In my last blog post, I talked about the first three things every political candidate must do.
For today’s post, I want to look at the flip side of that coin and examine the four most common campaign mistakes made by first time candidates. Most of these mistakes are simple to avoid, if you’re aware of the potential pitfalls and have a strong campaign plan.
1) Candidates Forget Their Two Main Responsibilities.
Political candidates, no matter what office they’re seeking, really only have two jobs: Raising money and meeting voters. But those two tasks can be tedious, nerve-wracking, overly repetitive and have the most potential or ugly rejection.
To avoid this, most political candidates look for ways to be involved in their campaign that are more enjoyable or entertaining…but much less productive. Candidates who spend all their time reading blogs, having long strategy communications with friends and confidantes or obsessing over logo colors can tell themselves they’re moving the ball forward, but they really aren’t.
That leads us to the second classic first time candidate mistake
2) Candidates Try To Be Their Own Campaign Manager.
Political candidates and campaign managers have two essential, yet fundamentally different, roles. A candidate must raise money, meet voters and deliver the campaign’s message.
They are not supposed to manage the day-to-day operations of the campaign, hire and fire staffers, manage the website or blog, write campaign ads or anything else.
Those tasks must be done by the campaign staff, starting with the campaign manager. The candidate simply does not have enough time, or even objectivity, to execute those tasks effectively.
There’s a saying: A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. That sentiment works for candidates too.
3) Candidates Fail To Make The Most Of Volunteers.
Volunteers are the lifeblood of winning campaigns. President Obama built his two presidential wins on amazing fundraising and an army of volunteers. Volunteers help execute every major function of a campaign from fundraising to voter canvassing.
And they’re free!
But, because they’re free, they also require more intense training and supervision. Volunteers aren’t experts at campaigning, they’re just willing to give their time and labor to learn and help.
The worst thing a campaign can do is fail to follow up when someone indicates they want to volunteer. From the beginning, campaigns should have a well-defined plan for how to identify, recruit and activate potential volunteers.
The second worst thing a campaign can do is appear to be unorganized and ill-prepared. If volunteers walk into a situation where they feel awkward or lost it won’t take long for them to stop showing up or even leave in the middle of a project.
And volunteers should not feel their contribution is being ignored, which leads us to the final campaign mistake first time political candidates make (which is also the hardest to overcome).
4) Candidates Don’t Properly Thank Supporters.
Legendary political campaign guru James Carville once said, “outside of a person’s love, the most sacred thing that they can give is their labor.”
I agree, but I would phrase it differently: The most sacred thing that a person can give is their time. It’s the one thing that can never get back.
Whether a person is volunteering for your campaign, serving on your staff or even giving you money; they are taking time that they would otherwise be devoting to their own jobs, family or friends and giving that to you.
You have to acknowledge that sacrifice. But too many political candidates, not just first timers either, fail to do that.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hype or your campaign. Important people want to talk to you. Rich people are sending you their money. You see your name in the paper or on television.
Always remember, the people who support your campaign don’t owe you anything. It’s a gift they’re giving for your benefit.
You can never thank them enough for that…but you should never stop trying.