Posts tagged events
Over the next few weeks I’ll be on the road, attending the Florida Young Democrats 2011 Convention which will be occurring in conjunction with the Florida Democratic Party’s Jefferson Jackson Weekend at the Westin-Diplomat in Hollywood, Florida and Netroots Nation 2011 in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
At the FYD Convention, I’ll be conducting a training session on planning and executing events, joined by FYD Convention Chair Shannon Love. Here’s the blurb from the FYD Website:
Meetings and Events
If you and your chapter are interested in hosting events that kick ass and raise money, please join Democracy for America Trainer Mario Piscatella and Pinellas Young Democrats President Shannon Love as they explain great ways to plan, organize and execute successful events large and small. From building spreadsheets that track progress to finding different ways to bring in money, this session will provide you the tools you need to host everything from a regular meeting to a dinner, convention or other exciting event.
In Minneapolis, I’ll be conducting free consulting sessions with candidates of today, tomorrow and someday, as I posted about already.
Later in the summer, I expect to be at the Young Democrats of America National Convention in Louisville, Kentucky, and who knows where else I may end up.
As I looked back on 2010 and saw the great big failures, they troubled me. Messaging failures, generally unprepared or unqualified campaign staff, candidates unwilling to learn, listen and/or improve, and of course strategies that were designed to fail from the start… But then there was a feeling of downright anger. How the hell can Democratic campaigns fail so often at the very basics of setting up an event? Does no one teach this stuff anymore? Do people not learn from event to event? Do they not see the big greasy piles of fail due to some form of rose colored glasses?
What am I talking about might you ask? Podiums with corporate logos instead of campaign logos, candidates speaking in front of mirrors or distracting paintings, rooms with 10 times as many chairs as attendees… This stuff isn’t at all hard to avoid and the positive impacts on your campaign are high for low cost in terms of time, effort and money. Why not give it a shot?
Starting from the beginning, long before the event. In political campaigns, this could be months in advance, or it could be a day or three prior. Fill out an Event Request Form, just as I explained in Tools for a Better Organized Campaign. This will give you the basics of the event, written down, because as we learned in Organizing – The Foundation of Progress, rule #9: If it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Some where in the future, I’ll introduce a full event briefing, which will put even more of the details on paper (or on your smartphones) and better prepare you and your candidate for the event.
In this first step of completing the form, you will answer some very important questions such as:
Is this an event we the campaign are hosting, executing and in “full control” of? Is this an event someone else is hosting, executing and in “full control” of? What are the objectives and opportunities of this event? Who will my candidate, surrogate or staffer be meeting, speaking to or with? Will there be press present, audio? video? both? print? Will we, the campaign, be able to record/photograph the event? Will the host have photos taken? What potential challenges are there and how can we mitigate those challenges?
In this process, it is important to talk to as many people with information and experience with the event as possible, particularly with regard to events external to the campaign that are repeated/annual. History is a strong data point with regard to events. If the event has had 30-40 people attend the past 4 years, but the organizers are telling you they are going to have 200 this year, be realistic. Assume 30-40 is more likely until significant evidence indicates otherwise. You should visit and walk the venue, take pictures. Think about where attendees with enter, where they will gather, will there be food/drinks somewhere drawing the mingling crowd? How many chairs will there be, how will they be arranged, where will the walkways be? Are there tables? Sketch these things out as best you can.
Where will the candidate enter the room? Will the candidate have access to a “green room”, or a restroom, prior to entering the venue? When they enter, will they be overwhelmed with the crowd as they enter? Who will walk the candidate in, meet the candidate at the car/bus? Will someone be introducing the candidate to the attendees as they mingle? Will the candidate be going straight to the “stage” upon entering to speak, and straight out after speaking? How will they enter and exit? Is the facility handicapped accessible? Where are the rest rooms and are they Handicapped accessible? Where will people park and how far will they walk to the entry. What can we do if the weather is bad, do we have umbrellas and volunteers to meet people at their vehicles and walk them in?
One of the aspects to think about is photos/video, what will be seen and how can we make sure the candidate looks good and campaign logos are included in photos? If the event is “campaign owned”, you have very few restrictions on where you can put signs, banners, balloons, etc. Every organizer should have high weight clear fishing line, sticky-tack (the blue stuff is better than the white stuff), clear tape, a staple gun (and staples), coat hangers, paper clips (variety of sizes, binder clips as well), and whatever selection of rope/string/twine you can amass. Having your own folding tables, table cloths and such also comes in handy as well, plus a chair or two – you may be able to borrow these from local supporters, organizations (VFW halls, churches, local county party, even a friendly restaurant/bar, if you don’t ask you won’t ever get what you are looking for.)
