BRANDING: What Good Candidates and Coca-Cola Share in Common.
If you want to be successful in politics, you need to have name recognition. This is especially true for Constitution Party candidates because you don’t have the advantage of “Letter Voters” (those that vote for whoever has a “R” or “D” by their name). You want those voters to immediately identify that the person on the ballot is the same person that has been doing all these great things and they know exactly who you are and what you stand for.
As explained in the very first article in this series – if you are starting to develop name recognition at the beginning of your campaign, you are much too late (unless, of course, you have access to millions of dollars in marketing money).
If you want to get name recognition and you don’t have a personal fortune to tap into, then you need to have two things: time and people. It is just that simple. Either you have the money or you have time+people. If you are missing all three, stay at home because you are wasting everyone’s time.
To effectively develop your brand, I recommend that you take the same approach that the Democrats use for voting – early and often. The longer you have your name out there and the more often that people hear it, they will start building the memory connections that will come to play when marking their ballots.
The most common way to build name recognition is to be the leader of a cause. You can pick an existing one or build a new one. The cause should be tied to something that you will promote in your campaign. “Better Streets For (insert your town here)” could be a good organization if you were thinking about running for a city office. If you have bigger visions, you can choose something like “Citizens For Honest Government” or something similar. You can either spend the time and money for non-profit status or simply decide not to take any donations and form an Ad Hoc organization for free. The important thing is that the cause becomes a vehicle for you to start promoting it and get your name out there for a good cause.
Effective use of Social Media is big in this area. You can use it to either find the organizations that you need to join and/or create an easy way to promote your own organization. There are even some community groups that exist solely on Facebook. If you don’t like being on Social Media, then you can run for the Lunch Room Leader at your local Assisted Living Center, but your odds of winning any other election is very low.
If I was only able to teach prospective candidates one thing, it would be effective networking. Knowing effective networking is what makes the difference in any political race. Since you will not have the advantage of being able to network within major party organizations, you need to be creative and learn how to network with other organizations.
Let me stress this about networking: If you have been sitting at home for the past 3 years and not involved in your community, it is simply unrealistic to think that you are going to get any acceptance just because you announced your candidacy. It just does not work that way. You need to get involved in your community and be seen doing it.
Business organizations, community groups, political causes, and charities are all good places to be involved. The more the merrier. It is not so much the organization that is important but meeting the people in them. The volunteers that are involved in these organizations are…wait for it…VOLUNTEERS. Guess what? You will need volunteers for your campaign. These are people who have already demonstrated that they are willing to devote their time to worthy causes (and since only 25% of the people volunteer, you need to know where they are at). You will also meet their donors. Guess what? You will need donors for your campaign. If you hold a leadership position (you don’t necessarily have to be the President, but being on the board helps), then you will have a strong connection to the volunteers/donors in the group plus it will allow you to connect with government officials, business leaders, and other influential people as you work to promote the organization. Who knew that doing a good thing could pay off so well?
Unless you have some major charisma going on for you, I strongly recommend that you start small and then shoot big. The most effective networking that you can do in politics is be involved in government. Serving on a school board, port authority, city council, or even a Public Utilities Board is the #1 way that most politicians get their start. Most of these positions don’t pay you anything, but they give you credibility, exposure, name recognition, and allow you to network with the people that you will need when you start your statewide or federal office campaign.
Then there is the absolute, very best, incredibly effective, guaranteed networking secret that I will now share with you (shhh..don’t let the other parties hear this, it is our secret weapon). It is…”Build The Party In Your Community”.
Why is this so effective?
- It is a good cause – bringing good government to your community.
- It ties into your campaign. Being the leader of your local party allows you to talk about the 3 pillars and be recognized for promoting them.
- Everyone involved with the party is your new volunteer and donor base. Duh!
- The bigger the state Constitution Party is, the easier it will be to have ballot access come time that you want to go big. Think of the money and time that you will save if you don’t have to spend so much on getting ballot access. If you simply have enough people in the party, it solves it.
NOTE TO BALLOT ACCESS COMPLAINERS: Grow the party. Stop worrying about the rules. Go around them by having sufficient numbers to get access. For instance (using one of the worst cases), having 20,000 members in a state that has over 8 million people means that you need to convince 1 person out of every 400 to join the party (or just 0.25% of the population). If you cannot do that, your problem is not the rules, it is getting your message out to them. Get 20,000 members, have them sign the petition – BAM – Instant Ballot Access.
In conclusion – to build your brand (name recognition) – be involved in your community, network, build the party, and (most importantly) start early. Even if you just have $2 to spend on your campaign, you will be able to get the people and the finances to make you successful.