To run a successful political campaign, a well- conceived and well-developed strategy is key. A political campaign requires immense and in-depth preparation. Numerous variants must be taken into account and multiple possible scenarios considered. And even then, the unknown must also be prepared for. Embarking upon such an arduous effort, which requires tremendous manpower and resources, without first developing a sound strategy would be similar to laying bricks for a building before developing the blueprint.
A Road Map to Victory
A political strategy is central to managing a successful campaign. It is the backbone of the whole process. It shapes every facet of the campaign, from announcement day to election day. It also helps define the candidate’s key message and explain it, manage financial resources and staff, and ultimately achieve success at the polls.
Of course, campaigns include an element of unpredictability, they are not conducted in a controlled environment. Any number of social, economic, security and political factors can and often do arise along the way. And at the end of the day, many people make their decision at the ballot box based on emotion or historic loyalty. However, a strategy plots a path to influencing those who can be influenced. It defines a road map and makes it possible to identify potential hazards and navigate the route successfully. It's the only tool with which a candidate can maintain a significant level of control over a fluid, fluctuating political environment.
The basic elements of any political strategy include:
1. A powerful message that addresses the voters' true needs. Every campaign requires a strong and clear message that is relevant to voters. For it to be persuasive, the message must be based on a deep understanding of the target audience and the issues that resonate with them. Otherwise, even the best-crafted message will fall on deaf ears.
2. A game plan that includes long-term and short-term goals. Between announcement and election day, what are the key events, activities and moments which will take place—when, how, and where? How will they all be linked together as part of one coherent effort? Rather than being pulled in different directions as events unfold, the candidate must appear to be in control of the agenda, delivering a powerful, coherent message at every opportunity.
3. Accurate assessment of the political environment. Who are the opponents? What are their strengths and weaknesses? What are the candidate's strengths and weaknesses? What is the unique value they bring to the table? It's important to know what to expect and prepare various ways to deal with potential challenges and competition.
4. Voter demographics and target voters. This is key to allocating campaign resources where they are needed the most and planning an optimum schedule which touches the right people. Additionally, an accurate assessment of the crucial demographics is important in measuring success as the campaign unfolds and considering strategic implications.
5. A comprehensive communications strategy. A media plan must be developed which includes all key media platforms i.e., print, TV, radio, digital and social. The communications strategy must define the tone and voice of the campaign. It must also prepare the candidate to deal effectively with the media attention. And of course, it must also include the analytics that will help measure engagement, determining how the strategy should be refined if necessary.
6. Grassroots plan. A political campaign is not a one man show. The candidate needs a team. It should be comprised of capable and enthusiastic people from different walks of life, who are able to engage their communities. It can include volunteers, government and municipal politicians, party and precinct leaders and activists. The grassroots plan should also include the crucial GOTV (get out the vote) strategy.
7. Budget and fundraising plan. Running a political campaign costs money, regardless of the size of office. Local elections are, on average, cheaper, but every campaign still requires funding. The fundraising apparatus can make or break a campaign. It's also a great opportunity to create a buzz, network and engage supporters prior to rolling out a full campaign.