So you have your adhesives and such, where do you put signs? I start with where the candidate will be speaking, the front of the podium if there is one, and then behind the speaker’s primary location, picture a tic-tac-toe board on the wall. Put signs in the top and bottom corners, and in the center…obviously if you start with the center at the candidate’s chest height it is easier to achieve symmetry. The logic is that you want any picture taken to include the campaign logo (and url if possible), assume photographers will reject any preset media areas and take photos from wherever they please. The sign over the candidates shoulders will be the most visible in photos, often you can remove the center sign after
putting up the outer corners and use that sign for the front of the podium or somewhere else in the room.
If there are flags behind the candidate, this is where those coat hangers come in to play. First, research flag code and observe the rules therein. Here is a key passage, Section 7.k.:
When used on a speaker’s platform, the flag, if displayed flat, should be displayed above and behind the speaker. When displayed from a staff in a church or public auditorium, the flag of the United States of America should hold the position of superior prominence, in advance of the audience, and in the position of honor at the clergyman’s or speaker’s right as he faces the audience. Any other flag so displayed should be placed on the left of the clergyman or speaker or to the right of the audience.
Now, the coat hanger… When you have flags hanging from staffs, they are generally limp and in many cases hard to identify. As photo backdrops, they can look a bit “lacking” as a result. To correct this, take the coat hanger, upside down, and tape the stem of the hook end to the staff just below the bottom of the flag, as seen in the photo at right. The end result can be seen in the photo at left featuring three hanger’d flags
behind a microphone stand/podium at an Alvin Brown for Mayor (Jacksonville) Press Conference. Note that the American flag is the tallest, slightly forward and at the speakers right (photo left), with the State of Florida flag in the center and the city of Jacksonville flag on the right. Be sure not to put the hanger too high on the staff, causing a very unnatural draping in the flag, angles can be used as I did with the Florida State Flag to alter the drape and emphasis a key symbol or section of the flag (Florida’s state seal in this case).
To the left, you have the final product, candidate Alvin Brown surrounded by some of the areas elected Democrats. Positives: Flags are visible and identifiable, well presented and adhering to code. Podium/mic stand has a campaign placard with logo including the candidate’s name. Negatives: podium/mic stand is a bit low or the placard should be affixed higher, to be sure it is included at least partially in photographs (particularly in newspapers that will crop the photo down significantly.) The large placard below the podium is angled quite a bit, thus creating a reflective glare in the photo, it needs to be firmly propped up and affixed to prevent it from shifting during the presentation and fixed at closer to a 90 degree angle to prevent glare. There is no url on the placard on the podium. Nit Picking: Voters and people in general have preconceptions of leadership and appearance is part of that, in this case, one of the focuses will be height, the candidate looks tall if you crop the right of the photo off, but with State Senator Tony Hill behind him (over his left shoulder), the candidate “loses a few inches” in perception. Project power and power will be perceived. If your candidate is not tall, create presentations where they appear taller. In this case, the short podium does that nicely, but the offset of Senator Hill erases that effect.
Throughout the rest of the room, if you have the opportunity, you should place placards at or just above shoulder height on walls at whatever density you can achieve with a pleasing aesthetic. Assume people will take photos during the mix and mingle portion of the event, the logo/candidate name/url should be displayed in those photos if at all possible. In a very large room, you might put one placard on the wall every 4-10 feet, in smaller rooms, put them closer, even down to just the width of one placard between placards. You can create nice visuals by “stair stepping” or “checkering” the placards. Affix them all in a straight line adjacent to one another (add a laser level to your tool kit), then adjust the 1st placard up one placard height, so the bottom right corner is touching the top left corner of the 2nd placard in the row, then drop the 3rd placard down one placard height, so the top left corner of the 3rd placard is touching the bottom right of the 2nd. There is all sorts of visual art that can be achieved, you can take out the center row leaving the high and low…get creative, find a good look that works in the room. HANG THE PLACARDS WITH STICKY TACK AND COLLECT AND RE-USE the sticky tack when the event is over. The placards and sticky-tack should last the duration of the campaign. Store it in a zip lock back (add a box of bags to your tool kit, as well as trash bags, large heavy duty trash bags, don’t go cheap, you will suffer the consequences, I prefer drawstrings too). Look around the room, think about where people might want to take photos, how can you make sure there is a logo in that shot? If you had taken photos when you first walked the venue, you should have looked at those with that thought in mind and had a plan. If you have banners or 4×8 signs, is there a good place for such in the room? Will it be effective or distracting? Putting a 4×8 with the candidate’s face right behind where the candidate is speaking will not play well. Placards on the doors entering and leaving, 4×8 or banners at the sign in table can be useful in drawing attention and indicating “this table is official.”
