By: Paul Bentz
Now that the legislative session has finally come to an end and signatures are due at the end of the month, campaign season is starting to heat up. With redistricting and an upcoming presidential cycle, it seems like we are on an accelerated time table towards some very contentious races.
With that, there is the temptation to fall into a “tit for tat” mentality where candidates are focused on their opponents. Candidates should take a page out of last week’s episode of Mad Men. After getting his ad dropped in favor of Don’s concept, Michael Ginsberg said to Don Draper, “I feel bad for you.” To which, Draper responded, “I don’t think about you at all.”
We know that’s not true. However, Draper chose to promote himself instead of tearing down Ginsberg. The same should go for candidates. Here are five things you should consider as you tell your story:
1. Talk about you: People want to know you and have a reason to vote for you. Putting your opponent down doesn’t mean people will vote for you, it simply casts doubt on your opponent. The right mix for any candidate discussion should be at least 75% about you and only 25% about your opponent. It is human nature for people, and media, to seek the conflict. Don’t fall for it. Stay on message.
2. Remember your audience: There are more people who will vote in your election than you will ever be able to talk to. More importantly, people are going to work, paying bills, taking their kids to sports, getting ready for summer, etc. Voters, even the highest of high efficacy voters, are going to spend far less time focused on your election than you are. Most people who vote don’t go to PC meetings, read message boards, or attend debates. Don’t assume they know what is going on, and more importantly, don’t focus on the “inside baseball.”
3. Know when to respond and when not to: You don’t have to respond to everything your opponent says about you. In fact, it should be a discussion with your campaign team about what you should and shouldn’t respond to. The same goes for media questions. Know what you are going to say when the media comes calling, instead of responding to everything they ask. They are trying to stir up controversy and get you into a back and forth.
4. Stop reading blogs and comment sections: This one is a tough one, especially when you can’t sleep or when someone emails a link to you. This feeds back into point number two about remembering your audience. If you look closely, it’s the same people who comment on every story. Their opinions bounce around in an echo chamber creating an altered reality that is sometimes different than the feeling of the overall electorate.
5. Keep your head down and raise money: Every time you are tempted to pick up the phone and talk about your opponent, use that time to pick up the phone and call a donor. The best thing you can do to win your race is to have the money you need to share your message and execute on your campaign plan. There may be a time to challenge your opponent or set the record straight. When that time comes, it’s critical you have the money in your campaign account to do it right.
Though, I think they secretly do, celebrities always say that they don’t read the tabloids. As a candidate, you should take the same advice. Follow your campaign plan. If you don’t have a campaign plan, make one. Always move forward and tell your story.