Election campaigns are often chaotic and ad-hoc operations. At the beginning of a campaign, they oftentimes operate with limited resources and are hastily built together. Consultants and staffers who had not known each other previously come together. They may have different backgrounds, sometimes even different agendas, but often share big egos. In high-profile, nationwide campaigns, there are oftentimes multiple structures, multiple strategic decision centers, multiple media advisors, and multiple pollsters. What they normally share is that the top candidate is part of each one. In that sense, campaigns are unique because everything is geared towards the top candidate.
Here are some questions to ask to make sure you’re putting together a top-notch campaign team:
- What cases have you worked on that are similar to mine? What was your specific contribution? What were your lessons learned?
- How do you think my campaign will be different from those that you have just mentioned? (Beware of consultants and agencies who have a claim to fame, and then go on copy pasting that formula to any other client)
- Can you provide any references of other candidates that I may call?
- How many other clients/campaigns do you handle at the same time?
- Whom will I deal with on a daily basis? (I think it is sort of a gentleman agreement that the person who makes a pitch, is also the person who is heading the account and is involved on a daily basis.)
- Have you ever left a candidate during a campaign? (In my view, it is quite unprofessional to leave a candidate during the heat of a campaign. Unless there is a major strategic disagreement or something like an abuse, a campaign operative should not do it. At least, the hurdle should be high. I have had a candidate yelling at me to “go and fuck myself” during a call late night. You get over it. Campaigns are very intense, and the candidate can be under enormous pressure.)
- Have you ever lost a campaign? What have you learned from it? (Beware of magicians who supposedly have never lost a campaign. They may be lying to you or be too risk-averse when accepting clients.)
- How do you think political campaigns are different from product campaigns? (Beware of commercial advertisers who claim that there is no difference and that they will make you a brand. Mostly, they will make you look like an idiot. Political campaigns may use some of the same tools as campaigns for products, but the content and the dynamics of election campaigns are very different from campaigns for products.)
- How do you think online and offline work together in a political campaign? (In most countries, most elections are not won online. Beware of people who promise you wonders online. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true).