An important aspect of setting up and event is knowing who and how many people will be there. You must have a hard count, people you are certain will show up, people who have verbally told you (or an organizer, staffer, volunteer) they are attending for certain, within one week of the event. Anyone confirmed more than a week out should be reconfirmed a few days prior to the event. EVERYONE should be called in the last three days and reminded, typically the script of this something like so:
Campaign_Caller_001: Good evening Mr. Jones, My name is Campaign_Caller_001 with the XYZ_Candidate campaign. How are you this evening?
Mr. Jones: I’m fantastic, Michigan lost, how could life be better?
Campaign_Caller_001: That’s wonderful, I’m calling to ask if you have any questions about Tuesday’s event at Your_Town’s High School Auditorium with Celebrity_Draw_002?
Mr. Jones: What time am I supposed to be there again?
Campaign_Caller_001: 5:30pm sir, do you need directions to the school?
Mr. Jones: It’s at the high school on Unpleasant View Drive, right?
Campaign_Caller_001: Yes, that is correct, and you will want to park in the back and enter through the East doors, we will have signs directing you there around the school.
Mr. Jones: Great, I’m really looking forward to it, thanks for the call.
Campaign_Caller_001: My pleasure, please call us at 555-867-5309 if you have any questions. See you Tuesday at 5:30.
Now you’ve reminded them to attend, and likely generated a bit of positive mojo for being “on top of it” as a campaign. Adjust your hard count based on the feedback of these calls. Facebook “I’m attending” doesn’t count in a hard count. Call the people and make sure they verbally commit to attending. Maybes don’t count. Numbers matter, be precise. Once you have this hard count, and you know what the setup of the room is, if you are doing a presentation with attendees seated, take the hard count, subtract 10-20% and setup that many chairs. You can always add more chairs (make sure they are available, but if there are more chairs, people will naturally filter to the back and the ends of aisles, creating a sparse crowd. You want the candidate, press and attendees to feel like the place is packed, whether it is 20 or 2000. If my hard count is 45, I set up 25 to 30 chairs, depending on the room configuration. As you configure the room, remember to allow for a “press box” area, if possible a media riser (a platform typically 6″ to 32″ in height that allows the media to setup a camera on a tripod to see over the crowd, typically the same height as the stage or a bit higher). With a higher riser, you can put people directly in front of the camera shot, causing the room to look more full, with a lower riser, you may want to leave an aisle to allow a clear shot of the candidate and presentation. The media riser should have a “Mult Box” for the media to connect to the microphone audio feed and any other sound feeds (if you are presenting a video or have a call-in speaker for instance) as well as access to power (via extension cords, taped and covered with a mat for safety if possible).
Behind the flags in the photo above you see a curtain obscuring what’s behind the presentation, in this case it is the stage/podium of a union hall. They utilized what is called “pipe and drape” to create a false background behind the candidate, making the event look more formal/official. These are fairly simple in design and can be rented relatively inexpensively and also allow you to hang banners from the pipes, particularly handy in situations where there is no other means to hang a banner in the room. You can also create pvc pipe frames for your banners fairly inexpensively, find someone crafty – this can be particularly handy for walking in parades with banners. With the pipe and drape, you can create an alternate entry method for the candidate or other speakers, potentially allowing a “surprise effect.”
Candidates/campaigns often shoot for quantity over quality with events, trying to hit 5, 7, 10 events in a day, as was discussed in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Scheduling, in most situations, quality is more important than quantity. The candidate should take the time to speak to as many people in the room, specifically ask for their support (vote, money, and/or time), and thank them for coming out to the event, as is possible. If you over schedule the candidate and rush from one event to the next, you are missing opportunities to activate volunteers, increase output from existing volunteers, and of course positive donor and voter impacts as well. If your campaign feels like speed dating, you are probably doing it wrong.
