help you with it, but just double-check to be sure.
- Have you created a plan to spread the message and slogan? A great message and slogan do no good if they’re not heard, which is why you need a plan to spread it. Do make sure that the plan includes multiple channels.
Once you have the message and slogan ready, you are ready to announce your candidate to the public.
Candidate registration and announcement
The final step before you start campaigning is registering the candidate and announcing their candidature. The announcement can be made through:
- Media coverage – tv and newspaper ads, radio,
- Posters and banners
- Social media
- Word of mouth, etc.
Here’s the political campaign checklist you need for this phase to ensure things go smoothly.
- Do you have all the required documents and signatures to register the candidate? The research phase will inform you of what you need. Make sure there is nothing that can hinder the registration process.
- Does your announcement speech reflect your stance on the issues you’re fighting for? The announcement speech gives your first impression, and it needs to make a strong impact while letting people know why they should vote for you.
- Do your announcement channels match your target audience? If a majority of your audience are older generations, then an announcement on social media won’t get too far. Prioritize the channel for announcements based on your target voters.
Now, you’re ready to run your political campaign.
In the campaigning phase, you start with building a voter list to target. Make sure that the list is as comprehensive as possible. Here are some sources you can get it from:
- The election office
- Party voter data
- Third-party vendors (ensure to check for list accuracy and comprehensiveness)
- Lists from previous candidates fighting in your party
The next step after procuring the voter list is to target them and get as much support for the campaign as possible.
Step 1: Voter identification
You don’t have to target all registered voters, just enough to get you the winning number. However, to get that number, you’ll first need to identify voters.
|Door to door canvassing||Do canvassers have a device connected to the central database to capture information in real-time? You can use a pen and paper survey, but that’s just going to increase manual labor.|
Do canvassers have political yard signs for strong supporters to put out? It’s a great way to gain momentum on awareness from the start.
|Phone banking||Do callers have a script and the right software to mark the user’s interest?|
Do you have a script to leave voicemails for those who don’t pick up? Tell people why you’re calling and that you’ll call back later to increase the chances of them picking up.
Step 2: Volunteer recruitment and fundraising
The data from voter identification will help you segment your voter group into three primary categories:
- Strong supporter
- Swing voter
- Opponent supporter
Those who strongly support you can be converted into donors and volunteers to help you with running your political campaign. It’s also a great way to get them more invested in your campaign and hence, your candidate.
|Website||Is your election website mobile optimized? A majority of people will access it from their mobile phones. |
Do you have multiple options for donations (even multiple ways to volunteer) listed out on the landing page? More options will cater to a wider audience by allowing them to select whatever is feasible for them.
Are your sign up forms short and simple? Longer forms may put off a lot of people.
|Does your email have a strong CTA linking back to your website? Where people can register and look for more options to help. |
Is your email list segmented? Your strongest supporters will be good for volunteering (and running p2p fundraisers) and others for grassroots fundraising.
|Texting||Are you using P2P texting for fundraising and volunteering appeals? A conversation with a human increases the chances of people saying yes. |
Are you using MMS to enhance the impact of your message? MMS gets much higher conversions and click-through rates.
Do you have consent to send people political text messages? It’s required to maintain SMS compliance.
|Phone banking||Are you sending follow-up texts immediately after the call? It’s crucial to reinforce the message and ensure they take action. With CallHub, you can send SMS follow-ups from the call center software.|
|Social media||Are you employing multiple social media channels to reach out to people? The more the channels, the higher the reach. |
Do you post consistently to build your brand on social channels? Don’t just make appeals. Strong social media political campaigns are those that engage their audience well. It’s easy to mobilize a more engaged audience.
Are you partnering with influencers to give your appeals a boost? Take a look at influencers who publicly support you; they would be more than happy to promote your appeals.
|Events and merchandising||Do you have a range of useful merchandise to choose from? More merchandise, more buyers, and hence more funds. The more people use this merchandise, the more people see it. |
Do you have a process to collect small donations during events? In events for major donors, you’ll get cheques. For events for small and medium donors, you need a simple way (like an SMS Opt-in) to collect donations.
Do you have a plan to make events virtual? Virtual events are more suitable for now with social distancing rules.
Step 3: Voter Persuasion
The funds you raise and volunteers you recruit will help you in voter persuasion by targeting the swing voters to support you. Here’s how:
|Door to door canvassing||Are you using relational organizing to enhance your efforts? Personal relationships can have a huge impact on a prospect’s choices. |
Do you have literature drops for those who don’t answer? Leave a flyer for people to refer to and make a note of the house for a follow-up. Also, avoid putting the brochure in the mailbox as it’s illegal.
|Phone banking||Are you using software that allows you to set up virtual distributed campaigns? You can save a lot of time and resources by enabling people to make persuasion calls from home. |
Did you train all volunteers on how to go about a persuasion call? A canvassing script is helpful, but you also need to make sure volunteers are tactful when talking to prospects.
|Texting||Are you using P2P texting to address any questions or objections voters may have? Often these objections are what keep them from supporting you. Clarify those, and you have the chance to win a supporter.|
|Community meetings||Are you calling and texting voters to invite (and remind them) for community meetings to boost attendance? You’ll need to push people to attend it if you want a larger crowd. Just an announcement won’t cut it. |
Do you have local representatives or leaders encouraging people to take part in it? With this, there’s a higher chance that people will act on it.
|Social Media||Are you leveraging social media to talk about your stance on current affairs? People approached through other channels will be watching what you say about a number of things to fully understand you and your visions.|
|Signage||Can your supporters print and put up their own yard signs? Allowing this could reduce your costs.|
Do you have banners and billboards in all the prime places? These need to be placed, especially in regions with higher swing voter populations.
