Campaigning Part Two – Who IS in Charge?


Hint number two – WARNING – All Candidates and Executive Directors – Do not run your own campaign. 

Never!

Find a campaign management expert (CME) who will volunteer for your candidacy or issue. If you are running a statewide campaign or running for a federal office, expect to pay that person.

From the Rosman CME File: The case of the micromanager.  I was asked to run a United States congressional race against an incumbent who was very popular with his constituents. There were many problems with my candidate, from her being a naturalized American to being a true unknown in the congressional district. I went into the campaign knowing it would be an uphill battle to reach even 40 percent of the vote.

Before I arrived, an office-schedule manager who was, and still is exceptional, was in the mix. Two paid staff was enough for this campaign.

It was my job to keep up with the state and federal paperwork and to make sure the daily operations of the campaign ran as smoothly as possible. We also had an exceptional attorney who volunteered his efforts to produce and file what was needed and advise us on FEC and state campaign laws.

Between the four of us, a campaign strategy was developed and almost as quickly changed by the candidate. Every decision needed to approved by her. Every meeting needed to be approved by her. Every expenditure needed to… you get the picture. She was micromanaging.

As the campaign approached the second Tuesday of November, our candidate could no long afford my services and decided she could do a better job. The last thing I did was remind her that the financials would be due after the election. She told me that she knew better and bid me farewell. Our volunteer lawyer had left the campaign, so the candidate was truly on her own. She did not file and it cost her in legal fees and a fine by the FEC.

The moral of the story: the candidate or executive director of an issue campaign is the sales person, the face of the campaign. The daily operations need to by someone other than the candidate or ED, someone who has the knowledge to do what needs to be done.

A good campaign manager does not have to be someone from a national organization or cost as much as the gross national product of Guatemala, For some campaigns, an MBA, political science or communication graduate student  or someone in the last year of a law degree would be more than happy to gain the experience. For a smaller campaign, many will work for free if given the right incentives.

There are three more slots that must be filled, the first is that of a fund raising manager. It is unfortunate that the measurement of a campaign’s success is measured by the number of dollars (Euros or pesos) it raises. Every letter, every speech, every handshake is an opportunity for a buck. Use it. Have envelopes at hand. Have a spot on your web site for donations and make it exceptionally easy to find. Easier than that.

Make sure your fundraiser has the campaign finance laws, if not memorized, at hand. Again, your state party offices can provide an invaluable service of providing base information. Your Secretary of State Office, state election commission or ethics commission will be your life saver. Remember, they do not mind the telephone call to clarify something, that is their job.

Here is hint – Make friends with the one person at the state or federal regulatory agency, someone you can talk to on a first name basis. This will not keep you out of trouble, but that individual will make sure you stay of the right track.

The next spot is the volunteer coordinator. Volunteers are, as the British would say, a tricky wicket. You do not hire them, you cannot fire them, therefore, you have little control over them. They may or may not show at events, providing muscle and leg power to get out campaign material, etcetera. I will talk more about the Volunteer Coordinator later, but for now know this – Your campaign manager can do this job on a small scale, but at some point, the CME will need help.

The last person you need for your office is a computer geek, and I use that term with absolute admiration. A person who can develop and update your web site daily, who can develop or maintain off the shelf software to keep track of donors, dollars, daily calendars and coordinate all the files.

Do not use the high school or college kid who thinks she is the next Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Like the other “professionals” you have volunteering for the campaign, get recommendations from those who have been there, your party and businesses. Ah, yes, go to industry for this one. You may find that one true geek works for a supporter’s company. Look at the website. Look are the maintenance of the money files. Ask about the use of programs, both off the self or proprietary.

Be a smart manager of your campaign. The best managers know who can do the job the best.

Now, you are almost ready to start campaigning…  Yes, there is one more step.

Next week – Part Three – Is your Zipper Open?

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About David Rosman

David Rosman is an award winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in Communications, Ethics, Business and Politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at ColumbiaMissourian.com, InkandVoice.com and NYJournalofBooks.com.
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