Saturday, January 11, 2014

Managing A Political Campaign ...

The Roles of the Campaign Manager
Ned Barnett

Many a first-time candidate thinks that he can be his own campaign manager - this reminds me of the old saying, "A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client."  

The role of the candidate is to be the candidate.  The role of the Campaign Manager is to take the responsibilities of the campaign off the candidate, freeing her up to do what only she can do, interacting with donors, campaign volunteers and voters.

The Campaign Manager is at the very core of the campaign. In simplest terms, the Campaign Manager makes sure of everything else, so the candidate has only six things to do, that only he can do:

·       Fund-raising Calls
·       Meeting with the (Earned) News Media
·       Participating in Advertising Creation (photos, TV shoots, radio recordings)
·       Voter Contact - Winning the Hearts and Minds and Votes of Voters
·       Special Obligations (family, party events)
·       Downtime – you can’t campaign 24/7

Those are the six things that either only the candidate can do, or things like ad creation that can’t be accomplished without the candidate’s full participation.

Literally everything else is – or should be – under the direct control of the Campaign Manager. The less the candidate has to worry about, or do, the better she can do the things that only she can do.

To accomplish these six things, the Campaign Manager must:

·       Manage the Candidate’s Time Priorities – making sure he focuses on those are the six things noted above, and nothing else

The Campaign Manager, first and foremost, must keep the candidate focused on the prize, ensuring that she spends her time wisely and well handling those things that either only she can do, or those things that can’t be accomplished without her participation.

Everything else is added baggage that takes away from his primary role in winning his campaign.

·       Creating and Managing the Campaign Strategy

A campaign that tries to run without a plan is like a trip taken without a map, and without consulting road signs. You may be making good time and getting great mileage, but you don’t know where you’re going and you’ll never know when you’ve gotten there.

Strategy involves not only an overall campaign strategic plan for victory, but the following as well:

o   Fund-Raising Plan
o   Market Research Plan
o   Opposition Research Plan
o   Scheduling Plan
o   Strategic Allies (Groups) Plan
o   Paid Media Plan
o   Earned Media Plan
o   Social Networking Plan
o   Database Creation and Management Plan
o   GOTV Plan

·       Managing the Budget

This involves a variety of tasks, including:

o   Developing a budget (with input from consultants)
o   Developing a budget spreadsheet, with timetables for fund-raising and spending
o   Tracking the variance between budget planned and budget spent
o   Tracking the variance between funds planned and funds actually raised
o   Tracking the week-by-week cash flow in/out campaign budget (master spreadsheet)
o   Approving all expenses in advance – if they're not pre-approved, don’t pay them

To a much greater extent than even most experienced candidates realize, the budget IS the campaign – it defines every aspect of the campaign.

Even if money isn’t involved (the candidate tweets, or speaks to an ad-hoc group of voters) there is an opportunity cost – could she have been doing something that would have generated more donors, more campaign volunteers or more voters? 

But generally, everything comes at a price.

·       "Signing" Checks

Going hand-in-hand with managing the Budget, and coordinating all of the activities in a campaign, the Campaign Manager must have control of the campaign checkbook. Of course, especially in a Federal election, the campaign treasurer will actually physically control the checkbook, but in any campaign, the Campaign Manager has to be the person to authorize the expenditure of each dollar, in advance.   

Each dollar spent represents a milestone on the path to victory – each dollar must be treated as precious, and “invested” rather than spent. “Invested” is a mind-set, but it is a very real one for campaigns.

A candidate who controls her campaign checkbook is, in effect, her own Campaign Manager. She cannot escape the minutia of the campaign, and her time cannot be invested wisely in activities that will earn her a victory.

·       Managing the Staff

This involves hiring the staff, managing their productivity, motivating them to greater efforts, and discharging and replacing those who do not work out. 

The candidate may certainly be involved in the review of key staff members – it is, after all, his campaign – but he needs to leave the ultimate hiring (and firing) to the Campaign Manager – otherwise the manager's authority will be eroded.

