Saturday, January 4, 2014

Successful Political Campaign Networking

How to Turn Personal Interactions into Contributors, Campaigners and Voters
Ned Barnett

 Introduction – What is Political and Campaign Networking?

Networking is one of the more effective political campaign tools, because it is in-your-face personal, and because it creates human bonds that will lead to trust – and to contributors, campaigners and voters.

By definition, “networking” involves developing contacts and exchanging information with other people.  Unlike social interactions intended to develop personal friendships, networking is done for purposes of developing contacts. 

To be successful, your networking must be genuine and authentic. It must build trust.  At its core, networking builds a reciprocal relationship – it is all about how you can help others, as well about as how others can help you.

Why should you spend your time networking?

There are a number of excellent reasons for networking, but they all add up to enhancing your campaign, thereby generating additional contributors, campaigners and voters. 

Some of the specific reasons include:

·       Growing your campaign database

·       Becoming known by “those who count” in target niche markets

·       Increasing the number of active word-of-mouth supporters

·       Building beneficial relationships

·       Increasing contributors and contributions, as well as supporters and voters

·       Enhancing your brand - your image with the electorate, the media and contributors

·       Building your reputation, leading to favorable word-of-mouth

Traditionally, networking has involved meeting people face to face at chamber of commerce meetings, civic clubs and other social/business events. However, technology has greatly expanded your networking opportunities – today, you can effectively network via LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus and other social networking sites. 

Social networking is no longer merely helpful.  It has become essential to campaign and fund-raising success.  However, nothing can replace the impact of positive human interactions.  
 Face to face meetings rapport and connect individuals in ways that social networking cannot.
Mastering Campaign Networking – Where do I Begin?
Because of its importance in campaigning, mastering the networking process is a low-cost and high-impact way of growing the success of your campaign.  Create what is known as an “elevator pitch” – a brief introduction to you and to your campaign. 
In less than 30 seconds, your elevator pitch must make your listener want to learn more about you.  Find ways to differentiate yourself from others in your field.  Give specifics about what you do. If you have are in a niche market with special skills and talents, mention that. 
Be memorable.
Because your elevator pitch is your door-opener, practice it on your campaign staff, family members or friends, and keep working on it until you’re comfortable with it. 
This same approach can be followed as you include others into your network of contributors, campaigners and voters.
The best places to network are events where you'll meet individual voters.  If you keep your eyes and ears open, you’ll be amazed at just how much they are like you, people who share common interests and have a remarkable knowledge base.
However there are other places that also work in reaching out to potential contributors, campaigners and voters, including:
·       Party Events – this is where you start
·       Job and health fairs – these bring out people with concerns directly related to the campaign
·       Charity and non-profit fund-raising events, such as wine tastings – these bring out potential contributors
·       Chamber of Commerce, Civic Club and other public meetings

·       School board and other public governmental affairs – here you’ll find activists, and the media

