Looking to run for office? Skip the book. Go meet your neighbors.

A friend had posted to Facebook the other day a question that was in my wheelhouse, asking about the best book to read about campaign management.

There were some predictable responses, mainly from people finding something on amazon.com that fit their own style. And I say predictable, because most of them can be distilled down to the same information. As in “One of those things is much like the other.”

The problem with many books is that they end up on shelves. I’ve got a couple, which reside in a bin of things that I’ve cleaned off the shelf after they’ve gathered dust for a few years. Old video card. Cheap Camera battery grip that ended up being too cheap.  “The Campaign Manager” by Catherine Shaw.

Now, it’s not an awful book. Not complaining at all. It’s about as good a generic book as you’ll find on the topic. Most of those books on how to manage a campaign all have similar advice. And too many overly complicate it.

Figure out a budget. Sketch out a calendar. Research your issues. Identify and analyze your universe of voters. Write a plan, and follow it. Adjust as needed. Then those books will give you a couple of suggestions on how to write a press release, or a fundraising letter, or some other function of a campaign.

If you are looking at it to formulate how to run a race for mayor, or county office, or even the State Legislature in South Dakota you might be over-complicating it. Those books assume a lot, much of which doesn’t apply in many areas of South Dakota, such as talking about TV news stations that cover the area. Outside of Sioux Falls, the list where that applies drops off quickly. In this state, you might be lucky to have one newspaper that covers the area.

How do you help your chances in getting elected in South Dakota? If you’re the candidate at anything less than a statewide office, a couple of pieces of advice.

  1. Most important, go knock on doors. The candidate has 1-2 jobs, tops. Raise votes, and raise money. And the money goes towards raising votes. Most important is raising votes.
  2. Quit trying to be the campaign manager. That’s not your job. Find someone you trust, and have them keep track of all the back room campaign work. They can place ads, figure out the budget, pull voter lists, etc. (Or you can pay someone to do that).

In South Dakota, our politics are very personal and retail. People want to meet who they’re voting for.  If faced with a choice between two candidates, one who they’ve never heard of, and one who they might vaguely be acquainted with, they’re going to pick the one they know.

That’s the key. They will pick the one they know. That’s the hurdle that most candidates fail to achieve. They just don’t meet enough people. It’s vitally important, especially in local races. Name ID is where most candidates fall short, and you aren’t going to get it by putting a couple of ads in the local shopper paper.

There are levels of bonding that voters have with candidates if and once both are equally known. What I’ve been taught is referred to as “the know – like – trust” test. But most candidates don’t achieve the “know,” so the rest is a moot point.

So my best advice for all you potential candidates out there – skip ordering the book. Meet your neighbors instead. And I mean all of them.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.