Staff, especially at first, includes the following areas. Other areas are typically farmed out to consultants and advisers who specialize in these fields.  Initially, some of these campaign hats will be worn by the Campaign Manager – but that can’t last long, and ultimately the staff should include:

o   Accounting
o   Volunteers – recruiting & training & managing
o   Field Director – including GOTV activities
o   Press person
o   Scheduler
o   Advance – Event-Prep
o   Market research and opposition research
o   Database creation and management
o   Social Networking

Other staff positions will be identified as the campaign moves forward, and in some areas, more than one person may be on payroll – this is especially true for the Field Director/GOTV director – he will need a staff, and it can’t be all volunteers.

·       Managing the Campaign Process

The process of the campaign is the ongoing, day-to-day activity that takes us from before the campaign begins right up to the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.  Managing the campaign involves straight personnel, consultant and activity management processes, as well as those strategic and tactical activities already noted. 

Tools to help this process move forward include:

  • Master Chart for Process
  •  Specific Charts for Each Process
  • Campaign Strategic Plan
  • Master Advertising Calendar
  • Master Social Media/Earned (PR) Media Calendar
  • Master GOTV Progress Calendar 
  • Master Campaign Calendar
  • Master Candidate Schedule 
  • Master Campaign Budget
  • Master Fund-Raising Calendar
Having the tools that measure and track activity makes the Campaign Management process do-able, and goes a long way toward making the campaign winnable.


·       Managing the Consultants

Specialized consultants are not a necessary evil – to any successful campaign, they are a necessary blessing.  No campaign short of a major national campaign could afford the in-house staff needed to handle what these consultants will handle.

Their expertise is just too high-priced to manage otherwise.

The candidate should have some input into the selection of the consultants, but if the Campaign Manager is to be effective in coordinating their efforts, he has to make the ultimate hiring and firing decisions. 

Many campaigns have foundered on the rocky shoals of consultants doing an end-run around the Campaign Manager and involving the candidate in decisions.

This leaves the campaign in chaos as no-one but the candidate knows what’s going on, and she’s too busy (or should be) to even think about keeping track of it all.

The range of consultants will vary at different times during the campaign, but an effective campaign requires at least the following:

o   Fund-Raising
o   Market Research – Polling
o   Paid Media – ad design, production, placement strategy and placement
o   Earned Media – public and media relations
o   Database – coordinates with fund-raising, GOTV and the staff Field Director
o   Social Media Networking – managing and placing posts for maximum exposure – coordinates with “earned media” and “paid media” experts
o   Opposition Research
o   GOTV
o   Technology Experts

Managing consultants involves:

o   Weekly conference calls, individually and as a team
o   Coordinate activities – make sure the left-handed consultant knows what the right-handed consultant is doing (this is essential in integrating research with ad creation and placement, among other things)
o   Hold their feet to the fire – making sure their benchmark goals within budget on schedule

·       Managing Scheduling

While the campaign will need a scheduler, that scheduler needs to be managed by the Campaign Manager, who must also always be kept in the scheduling loop. 

Whomever is the scheduler is the ONLY person in the campaign, including the candidate, who can make scheduling decisions. 

To try any other approach courts failure on a spectacular scale – think missed meetings, double-booked schedules, and disaster.

For each event, fill out a campaign scheduling form, such as is found below (and please feel free to copy and use this form).

The Campaign Manager, who may at first be the scheduler as well (though this will swiftly change – a good scheduler is essential), will also manage scheduling by the following activities:

o   Create and make sure the scheduler maintains a confidential master calendar – this is a campaign secret, and it’s all about “need to know”
o   Set scheduling priorities, and make sure they’re kept (see the candidate’s six responsibilities, above)
o   Create Opportunities for scheduled events
o   Create ample time in the candidate's schedule for fund-raising calls, coordinating this with the fund-raising consultant
o   Ensure that there are qualified surrogates available to handle conflicting scheduling opportunities
o   Ensure that only the “scheduler” (Campaign Manager or staff “Scheduler”) makes the schedule – and if there is a scheduler, the Campaign Manager must defend her from the inevitable sniping and griping - even from the candidate
o   Ensure that the scheduler knows about and monitors “protected time” – candidate family birthdays, party events, etc.
o   Ensure that the scheduler knows the Candidate’s scheduling strengths and limitations – is she a morning person, does she work late, does she need a mid-day break, etc.
o   Makes sure that the advance staffer gets to know the events (inside and out) to ensure the candidate is properly prepped for each event

·       Fight for the Candidate and the Campaign

This may seem obvious, but it’s not. Too many Campaign Managers see this role as either a career (so they’re always looking for the next client) or as a stepping-stone to a better job, such as a position in DC. 

