Campaigns and Elections has a great article from JR Starrett laying out a very helpful campaign manager’s checklist for the first 90 days of the campaign. You can check out the article here. Starrett does a good job of setting out several of the key items that all campaigns should consider in their early stages.
Sometimes it can be difficult to prioritize campaign activities – especially early in the cycle. The list of things to do can be daunting, and early on, every decision made seems monumental. However, if you try to do everything at once, nothing really gets done. It’s like the Three Stooges trying to walk through a door.
Starrett’s strategy is an excellent starting point, but there were a couple of key areas that I believe also need attention early. I’ve added four more items to the checklist to make it an even (and still manageable) ten. Here are four more rules to guide a campaign manager’s first 90 days (Read Starrett’s 1-6):
7. Get your data
To build a pathway to victory, you need to know who you are going to talk to. That means getting your data together to understand your electorate. Work with a reputable firm to model your turnout. You should know how many people you expect to turn out, where they will be coming from, how old they will be, and a whole host of other details. If your list provider can’t get you that data, you need to find someone else. Elections are won and lost on bad data. If resources allow, I would recommend a baseline survey in the first 90 days to better understand awareness, key issues, and fine tune your messaging.
8. Draft a timeline
The 90 day finance plan should come with a 90 day campaign timeline for success. Activities for the campaign should be lined up with the finance activities to maximize success and ensure that your clients feel like both sides of the campaign are being fulfilled – not just the money side. By the end of the 90 days, if not before, you should also have a draft timeline to victory that starts where you are and ends on Election Day. The timeline might change as the campaign progresses, but it will help keep everyone on track and sure that the campaign is setting the tone and pace of the race instead of reacting to whatever is thrown at them.
9. Establish talking points
Message discipline cannot be achieved without a message. Too many campaigns stumble through the wilderness at first while they try to figure out what they want to say and what they believe. Answers to questions like, “Why are you running?” should be nailed down and practiced as early as possible. It’s understandable that key issues may take a little time to figure out, but everyone needs to sing from the same song sheet to make sure that the message is consistent. Ensure that your supporters and key advocates have been equipped with talking points from the beginning so that they are painting the same picture. It’s much easier to start from the same point than try to bring everyone back together later.
10. Set the tone
As the campaign manager, it is your responsibility to set the tone for the campaign. You are responsible for setting the procedures for how team meeting are going to run, establishing how internal communications will be conducted, and setting forth the decision-making process. As the manager, you should be setting the meeting agenda to keep things moving and not letting every decision devolve into a monumental debate. It’s much easier to set a tone and then lighten up than it is to be easy going at first and expect discipline later. Pro-tip: save the agenda from your first few campaign meetings to review at your last meeting. It’s fun to watch how things have changed.
Campaigns are fun and challenging. They change all the time, but there are some truths that stand the test of time. If you are interested in running for something, we recommend you check out “So you want to be a candidate?” and then feel free to give us a call to chat.