The candidate should work the room with a local surrogate, someone who knows much of the audience and easily connected with them, and ideally a campaign staffer is also nearby to collect notes, business cards and answer any questions beyond the candidates purview as needed. That staffer can also assist in increasing efficiency by helping to transition the candidate away from one target and on to the next by either taking over the existing conversation or introducing the next person. This requires talent and practice to be executed gracefully and without negative impacts, but in larger rooms a necessity or the candidate will be bogged down by the small handful of people who are already maxed out in support or rejection of the campaign, extra time with the candidate isn’t going to change anything.
Signs identifying the presence of the campaign event should be visible along the path leading to the event as far as a few miles down the road. People who were already soft on attending will absolutely flake if they become unsure they are at or headed to the right place.
The last piece of the basics is flow in and out, with data capture and personal contact. Ideally you want a sign in table just inside or just outside the main entry, if you have a large hallway outside the event room, setting up outside the room will allow you to have some control getting people signed in before they enter. If the event is ticketed, you have further control, as well as additional complexities I won’t get to here. Sign in should be efficient and orderly, and if an extra staffer/volunteer and “work the line” to keep people happy, calm and understanding the process, things will go smoothly.
If you do sign in outside, you can do further data capture inside, with staff/volunteer asking “ID questions” to those that enter, and then re-asking the same questions to those same people post event. ”Do you support XYZ Candidate?” Coming in they may be unsure, going out they may be excited and strong supporters…take the time to ask why and of course ask them to volunteer, donate, etc. There is a delicate balance between approaching attendees enough and harassment, courtesy and friendly demeanor go a long way to maintaining balance. Apologize and take the blame, don’t pass it off on your peers, staff or boss.
Capturing sign in only on the way in is not enough, you need to capture feedback/data on the way out too. Was the event good? Did they like what the candidate had to say? Did something said or done upset them? What corrective measures can be taken before their support/vote is lost?
The more you do it, the better you get at it, and you will learn and grow, as with everything else. These are just a few of the basics, there is so much more that can be done, and good event/advance staff are extremely valuable. Anyone can be trained to do the basics, but there is real talent and doing great events top to bottom.
Back in December, I posted Organizing – The Foundation of Progress, the most basic rules of organizing. I also promised to begin posting some forms and other tools to assist in organizing campaigns. I’m going to start with a basic fundraising spreadsheet, based on what is used on my December 7th post on fund raising: Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising and an event request form that will be involved in a future post on basic event execution.
On this spreadsheet, as described in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising, you find a simple setup for collecting and tracking fund raising. This spreadsheet is not a replacement for a full featured fund raising database, like NGP, and certainly not an alternative to a qualified finance staffer. Across the base, you will find four worksheet tabs, Phase 1, Phase 2, Phase 3 and Phase 4. These tabs are for use in this exercise, start from Phase 1.
Phase 1/2 is the first steps, as detailed in Conventional Un-Wisdom: Fund Raising, it is the first step of listing everyone you (the candidate) know, are related to, went to school with, worked with, shared a cab with or saw pass out at 31 flavors. Focus on the names and how you know the people at this point, friends, family, volunteers, interns and later finance/campaign staff can help fill in details.
The immediate focus is creating a list that will help determine whether or not your candidacy would have the necessary support in the first 90 days to push forward. Unless you are a self funding candidate or some form of “rock star” candidate, there is no need to send mail or email in this first phase, except thank you notes. As such, mailing addresses shouldn’t be fretted over during “call time hours”.
As you flip to Phase 2, you see the addition of phone numbers and email addresses, and first ask/pledge tracking. Phase 3 adds more ask/pledge/collection data, and in Phase 4, you have a complete process sheet. There are notes columns for each fund raising quarter, and you will note that the first two donors are given a red background as they have maxed out and can no longer contribute to the campaign.
Some of the terminology / codes used:
|1st Contact – M – Ask|
= First contact – Method – how much is the ask
|1/11/2011 – F2F – $1000|
= the date of first contact – face to face – asking $1000
Other Methods of contact: Ph = Phone, Ev = Event, S = Surrogate (You might use S# to indicate a particular surrogate, ie S1 for the candidate’s wife/husband, they might be keyed as “S1 Ph” for instance.). At later stages of the campaign you will have contributions come in through methods that are not instant-direct contact, ie letters, the interwebs, etc. Of course, don’t expect this to be significant – roughly 80% of your fundraising will come from direct solicitations by the candidate via call time. That is, if you are raising money effectively, efficiently and on a level to compete in six and seven figure races.