Either of those can take the Campaign Manager’s eye off the ball. 

The Campaign Manager must show bottom-up loyalty. From Day-One to the final returns come in, the Campaign Manager must have a single-minded focus.  If there’s a Primary, he should not be concerned with the General. If there’s a General, he should not be worried about the Transition.  Period.

·       Fight for the Staff

Campaign Staffs often take the heat of others' ire.  A donor, a spouse, a close friend of the candidate, a power-player (or someone with his own hidden agenda) will attack the staff, for reasons that are clear or - frequently - mysterious.

The Campaign Manager should exhibit top-down loyalty, protecting his staff from unwarranted attacks, and managing discipline personally if the attacks have merit – as they sometimes will.

·       Keep the Candidate in the Loop without Strangling Her

The Candidate has a right and a need to know what’s going on, but she needs the 30,000-foot overview, not the minutia. This can be accomplished by regular meetings with the Campaign Manager, meetings that are on her schedule and are considered as important as donor meetings.  These should be:

o   Regularly-scheduled times plus as-needed
o   At least weekly at first, and daily as the campaign picks up momentum

·       Build and manage an internal coalition

The Campaign Manager must build a coalition team, including advisers, staff and volunteers/supporters working together – and make sure they each have all the information they need, but not a scintilla more. 

Campaign leaks have sunk many promising candidates, and the Campaign Manager must do all that’s possible to prevent leaks.  Tasks involved in this coalition-building include:

o   Listen and Learn
o   Show Respect – But Sustain Expectations

·       Know the District, Know the Voters

The Campaign Manager doesn’t have to be from the district – few are – but he has to climb a steep learning curve and get to know the district, intimately.  This means research, and it means walking the streets, visiting shopping malls and community centers, and taking the pulse of the district. 

The Campaign Manager cannot adequately advise his candidate without an intimate knowledge of the district she is running to represent. 

Factors to become aware of include the district’s:

o   Culture
o   Ethnicity
o   Faith
o   Economic Status
o   Previous/Current Political Affiliation
o   Their Issues

·       Ear to the Ground

The Campaign Manager must know what’s going on, and that involves listening.  He should plan to:

o   Listen Inside the Campaign
o   Listen Outside the Campaign

Conclusion – Campaign Manager’s Role

Ultimately, it’s the Campaign Manager’s responsibility to win, by all the means that are available and that match with the candidate’s own set of standards and beliefs. A man of integrity with a candidate who has none has no business being that candidate’s Campaign Manager.  On the other hand, a “realpolitik” Campaign Manager will experience nothing but frustration while representing a candidate who refuses, for instance, to “go negative” on the opponent’s family, if that's the only way to win.  I'm not defending going negative - merely reflecting a fact of campaign and human nature.

NOTE:  As a matter of personal preference, I only work with candidates who have integrity.  To me, this means that families are out-of-bounds, and “attack” campaigning, if any, is confined to verifiable proof, which is presented honestly and factually, rather than with campaign-killing distortions.  Others have different standards, and as long as they don’t cross any legal lines, they’re free to pursue their own values.  

This is, after all, still America - if we can keep her!

Campaign Event Scheduling Questionnaire

Event Name:  ________________________




Travel Directions and Details
Street Directions:

Inside Building Directions: 

Event Host Contact Phone Number:
Type of Event

Number of People Expected

Types of People Expected

Candidate’s Role
Length of Address?



Other Dignitaries or Candidates?

Donors Present?

Press Present?

Which Press – Print, Radio, TV?

Press Notified by Campaign?

Press Theme of the Day

Date invitation received

Who sent us the invitation?

Confirmation Letter Sent?

Who is the Event Host?

Follow-up Letter Sent?
Other Significant Factors

Signed/Approved ________________________________   Date approved ______________

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