Political Campaign Basics
Deciding to run for political office is no easy decision (Political campaign are even harder). What to do after the decision has been made is not any easier – without a plan. At JBM Political Strategies, we’ve helped a lot of political candidates launch their campaigns, or Executive Directors launch or re-launch their non-profits. For first-time candidates or folks who are not used to online tools, we find ourselves sharing the same advice.
So how do you get started when you’re running for office? Here’s a list to help guide candidates, and would-be candidates during the crucial phase between “thinking about it” and launching. What you do now can give you the boost you need for a successful launch, and get you on track to win.
1. Your list is the heart of your campaign. So strengthen and build it as much as you can before you launch.
This means your list of donors, prospects, volunteers and supporters.
Even if you’re starting from scratch, you have a list: your friends, family, coworkers etc. Now is the time to be combing through stacks of business cards and inputting the info, getting your personal email address book, work email address book, and your cellphone contacts all synched. You’ll wind up using this list for your announcement email, and also for your initial fundraising call time sessions.
If you’re not on LinkedIn, get on there and start building your professional network. It’s a great way to get current contact info from people you may have worked with years ago but lost touch with. (And, pssst, you can download your contacts’ email addresses via LinkedIn, which you cannot really do with Twitter or Facebook. Note that you can download name/email/company via LinkedIn but you cannot mass download phone #s and addresses – you’ll need to spend some time on LinkedIn copying that info down by hand, just like with Facebook.)
Also reach out to people who support you, who may have access to lists. And of course the state party may be able to help you if there’s no primary, Take advantage of this by reaching out before you launch to see what resources are available.
Now is also the time to get on Twitter and Facebook, if you are not yet already, and get active to build out your social media contacts. If you’re all in, it’s possible to convert a personal Facebook profile into a page. This will give you a jumpstart in fans and also erase any past (potentially embarrassing) content. If you choose to maintain a separate personal account for friends and family, a page will still give you another way besides email to reach out to your circle. More from our getting started on social media guide.
2. Claim your name online. Buy your domain names now. If you wait till rumors are out there that you’re running for office, squatters could grab your domain and refuse to give it back unless you pay expensive prices. Or your opponent could buy it, which is worse. So buy them now.
What domains should you get? For a campaign, every combination of your first and last name, including nicknames (jim, jimmy, james, jt, etc) might be useful, and be sure to purchase the trifecta of common urls: .com/net/org. Domains are cheap but not buying a domain can be costly. The last thing you want is to save a few dollars by not buying a jt2018.com, because you go by James, only to have your opponent put up an attack-site a few weeks later at “jt2018.com” that spreads all kinds of lies and falsehoods about your past, which now you have to spend thousands of earned media dollars to rebut.
Defense aside, what domain should the campaign use? I highly recommend making sure your full name is in your domain, because this will help with search engines. Read more from our search engine optimization guide for political campaigns and non-profits. Hopefully your name is easy to spell. If it isn’t, be sure to buy misspellings. And perhaps use a simplified URL when you’re giving speeches.
For an organization, think about what combination of issues people will be searching on. Don’t forget about synonyms. Domains are relatively cheap, you can always redirect some of them to your main domain.
In terms of social media and naming, while it may be possible to make a 1-time change of your URL or page title on Facebook and unlimited changes of your Twitter username – don’t assume you can do this. The internet is littered with one-time-use campaign social media profiles. Choose a Facebook page title and URL that won’t tie you down to running for a specific office in a specific year. We all know that politics is about the long game. Some of the most successful politicians ran more than once before they got elected to office. So use your name, your full name, this will help with search engine work in a few days and it might help your career in public service for years to come.
3. Get professional head shots. These are the pictures that will be going on the website, social media, newspapers may be running it in their stories, they could wind up on your mail pieces etc. Now, while you have the time, get good pictures. Trusting a friend to snap something flattering on an iphone just isn’t going to hold up.
4. Get a professional logo. A professional logo, done right at the start, will help with branding and last you throughout the campaign. Make sure to get high res and vector versions you can use for print ads, TV etc. It’s worth investing in the thing people will most associate with your campaign, other than your name.
5. Prepare to accept online donations. Lots of options like PayPal that are free, or use a full CRM like NGP VAN, or NationBuilder. Whatever it is you must have a way to process credit cards online when you launch.
6. Get a reputable email service provider. You need a way to email the hundreds of people in your network about the campaign. If you have no money, look at MailChimp or JBMedia, which offers email and CRM combined. Get a provider able to handle campaigns. It’s worth kicking the tires on a few and picking something reliable that will see you through the busy weeks ahead.
7. Have a simple splash page up on your website at a minimum when you announce. it should say a little bit about you, have a donate button, email sign up, and social media links. That’s enough to get you started and you can work on a full website later, when your campaign has money and you have a sense of how the race is going.
8. Get ready for launch day. Have your social media accounts set up. Keep in private mode until launch day. Have website or splash page ready, also in non-public mode, and donation processing set up.
Have campaign launch press release ready for email (email marketing company can help). You’ll need to have a list of press contacts ahead of time so you have somebody to send it to.
Reach out to relevant bloggers, and online personalities in your district with large social media followings!
Launch you campaign today. We can help. Contact us today.