Do you have a guidelines doc for strong supporters to print their own campaign posters? It’s important to maintain a consistent design theme.
Depending on the size of the election, these steps go on for either a few weeks or several months.
Post campaigning phase
Closer to the election day, while you continue campaigning in a subtle way, most of your effort shifts to GOTV campaigning. All your efforts are futile if people don’t vote, which is what you need to avoid at this point.
2-3 weeks before election day
During this time, your GOTV efforts are divided into two categories:
- Educating – Educating people who are unaware of the process or have other issues stopping them from voting.
- Reminding – Sending reminders to people to vote them before the polling day (and even a few days prior to that).
|Are you taking notes of the queries each voter has? You may not be able to provide answers on the spot, and you may have to call the voter back. For this, you’ll need to know what each voter asked.|
Are you using an automated dialer to increase the number of conversations you can have per hour (and overall)?
|Door to door canvassing|
|Do you have supporting documents (or resources) for people to refer to? They may not remember the entire conversation. A resource could be something they could refer to later for clarity.|
|Do you have text reminders with polling location (or other details) scheduled? Schedule at least 2-3 SMS reminders up to the polling day.|
Have you included your contact info for people to get in touch with you in case of last-minute queries?
|Are all the polling details (location, type, process, etc.) given in the email or at least on a page on your website that it links to?|
(reminders & educating)
|Are you diversifying your ad spend to target people on different channels (social media, search, display)? Reinforce the message as much as possible. |
Do you have a detailed landing page with all the data that the ads link to?
(reminders and educating)
|Do you have banners, posters, and billboards to educate and motivate people to vote? It’s another great way to reinforce the message through print media and add another channel of targeting.|
Are you actively passing around flyers (or literature drops) with your branding? The branding is an added touch for awareness.
Do all signages have your contact info for people to call in case of queries?
Depending on the election rules, you will have to stop all forms of campaigning on election day. You’ll know about this in the research phase itself. However, you can still continue your GOTV efforts.
Apart from that, on election day, you can measure voter turnout and get a rough estimate of how close you got to the winning number.
Assign volunteers to polling booths to keep track of how many of your supporters are turning up.
- Are your volunteers handing out your party literature? This would be a last-minute push for swing voters. But make sure the rules let you do so.
- Do you have local canvassers and community members assigned as poll watchers? They will know who your supporters are better.
- Do you have enough volunteers to make last-minute GOTV calls? By the afternoon, the poll watchers will be able to tell you who didn’t show up, and you can get in touch with them to increase voter turnout.
Poll watchers would only be feasible for polling booths. However, more people are opting to vote by mail (due to social distancing) this time, which is also something you need to keep track of.
Vote by mail
Due to the social distancing rules, most states in the US have become more lenient in accepting absentee ballot registrations. In fact, the 2020 Presidential Elections will see nearly double the number of people voting by mail. Polling booths will still exist, but in very few places and crowds will be limited.
Tracking vote by mail is quite tricky, but you can work around it with the help of texting.
- Are your volunteers sending people texts to confirm if they mailed their ballots and noting their answers?
- Are you calling up people who didn’t reply to these texts or said no? People may still have questions that you will need to solve.
With that, you’re almost at the end of your campaign, with almost being the keyword here.
You’re done with a majority of your tasks on the election day, but there are still a few tasks left after the polling is done.
- Are you prepared for a press release and a conference after polling? People expect the candidate to say something regardless of the result.
- Do you have a plan on how to manage the leftover funds? Parties either donate it to charity or store it for the next election cycle.
- Do you have an outreach plan to thank all volunteers, staff members, and supporters? Appreciate everyone’s effort no matter the result.
- Have you organized and compiled all the data you have on voters, the elections, etc.? Keep the data clean. It will come in handy for the next cycle or for other candidates fighting for other offices.
That marks the end of the campaign and the work you have until the next election cycle.
Political campaign checklists are powerful tools to guide your efforts and can help you in numerous ways. The checklist above helps you in two major ways:
- It makes your staff and volunteers more competent by acting as a clear guide with a series of logical steps towards the end goal.
- It keeps them informed about the challenges and what could go wrong, thereby allowing them to beat murphy’s law.
Combined, these benefits are what differentiate a well-executed political campaign structure with a higher chance of success from a poorly executed one. Surely, you wouldn’t want the latter!
Feature image source: Glenn Carstens-Peters