I think all the other abbreviations/terms are understandable, but please feel free to post in the comments if you seek further clarification.
The second tool is an Event Request Form, a basic form identifying the who-when-what-where-why and how for events that the campaign is requested to appear at. The use of these forms will help campaign management triage the candidates schedule as well as the schedules of staff and surrogates. The more you know about an event in advance, the better prepared the campaign can be to properly execute the event.
This is a sample of a completed event request form using a fictional event hosted by the Fredonia City Democratic Party. The request is for the candidate, John Dough, the time, date and location are given as well as a contact number for the venue itself. The candidates arrival and departure times are provided, this is very important given that in some cases a candidate may have a very narrow window to appear at event, or may need to attend the entirety of a 2 or 3 hours event.
The event description identifies the event as a Pig Roast and that the MC will be the local party chairwoman. The keynote speaker is identified as well as the subject of the keynote speaker’s remarks, the program is vaguely described, though more information is desirable. Often at the times these forms are initially completed, some of the details are still in flux and thus follow up is needed. Before the day of the event, the campaign should ascertain where in the speaking lineup the candidate will appear, any additional information on appropriate attire, and more information about the audience composition.
We also note who is filing the request, in this case it is a campaign field staffer named Kelly Marks, and her contact information is readily available. Below, in the box, we have the contact information for the host organization.
As with everything else, the best thing you can do is hire high quality professionals to run your campaign, implement efficient processes and of course, bring in the best trainers. Before and after that, I hope tools like these will help your campaign deliver the results needed to advance progressive values.
Conventional Un-Wisdom: To win this district, you need yard signs.
You want to make me cry on election night? Let me find out that a good candidate lost by a slim margin, but had a ton of yard signs. The answer is always no. NO YARD SIGNS. They don’t vote, they never will. Had the time and money been spent on virtually anything else, the candidate would likely have won by a slim margin instead of losing by a slim margin.
Each yard sign the campaign purchases, at costs ranging from seventy cents to upwards of four dollars a each, has a larger, hidden cost. For each yard sign you campaign purchases, it will drain an average of three hours from the campaign. Time organizing the signs in the office, managing inventory, arranging for pick ups, deliveries, and the worst part – handling the inevitable issues of lost/stolen/destroyed yard signs. So yard signs manage to drain from all three of the most precious resources on a campaign, time, treasure and talent, while producing zero votes.
Every cycle, at least one, if not several campaigns (regardless of party affiliation) get wrapped up in spats over allegations of stolen, destroyed or vandalized campaign signs. Don’t ever do it. Don’t put out a press release or an email alleging the opponent stole your signs, altered them, used them for a bonfire…doing so will NEVER help your campaign. You will look like a whiner and really, you are. Yard signs don’t vote. Yard signs don’t matter. Focus on what matters. Stick to your message and disseminating your narrative. The objective is to be seen as a strong leader, not the kid who got picked last for kickball.
But this district is special, in this one yard signs really work! No, they don’t. There is no special magic in one district versus another that adds effective message delivery, narrative, emotion, or other persuasive capacity to yard signs. If you can find a way to teach yard signs to vote, you will be very wealthy, until then, focus on things that actually do impact elections – canvassing, phone calling, fund raising, and other forms of good old fashioned organizing.
While there is some “feel good value” attributable to yard signs, the costs far outweigh the benefits and similar feel good value can be achieved through much more efficient means. Start with treating your volunteers, supporters, donors and the rest of your constituents with respect and utilize positive reinforcement. Give them alternate feelings of “ownership” of the campaign by giving them specific goals for winning their own neighborhood. Show them the real data, how many votes you need to win from their street. Teach them to organize, to bring their friends and neighbors together to meet the candidate, surrogates or campaign staffers, show them they can make a big difference.
There is a benefit to some (non-yard) signs, four foot by eight foot signs and banners can be useful for major traffic flow sites and use in parades and events. I recommend campaigns purchase roughly two 4×8 signs/banners per 25k potential voters. Buy them all at once to reduce per unit costs, and make them consistent to the campaign″s branding. Mix corrugated plastic signs with durable banners, get them all two sided, and make sure they are union printed with bugs and proper legal disclaimer per the laws of your election. For those doing the math, that means if you are running for Council in a district of 20k voters, two 4×8″s max. If you are running for mayor in a city of 150k voters, 12 4×8″s, for Congress in a district of 500k voters, 40 4×8″s maximum. Mixing that with 25 signs and 15 banners to get your forty should suit you well through a typical Congressional campaign.
