Building Your Network
In my last article, I discussed the attributes and personality traits you need if you want to run a successful campaign. If you find that you are still interested in being a candidate, then it is time to start the preparations for your campaign.
A good campaign actually starts one to two years before the election. It is throughout this period that you are building your network and name recognition in the community.
Obviously, the first thing is deciding which office that you want to run for. While it is not impossible to run for a State-wide or Federal office for your first election, I would not advise it. These positions usually take a lot of effort and expense to run a successful campaign (more on that in a later article). They also involve complexities in office that having prior political office will help you when you get elected. Just like any other job, you just cannot ask to be the CEO of a major corporation without having some experience in working with the company. Political office is no different. Having prior experience working in a political office will help with both your election and your success once you are elected.
In deciding which position to run for, you should take into consideration several factors:
- Is the position something that you have a natural concern about? For instance, are you concerned about your children’s education and programs like Common Core? Then run for a School District seat. Are you concerned about the taxes and regulations imposed on local businesses? Then run for a City or County office.
- What is your financial status? The higher the office, the more it costs to run a successful campaign. I will devote an entire article to campaign finances, but we can start with some finance basics for now. City and School District campaigns are fairly inexpensive to manage. County positions are not that much more. Most state legislature positions are still manageable but can get very expensive depending on the location and the current makeup of the legislature. I have seen some state legislature campaigns cost $300K to $500k because they were hotly contested races. Others (in rural areas) were very inexpensive to run. State-wide and Federal positions typically cost $500K to $2M. Let me blow up this myth right now- if you think that you do not need money to have a successful campaign, then don’t bother running. You are just wasting everyone’s time. It does not mean that you have to use your own money, but all campaigns require finances to run. You need to have access to those finances. The higher the office, the more access to financial resources you need. While I do not insist that you have to spend as much as current candidates do, you should be prepared to spend at least 50%-75%. If you think that you can run for Governor on $20,000, then you need to think again. It is unrealistic and demonstrates that you don’t understand the costs involved to run a successful campaign. As such, the position that you run for needs to be a position that you are comfortable in raising money for. Again, running for a smaller office can allow you to build financial connections that will prepare the way for political seats that cost more money to finance.
- Is the opponent vulnerable? Do you have a bad incumbent who has done some stupid things or received bad press? Is the established incumbent not running for re-election and presents the possibility of an open election? Is there dissatisfaction among the voters with the overall management of the government office? Having an unpopular or unknown opponent makes it a lot easier to win.
- What are the characteristics of the voters in your community? If you are living in a city that has voted for liberal candidates for 50 years, the odds of your success are going to be small. You may want to consider running for a county or state office. While conservative candidates have won in liberal strongholds, our message will not resonate with liberals and you need to be realistic about your chances. We don’t need to run in every election. You need to have enough conservatives and independents in your area to get the votes to win. While the country (as a whole) is more conservative than liberal, there are liberal strongholds where the people are not open to a conservative message. If you happen to live in such an area, then you need to either run for an office that encompasses a larger and more diverse voter population or you need to move.
Once you have decided on the position you want to run for, you need to start attending the meetings. If you want the job, you need to understand what the job entails. You need to get an idea of what is involved, who the players are, what kind of issues they are working on, and how they operate. Additionally, by attending the meetings, you will be exposed to those groups and individuals who come before the body to present their cases. This will give you a chance to introduce yourself and build rapport with them. If they are showing up at a government meeting, then you can be assured they are voters and influencers in your community.
You need to start networking one to two years prior to running for the position. There are two things that you are doing at this point: (a) Name Recognition and (b) building your volunteer/donor base. You want to get your community used to seeing you and associating your name with good causes. If you can find a community group you can become a leader in (Tea Party, Property Owners group, Constitution Party leadership, etc.), it will give you the opportunity to speak at different community events. You become associated with the cause and as the spokesperson for that cause.
You also need to start building networks within the business community. Business owners are the backbone of any community. They are the most politically active, supportive, and influential for any political position – from city council to president. Business leaders will be your future donors and supporters when you run for office. Having relationships with them prior to your campaign will make things a lot easier for you. Business organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, and other business networking groups are good organizations to join or at least speak to. If you cannot join these organizations, then find opportunities to speak to them. We will be introducing new tools to help you with this in the near future. In the meantime, get to know your business leaders and let them get to know you.
Be involved in the community. Charity organizations and events are good places for you to show up. You do not necessarily have to be heavily involved, but it helps to always be at the same places that your community is showing up at. Networking starts with having shared causes. If I see you at a charity that I support, then again at a political activist group that I attend, I will be more inclined to strongly support you. The same people who attend and donate to charity events, attend and donate to political campaigns. If you can tie in your community involvement to your position, all the better. For instance, if you are running for a School District office, then attending education organizations would be a natural fit for you (if you are the local leader for the “Stop Common Core” organization, then it gives you opportunities to speak and build name recognition for being involved in education).
Build the party locally. The political party is the #1 support structure you have for your campaign. The harder that you work to build your local Constitution Party, the more volunteers and supporters you will have when you start your campaign. More than anything else, your efforts in this area will produce the greatest results. CP members will be your strongest supporters and promoters. A strong local party also provides you with credibility and recognition. This also will provide you with name recognition as being a CP leader and associates you with the party. As our marketing campaign gets stronger and stronger, you can reap the benefits of our hard work by having your name associated with the positive messages that we will be sending out nationally.
Other things to build on:
- If you are not a natural public speaker, then join a local Toastmasters group. More than any other organization out there, Toastmasters is the best for developing public speaking skills. They can take a terrible public speaker and turn them into a good one (I am speaking from personal experience).
- If you cannot afford to join Toastmasters, then contact me to join our local Speakers Group. We can provide opportunities and training on public speaking. While not as good as Toastmasters, we do offer support and training. Just let me know if you are interested and I will send you an invitation to join our group.
- Build a Social Media network. Social Media is the networking tool of the day. It is more powerful than any other form of communication and is the most effective way to reach out to your community. If you are not on Social Media, start now. This is a must, not an option.
Obviously, there are hundreds of others things that you must build on during your preparation time for your campaign, but these are the main ones to get started.
Please let me hear your comments, questions, and ideas.