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Your Questions Answered

Q: I've won my primary. How soon can I contact my losing opponent's donors to get them and their contributions on board?
A: Yesterday!! You should call the big donors immediately. They know the results of the election and will be expecting a call from you. This will give you the opportunity to  see where they stand and what financial (and other) support they will give. It's better to know what you can anticipate rather than wait for the phone to ring. Contributors want to be asked. This is the time.

Q: My opponent has made his yard signs so they look like mine. Same colors, same style of type. Only the name is different. Should I make an issue out of this?
A:  Don't waste your time. He's not going to change them and you can't make him or gain any value from complaining about it - the response will likely be that you were the one who copied him.  The key to signs is the name. Let it go.

Q: What should a candidate do when a reporter is openly hostile?  
A: If the interview is for television and it is live the candidate must ignore the hostility and continue to conduct the interview by answering the questions according to script.  If it is a taped interview the candidate can ask that the camera be turned off and then talk with the reporter and try to resolve the hostility in a professional way.  During print interviews the candidate should stick to his message and continue for an appropriate period of time and then pleasantly say “thank you” and end the session.

Q: What should a campaign do if a newspaper endorses an opponent?
A: The first thing a campaign must do is assess the endorsement; what impact will it have?  Sometimes endorsements in secondary papers are meaningless.  If it will have some negative impact then a response strategy is called for.  If the endorsement is anticipated develop a plan ahead to time to blunt the impact:  have supporters write letters to the editor, op eds, and call in to talk shows as well as possibly have print ads ready to run in the paper soon after the endorsement.  If the endorsement is a surprise the campaign must play some catch up and consider doing much of the same.

Q: Where should I place my yard signs?

A: Like everything else in your campaign, yard sign placement depends on targeting.  While it would be nice to be able to afford an infinite amount of signs and place them everywhere in your district, most candidates have a limited amount of money with which to purchase yard signs.

Choose which areas of the district you need to get your name out it. Where do you need to raise your name ID?  Look at your campaign plan and your targeting to determine what areas you should concentrate on placing your yard signs in – get the most bang for your buck by placing them where you need to get your name out the most.

Q: How do I get an endorsement?

A: Ask!  While there is some strategy and lots of hard work involved in getting an endorsement, most candidates don't get endorsements because they forget to actually ask for them.  Few endorsements will come your way without your campaign asking for them.

If you are seeking the endorsement of a political or business leader, schedule a face to face meeting (or at least a phone call) between the candidate and him or her.  Be prepared to discuss how the campaign's message and the candidate's views mesh with the leader's own pet issues and projects.

If you are seeking a newspaper endorsement, have you press secretary or other volunteer call the paper to ask about their endorsement procedure – some papers require the candidate to meet with the editorial board or an endorsement screening panel, while others simply go with the publisher's preference.  Have a staff member check before you make the call.

Q: Keeping in Touch with Your Media List

A: Every campaign should have a media list with the name and contact information for every newspaper, magazine, TV, and radio journalist you plan to target with your media efforts.  Too often, though, campaigns limit their contact with the folks on this list to a press release here and there when major events occur.

To keep the media interested in your race, ensure that they know that your campaign is building momentum and staying active, and increase reporters' favorability towards your candidate, stay in regular contact with your entire media list… send out press releases on a regular basis, e-mail out the candidate's daily schedule, and call every so often “just to check in.”  Reporters are always looking for a story – so give them one. 

Q: I've run for office several times but haven't won in the Primary. I know my ideas for government and helping others are good and sound. Should I continue to run or when do I call it quits?

A: The slogan of consultant Brad Crone of Campaign Connections is: You Can't Govern If You Don't Win. But, there comes a time to be realistic about your chances. Lincoln lost several races and you see what he became.

Q: Do the endorsements of Hollywood celebrities mean anything in local state elections (or national for that matter)?

A: Usually not but they can give you an extra opportunity for press coverage and sometimes they can be used to raise money but usually voters make their decisions on local races on local issues and candidates. It doesn't hurt to have the endorsement but be certain the endorsee agrees with what you stand for.

Q: I'm planning to run for office in the near future. Everyone is telling me to develop a message How does one do that?

A: Candidates must have a core belief or value. Message development is really answering the question of why you're running for office but in such a way that it appeals to the voters. You must know who the voters in the district are, determine what they see as the issues and adapt your campaign to win their votes. The message gives the voter the reason to vote for you.

Q: I will need a consultant to run my campaign. How do I pick the best one?

A: There are consultants...and there are consultants. Probably the key ingredient in hiring one is the determination that personalities fit. If the consultant and the candidate do not connect on a personal basis, it may be a bad mix.. Consultants and candidates must have a comfortable fit so that honest evaluation and criticism is accepted without ill feelings. You must also check out references and see work product from other campaigns. Word-of-mouth recommendations are nice, but check closely for work ethics and production. It's your future job that's at stake.

Q: I'm running for local office in a fairly large district and my name is known by many people in the community. I'm planning on spending heavy money on advertising.  Do I still have to knock on doors to get votes from people who know about me but have never met me?

A: You may not want to walk neighborhoods, but there is still no better way to campaign.  The impression left after face to face meetings is the most lasting impression of all forms of campaigning. Often when asked why an individual didn't vote for you, the answer will be, "You didn't ask."

Q: My opponent wants to hold three debates. I don't think anyone cares about or watches debates. How many, if any, should we schedule?

A: Some voters, especially those who educate themselves on the candidates and the issues, believe that political debates are important because it gives them the opportunity to find out where the candidates stand on issues and how they differ. Voters under the age of 25 are the strongest in their belief that presidential debates are helpful; both older and younger voters have the same view on the number of votes for statewide office and older voters feel stronger about debates for district and local office.

Q: I'm having problems keeping my candidate on schedule. He complains that everyone wants a piece of him and he winds up missing important meetings to accommodate them. What should we do to keep him on track?

A: Hire a scheduler and give that person the sole responsibility of keeping the candidate on target. The candidate must learn to refer all requests to meet him to the scheduler. The scheduler then schedules. This enables the candidate to spend his time campaigning and takes him away from the possibility of offending supporters by not showing at their "important" events.  The scheduler must know the who, where, when, why and what, including dress code and other such items.

Q: I want to hire a professional fundraiser for my campaign. I hate to sell myself and ask for money but everyone tells me I have to be involved and call. Is that true?

A: Professional fundraisers can identify sources of campaign revenue, plan events, design mailing pieces and organize your campaign's  money-raising program but the candidate must do the asking. Donors want to give to the candidate, not to a surrogate. Schedule time each day to make calls. It may be difficult for you but it will be worse when your campaign runs out of money.

Q: Should Campaigns Target with Fundraising Events?

A: Often, the first thing that campaigns think about when planning a fundraising event is the “theme” – whether the event will be a barbeque, a dinner, a cocktail hour, etc.  One of the best ways to make your event a success, however, is to start by thinking about the “target” – before you decide the theme.

A great way to structure your fundraising events is by targeting a specific industry.  For example, if your candidate is a dentist, you could hold an event targeted at the local dental and orthodontic communities.  If your candidate has strong ties to the local restaurant scene, you could hold an event targeted at restaurant owners, investors, culinary magazine advertisers, etc.  By targeting a specific industry, your campaign can create a buzz around the event and reach into new networks for contributions.

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