Yard signs don’t vote. They become a part of the landscape after a relatively short period of time, and typically have a very limited viewership anyway. It is always amusing to hear an irate supporter complaining about their missing yard sign on the end of a cul-de-sac where the candidate has locked up all of their neighbors as well. Or their complaint is that their neighbors on both sides have the opponents signs up…it isn’t impacting the outcome of the election, focus your energy on getting out your votes and winning persuadable voters with effective organizing techniques.
There is data, produced by reputable Political Scientists, that shows that yard signs can increase “name recognition” – which some argue is a needed first step to introducing a candidate to the public. The flaw in this logic is that it is an empty introduction. You have provided me a name, but no narrative, no message, no emotional feelings (unless the sign is amazingly ugly or beautiful to the viewer). What have you gained? You haven’t influenced a persons propensity to vote, or altered who they may vote for should they vote. The data is clear on that as well. Spend the money on organizing and persuading voters to show up AND vote for your candidate. Introduce the candidate to the public with effective introductory ads on tv, radio and by utilizing earned media, in the earliest stages, rely on good organizers and appearances at events to present your candidate to their potential supporters. Yard signs don’t vote.
Even worse, most yard signs are purchased and/or distributed over the final weeks of the campaign, after the point which a candidate should have attained sufficient name recognition. Right now, in late October, just 13 days from the general election, at least three (top tier) candidates have emails in my inbox promoting yard signs. There is no math that has a candidate with low/no name identification overcoming that deficit via yard signs. Yard signs don’t vote.
At the highest level of campaigning, there are vendors that will provide your supporters with the opportunity to buy yard signs direct, meaning the campaign never has to touch them, and all questions regarding the signs can be referred to the vendor. The Obama for America campaign in 2008 did this effectively, allowing supporters to purchase yard signs, t-shirts, canvass bags, mugs, car magnets, bumper stickers and even baby clothing with the campaign logo on it through their website, with the items shipped directly to the supporter’s home.
There is one other function of yard signs, really the primary function and most significant positive capacity they have, candidate ego. In a Congressional Special election there was a huge list of candidates with a number of multi-millionaires. All of these self-funders bought thousands upon thousands of yard signs and had paid “volunteers” distribute them to every median, sidewalk, right-of-way, abandoned lot, shopping center, fence, lamp post, street sign and even a homeless people who weren’t moving fast enough. The candidate who won had less than 400 signs, all of them from previous campaigns, modified with spray paint as needed. They were distributed daily along the route the candidate would travel, giving him the impression that everywhere he went, he was loved. No reason for him to know the signs he saw on the north side of the district yesterday are the same signs he’s looking at on the south side of the district today…he felt great and it invigorated him going in to every event. On the other hand, you can accomplish this by having a candidate people actually do love… Far less costly and you eliminate the 4 man hours per day relocating the signs. Yard signs don’t vote.
I should provide additional information, it is not legal to place yard signs anywhere but private property where permitted by the owner of said property. Businesses who lease property typically have clauses in their lease about signs, requiring the owners permission for any additions or changes. State, County and local ordinances may apply, but all of them are subject to Constitutional review as violations of free speech, choose those battles wisely, they aren’t likely to net you many votes. All of the signs you see in public spaces, such as medians and along the sidewalk/curb are illegal in most of America. They are subject to being picked up by the county/city/state/etc and in some communities fines for littering or similar ordinance may apply. Yet another reason not to bother with yard signs. Yard Signs don’t vote.
ps. If you ignore everything else above, don’t ignore this…DON’T PUT YOUR FACE ON YOUR DAMN SIGNS.
This is the second of a series of post that will take on some of the myths and mistakes that circulate campaigns and the pundit-sphere unchallenged. We will be provide links on the sidebar to the right to resources for people seeking employment in progressive campaigns, from direct job listings to career and training resources. If your candidate or campaign is in need of training or other assistance, please contact us.
Conventional Un-Wisdom : In this district, you need to project a more moderate message, avoid Democratic/Liberal symbols and rhetoric. To win, you need to win Republican votes, so you need to target them from the start.
This is very commonly recited in long held Republican districts, and some of the most established and well regarded political consultants and “celebrity politicos” push it on TV and in print. I’ve worked in some of the reddest districts and communities across America, from Utah County, Utah to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to western Iowa, to north Florida. I’ve found it doesn’t matter where you are in America or where you actually fall on the political spectrum, what matters most is the conviction you project. People respect leaders with the courage of their convictions, they want to know the person they are trusting to represent them in the halls of government have confidence in their own capacity and beliefs.
