Much of our work focuses on addressing online manipulation. But, at the other end of the spectrum, we also help positive actors improve their communications capabilities. Viktor has worked on election campaigns in Greece and the UK. Check out his thoughts below on the dos and don’ts of a modern campaign. Amil
An increasing number of people from outside the world of traditional politics are standing for elected office. While this is ultimately good for a country’s democratic health, those who come into it from other fields are at a distinct disadvantage.
With this in mind, I have put together 7 key points that a new candidate needs to think about before starting a campaign.
- Know the Process
Don’t even think about running until you understand the election procedure inside and out. Keep in mind that the same party can have different rules in different constituencies; and the rules can change from one election to the next. These rules will govern who can vote, who can stand, and what is allowed in the campaign. The time invested in understanding these seemingly obscure rules pays off. For example; the candidate who knows the process can make sure supporters know if they need to register weeks in advance to vote, or whether they need to physically turn up to a polling station. Make sure you clearly communicate the relevant rules to supporters.
- Understand Online Risk
Know your vulnerabilities. A skilled opponent will find them out and use them against you. Also, increased scrutiny of public figures is a sign of a healthy democracy. But that does not mean that you should not go through your social media posting history and delete the questionable party photos from your teenage years. Similarly, secure your personal and campaign information. Most cyber security risks can be dealt with using free or very cheap software tools.
- Give Yourself Time
Thinking about your campaign early means you have time to prepare. Get to know your constituency, key audiences and stakeholders. Avoid being the “parachute candidate” who lands in a constituency with little to no background knowledge, and no time to plan your campaign. A reactive campaign is rarely a successful campaign
- Build and Organise Your Team
Recruit a team that balances the need to respond to events with the need to implement the everyday campaign plan. Your team’s links to the electorate are an advantage, but you also need people with video, social media and design expertise. Invest in your team; success requires winning more than just one election. Having a seasoned campaign team will make subsequent runs easier.
- Consider your PPB: Policies, Profile, Brand
Identify your core campaign policies and candidate profile. A political campaign doesn’t have to prioritise policies in its messaging, but they are needed to bring credibility to the candidate’s platform. Policy talk might not make for the most exciting campaign material, but whether it’s a branch, local, or a general election, there are details about your platform that voters will want to know about. Similarly examine the core pillars of your identity that will be emphasised to potential voters. These will anchor your appeal as a candidate and that of your campaign as a whole. Use these pillars to inform the creation of a unique brand identity (i.e. how your messaging is being communicated eg. font, slogan, buzzwords, colours).
- Engage the Community
Even if your policies/charisma/identity/branding are perfectly on point, online communication can only get you so far. Identify and build strong relationships with key community influencers (business owners, organisations, interest groups), but resist the urge to try to immediately convert these relationships into political capital. Political relationships take time. Identify a location where people can come, meet with you, and discuss their concerns and grievances.
- Create Content
Get comfortable speaking to a camera. You will need to deliver content across different platforms to reach different audiences. Identify the content that appeals to your key audiences and consistently create media for them to consume. Remember this is not just about you. Find ways to make your electorate the focus of your content, prioritise the voices of your community in your messaging. This also helps with attracting feedback you can learn from to constantly tweak your output