 ·       Public events of all kinds – any place where people meet
Networking Groups
When you are ready to reach out beyond your existing network, start locally.  Contributors, campaigners and voters will come from a specific geographic area – and will share specific interests.  If your district has more than one locality, reach out to each of them.
Many civic and business groups offer an online member listing with profiles; review this list to see if the organization is a good fit before investing your time and resources.  Civic, cultural and business groups often meet once a month – generally around a meal – while others hold mixers.  Groups will often allow you to attend meetings or events as a guest, at least at first.
In selecting networking groups, ask yourself a few questions about the group’s ability to help you network successfully, such as:
·       Does this group put you in contact with realistic potential contributors, campaigners and voters?
·       Does it attract your high-probability voter, or is it likely to attract undecideds or folks from the other party?
·       Does it offer a realistic opportunity for you to network with potential contributors, campaigners and voters??
Only focus on groups that fulfill the screening criteria you selected.  Then, when you’re ready to start networking, visit as many of those groups as possible, and look for other criteria, such as:
·       Does the group have a comfortable (to you) tone and attitude?
·       Do you feel welcome – could you see yourself actually being productive in this group meeting?
·       Are the members seem supportive of one another?
·       Does the group seem to have competent leadership?
When attending formal networking groups or events, try to arrive at the meeting early and stay late.  While there, participate – that’s what networking is all about.   
Even though you’re there to help grow your campaign, don’t come across as someone who is only self-involved – do as much listening as talking. That will let people know that you’re really interested in them.
Also explore the possibility of providing a program yourself.  Should people give you referrals to potential donors or campaigners, follow through quickly and efficiently, and do so with the utmost respect and professionalism, and keep your referral source in the loop.  Remember that your actions are a reflection on your referral source.
When and How to Network
 Leisure Time – Networking during leisure activities works well for candidates – for the people you’re trying to reach, office hours have other priorities.   
Volunteering – Long before you launch your campaign, pick a rewarding cause then take a leadership position that will help you stay visible.  It’s an example of doing well by doing good.
Alumni Events – There is a not-unreasonable expectation that alumni will help one another.  So, if your alumni association meets locally, you have a ready-made connection.
Women Only (or Men’s Only) Groups – Some women’s networking groups are long-established, while others are fairly new; some are online only, while others hold in-person events or offer one-on-one mentoring.   If you’re of the opposite gender, come as someone’s guest.
Civic organization – Civic organizations with a purpose you can support are great places to build relationships with others, and to help the community at the same time.
Internet Networking Websites – In the 21st Century, this may be the most obvious networking tool of all. Social networking sites are open 24/7, and they make it fairly easy to locate people with similar interests. Online ties can be weaker than in-person relationships, but they are a place to start.
Blogging – Your goal by networking online is to become seen by target audiences as a “subject matter expert” or “thought leader” – someone who people turn to with confidence in areas of your expertise.  Choose issues you believe in passionately, and let your passion show.  The people you attract will see you as someone they can support, becoming a contributor, a campaigner and a voter.
This requires a two-phased program – creating and posting “content” (blogs, video blogs, case studies, white papers, white-board videos, webinars, eBooks, etc.) and then using the social media to generate “conversation” that promotes the content while positioning you as an expert.  Most candidates find that the time involved makes professional campaign “ghost writers” to create the “content” – along with the “conversation” that promotes it effectively to your target audiences.  But stay hands-on and don’t let them co-opt your own voice.
Social media sites useful in promoting campaigns and candidates include:
LinkedIn Whatever your campaign issue positions and campaign objectives, LinkedIn will help you to build a network of useful contacts. People are on LinkedIn with the sole purpose of connecting for specific and generally not-personal reasons.  LinkedIn’s subject-matter groups represent an effective way to position yourself as a subject matter expert, and to invite people to view your blogs and other content. 
Facebook and Twitter – These interactive conversational sites are more places to connect with consumers – patients and prospects – than with professional referral sources.
Pinterest and Instagram – These are relatively new and fast-growing social media sites that are more visually-oriented, and therefore better for posting before-and-after case study material.

Create and Nurture Network Relationships
People are not truly part of your network until you have created a perceived relationship with them.  Within 24 hours of meeting someone in person, follow up with them via phone, email, text or some other means of communications – make sure your campaign staff is geared to this goal. Then continue to nurture this new relationship with information (emails, text), invitations (have them join you on social media sites) and in other ways to help grow that relationship.  This is where the conversational side of social media can prove helpful.

Making it Personal – Set Up a Meeting
If a prospective network member seems likely to be a mover-and-shaker, someone able to provide valuable referrals to contributors and campaigners, make that relationship personal by scheduling a follow-up meeting.  Pick a neutral meeting location (i.e., not your office, or theirs) that is convenient for the other party – a restaurant or coffee shop usually works. Don’t be late, and be sure to pay the bill – after all, you’re the host.
These initial meetings should focus on subjects that will help to build this new relationship, and talk about things that you both find interesting. Be sure to pay close attention to their body language. If that the other person seems to be losing interest, change the topic.
This first meeting – as well as follow up meetings – is one of the keys to successful networking. If this person is worth courting for your campaign network – especially at the level of contributors or campaigners, you’ll have to plan on more meetings. Networking relationships take time to build.

Conclusion – Networking Pays Off
With time and effort, networking will materially grow your campaign.  Plan on growing your campaign by developing a workable blend of social networking and face-to-face networking.  Consider the rewards of a solid new referral source, and be prepared to put in the time and resources necessary to nurture that referral source as a member of your network.


  1. This is an article that candidates, as well as leaders of civic and business organizations, should study and use to make specific plans for action. While it is mentioned in the article, I feel that follow up and follow through are key components of a successful networking effort, as the purpose of networking is not just establishing contact but generating enthusiastic support.

    1. Thank you, Dennis - I agree that follow-through is critical to success. Useful insight.

      Ned Barnett