If you are running as a Democratic candidate and have Democratic/Progressive/Liberal values, whether your district is the bluest blue or the reddest red, the first steps are the same – build your base by engaging and motivating your base. As donors, as volunteers, as word of mouth message dissemination machines – you need this base to support the growth of your campaign to the strength needed to motivate the conversion of “less likely” supporters to join the team.
If you are a moderate, tried and true (which is exceedingly rare), you should be both proud of the party designation you have chosen and the beliefs you hold. You should project those beliefs with confidence and conviction, just as a liberal or progressive should. It is the strength of your projected conviction that carries your support, energizes and motivates volunteers and donors to part with precious time and treasure. It is that perceived conviction that will get people on the opposite side of the political spectrum to support you, despite disagreements on a few particular issues or even nearly every issue. When you have a high level of distrust/dissatisfaction for the incumbent, this is the greatest opportunity for these “cross over votes” from registered members of the opposite party. You don’t target these votes, they come to you as a result of the strength of your campaign, the desire for a change and the passion and conviction you project. Some will be caught by mass media efforts, some will be motivated by earned media coverage, but the most impressive means of “converting” registered members of the opposing party is word of mouth/personal networks.
For word of mouth/personal networking to have any chance of playing a significant role in the outcome of an election, you must understand the ‘physics’ of communications among a chain of people. The minimum chain of communications is Candidate > Supporter > Voter, where the candidate has
direct and intimate contact with the supporter who then is motivated and conveys their passion to a voter they have a personal relationship with, persuading them to join them in support of the candidate. If you are running in a district of 10,000 votes, this short chain may work fine, but if you need upwards of 30,000 votes, you will need to recognize that with every ‘link in the
chain’, the level of energy/passion/conviction dissipates a bit, until you reach the Ferris Bueller chain of indeterminable relation where the end of the line is not going to convince anyone to join the cause. The stronger the projection of passion and conviction from the candidate, the more ‘links’ can be placed in the chain and still support campaign growth. If you start from mild, lacking conviction and passion, minimally inspiring, you aren’t going to gain any votes beyond direct contact. If you are Rep. Alan Grayson or Senator Bernie Sanders, you can support chains longer than a dozen people (which luckily for Sanders is nearly all the voters in his state).
In a well executed (and some what idealized) situation, by the later stages of the campaign, a number of registered Republicans who passionately support the campaign will have been identified and those supporters will make calls to potentially persuadable registered R’s and NPA/3rd party voters. Using their own personal narrative, why they have chosen to cross party lines, they will have a much better chance of persuading conversions, and be less likely to motivate voters for the opposition. Liberal volunteers calling registered R’s is never a good idea. In a particularly wild demonstration of “Un-Wisdom”, a 2008 Congressional campaign gave Jim Dean of DFA (brother of Howard) a canvassing list that was 50% R, 40% NPA and 10% D. Exactly what does Jim Dean say to a Republican to convince them to vote for a DFA Endorsed candidate for Congress?
In the late stages of a campaign, the focus must be GOTV, reaching out to your own identified supporters and high percentage unidentified voters (registered D’s of favorable demographics) and getting them to the polls. If you are putting your resources in September and October into contacting Republicans and unknown NPA/3rd party voters, you are more likely to active votes for your opponent.
Back to the beginning, if the district is 28% Democratic, 38% Republican and 44% NPA/3rd Party, basic math tells you that you need all or nearly all the Democratic vote, a majority of the NPA/3rd party vote, but keep in mind some percentage of those voters are more conservative than the registered R’s, so maybe 25% from D’s, 22% from NPA/3rd, leaving you a need to get 5% from the Republican spectrum, since we aim for 52%. If you focus on getting those 5% of R’s, you will bleed voters from the other two spectrum, requiring you to get more R’s to compensate – this creates a situation were you are basically bailing out a sinking boat with a spoon. If you project strength and passion, you will gain votes you were never accounting for and gain more monetary and volunteer support with which to further disseminate your message.
Beyond the numbers above, one must further understand the dynamics of cyclical elections on communities. If there is no competitive candidates from one side for a number of cycles, the other side gains ground in both the numbers and the rhetoric projected by the community, inserting strong candidates to counter that for one or more consecutive cycles can neutralize that effect and create a very competitive district where it appeared impossible previously. The numbers can also be overcome with a very emotional action or event, from personal scandal/corruption to a devastating blow to the community like a natural disaster or economic strife.
