Top Political Consultant Shares Five Proven Steps To Win Your Election
Running for local office can be daunting and overwhelming. After you register to run for school board, city council or mayor then what? Do you tell all of your friends your running (yes, of course), do you buy yard signs (maybe) or do you put on a spaghetti dinner (probably not)? But, how do you know what are the most effective steps and where to spend your time?
We sat down with political consultant and author of “How To Launch A Great Campaign…And WIN”, Phil Van Treuren, to find out what are the five areas you should focus on to win your local election.
Phil ran for City Council in Amherst, Ohio after he finished Officer Candidate School in the Army National Guard and won on his first try. Not only that but he was the top vote-getter in the election. He focused on these steps and it worked out for him. He has also used the same strategy as a political consultant for over ten years with great success, Phil knows a thing or two about winning elections.
I asked Phil what it’s like running for local office. Read on to see the steps that are vital to execute in a campaign.
“It’s a very lonely enterprise, you have to expect you will do the vast majority of work yourself. You never get as much financial and volunteer support as you think you will.”
- Candidates have to be willing to put in a lot of their own time and money into the race.
That’s really important to know if you are expecting 20 of your closest friends and family to help and only three do, that significantly impacts the reach you can have.
- You need to personalize your campaign.
What used to work doesn’t work anymore – yard signs, spaghetti dinners and billboards don’t work as well, mostly because of the digital age. If you take advantage of new tactics, software, Facebook ads and emails to voters you will be ahead of the game.
You can easily personalize emails and ads but more importantly, you can see the interaction of digital campaigning that can direct how, when and where you campaign. Meet voters in person. Door knock, personally drop mail, do it multiple times to your core voters. Knowing who those voters are is integral so you can personalize your campaign.
As the old saying goes, “knowledge is power” and campaigning is no different. Know your voters, win the race.
- You have to tell your own story…WHY are you running, what value will people voting for you get when you’re elected.
You need to have three primary points you hammer home. Tell them about yourself, about your life and why you believe what you do. Voters don’t care about your resume, voters want to relate to you on their own level – story points, family, hobbies, military service, etc. – focus on three and hammer them home.
- Provide value to the voters.
Keep in mind whatever you offer should be something that you love or enjoy, the sincerity will come shining through.
If you have a strong sense of community, deliver American flags or go door to door handing out large postcards with a flag on it so people can put it in their windows. Every time they see that they will think of you and your commitment to your community.
If you love to cook, provide a family recipe with a picture of you cooking with your family.
Do you have a hobby you love like building ships in bottles? Show that too and tie it to how you will use that when you are elected. “Building ships in bottles requires patience and attention to detail. I will use these skills when I’m elected to office.”
- Don’t do stuff that makes you feel good, do stuff that works.
Feel good campaigning is a big danger for first-time candidates. By buying billboards, radio ads, newspaper ads, you are wasting 95% of your budget on things that make YOU feel good. Focus on steps that work, having a compelling reason as to why you are running, what value will your voters get when you win, get personal and get to know them. Seeing your picture plastered on a billboard doesn’t guarantee the right audience will see your billboard, it just guarantees you will spend a lot of money on something that doesn’t work.
Here’s a bonus for you, Phil also shared some other quick insights.
Facebook is undoubtedly the best thing that has ever happened to political campaigning, ever. You can target people based on location, demographics, interests, etc. to make sure you’re reaching the right audience.
Having a good voter list and knowing who your voters are is vital. (You can get this list from your local electoral office.)
“Campaign software is an incredible tool in your arsenal.” He had to put together his own spreadsheets to track voters, canvassing, calls, etc..
“Having a good tracking system to track who you talked to, what you talked about and who you should talk to next is invaluable.”
Phil’s parting words deserve repeating, “Prepare yourself, decide you’re going to do it and work as hard as you can at it.”
Phil Van Treuen is a political consultant, blogger and author. You can visit his website at
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