The long term effects are more pronounced and dangerous – if today’s candidate avoids progressive symbols and rhetoric, they reinforce the negativity of those symbols and positions, making it even harder for the next candidate. If you win eschewing the party, you make your re-election harder and you make it harder for candidates above and below you on the ballot. While you should not blindly support anyone who carries the same party identifier as you, you should support those who share the bulk of your beliefs and you believe to be honorable and decent. In the end it will foster a stronger opportunity for you to effect the changes that motivated you to run in the first place.
This is the first of a series of post that will take on some of the myths and mistakes that circulate campaigns and the pundit-sphere unchallenged. We will be provide links on the sidebar to the right to resources for people seeking employment in progressive campaigns, from direct job listings to career and training resources. If your candidate or campaign is in need of training or other assistance, please contact us.
Conventional Un-Wisdom – As a candidate, you are engaging in what is essentially a continuous job interview, as such you should wear a suit and tie everywhere you go.
This one is very common, and very funny to observe at times. Very few districts at any level are communities in which a business suit is “standard attire.” This becomes even more obvious when you look at the electorate, particularly the universes most likely to be targeted by a progressive campaign. If you don’t recognize it is funny to see a guy (or gal) in a business suit speaking to a crowd at pig roast or a county fair, you may need to get your observation skills re-tuned.
When you are perceived as overdressed by the audience, it adds to the barriers already stacked up against a candidate for breaking through with their message. The audience sees the candidate as less approachable, less like themselves, they become far less likely to become emotionally tied to the campaign. This reduces donor and volunteer potential, and it closes doors the campaign may not even be able to find on their own.
To get a mental image of this in action, in the late summer of 2007, Rudy Giuliani and his Presidential campaign dropped in at the end of a parade route in rural western Iowa. The staff and candidate stepped off the bus in fancy dark suits and shoes and walked among the locals, dressed in denim shorts and t-shirts, trying to interact with them. After fifteen minutes of finding no one willing to talk to them, they got back on the bus and left, having wasted hours driving across the state and lowered their level of support in the local community…just by getting off the bus.
So how should a candidate (and their staff) dress? The rule I use is no more than one level above the expected audience. If you are attending a formal dinner and everyone else is in suits and ties, you should wear a suit and tie. If you are attending a casual backyard barbecue, where the audience is wearing shorts/khakis and t-shirts, you should wear khakis and a polo or button down shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Keep a blazer, tie, clean shirt, alternate shoes, etc in the car at all times, you can shuffle up or down a level of dress very easily. Women can do the same thing with a variety of accessories, accents, alternate blouse, shoes, etc. This will help you deal with the realities of campaign scheduling where a backyard barbecue is followed by a dinner with an elected official or big donor.
Combine the above guidelines with what is even more important, you should be comfortable. As a candidate, surrogate or staffer, you have plenty of things to be anxious about, wearing clothes that make you uncomfortable shouldn’t be part of the problem. Remember that you may need to carry things like notes, donor envelopes, etc, so tailor your attire to accommodate such things comfortably.
As a candidate you should always have someone else with you at events, whether it is a paid staffer or a volunteer. That person should be carrying your cell phone, keys and watch if you wear one. A candidate should never manage their own time, allow that ‘staffer’ to manage time and pull the candidate out at the appropriate time or if the situation warrants, keep them extra time, understanding they may be late for the next event. Often as a candidate you will feel you should stay at a given even where you feel you are connecting well with the audience, the ‘staffer’ might see that you are not really gaining any ground, the people you are speaking too are at their maximum level of support (or rejection) already.
Having a candidate answer a phone or check their watch while speaking to you is another turn off, it diminishes the intimate quality of the interaction, reduces the perception of respect and value towards the supporter/donor/activist. These are easy things to avoid, allowing you to make the most of your campaign’s time at events.
Odd permutations of this Un-Wisdom – a recent self funding candidate’s staff claimed that the reason he was constantly wearing ill fitting and heavily wrinkled suits was that it made him “more approachable”, more “like them”. This is a phenomenally bad rationalization. The candidate was perceived as being unable to dress himself, even with the help of his wealth, wife and campaign staff — this is not going to inspire a great deal of confidence in the candidate’s ability to serve the people. On what ever budget your campaign and candidate are living, you can get properly fitting and comfortable clothes.