Dr. Politics: Establishing your Campaign Leadership Team
By Dwight Patel
Let’s Review What We Have Covered So Far
You have filed for candidacy, put your finance team in place, and you’ve just finished your first campaign event. You likely have a small core group of volunteers now as well. Hopefully, you also have a war chest of $5,000 and $10,000 dollars in cash on hand.
It’s Time to Build your Leadership Team
When you are running for the House of Delegates (or in other states, the State House of Representatives or State Senate) you may have one, maybe two, paid staffers, if you are lucky. Most likely you will have dedicated volunteer who will act as your campaign manager, scheduler, press secretary and webmaster. Even though you won’t be paying them, you still want to conduct an interview. However, you are always welcome to pay if you so choose. But for something like a state legislative run, a campaign manager could either emerge from your core volunteers as would the right person for the other positions, or you could conduct interviews and select for each of these roles.
Remember this: you have already chosen three of your most important hires when you selected a treasurer, a campaign chairman and finance chairman.
The fourth most important hire is definitely your campaign manager/director. In larger campaigns these are two separate roles, but for smaller races it’s the same guy or gal.
Here are a few questions to ask your potential campaign manager, or any campaign staff, paid or not.
- Is this person dedicated to your vision?
- Is he or she a team player?
- Is he or she organized?
- Can this person multitask?
- How is their written communication?
- Can he or she work under pressure?
- Are they willing to be the first one in the office and last one to leave?
- Does he or she get along with the rest of your leadership team?
- Can he or she lead others? (your campaign manager will have several subordinates)
- What is his or her temperament? Can this person work under pressure?
Red Flags to Look Out For
- Lack of Eye Contact – When candidates can’t maintain eye contact and consistently look down, it can indicate confidence issues, which could mean they won’t be able to drive processes or they have something to hide.
- Gossiping about former campaigns and managers – This is self-explanatory
- Arriving Late – Lack of commitment and organization, if this person can’t be on time, how can he make sure you get to your engagements on time?
- Poor Listening Skills – If an applicant asks repetitive questions, replies with answers that are unrelated to the questions or appears lost during conversations, he/she may not have a genuine interest in the role or know how to show respect for other peoples’ time.
- Missing the Interview – Rescheduled or missed interviews mean that the person may be unreliable and disorganized.
- Using the word “like” too much – This is unprofessional and, if hired, could make the individual – and the entire campaign – appear less credible.
- Background check issues – Discovering multiple small issues with candidates, such as poor driving records or unsavory comments from former co-workers, calls their credibility into question. You are running for office; your campaign staffer can’t become the story.
- Inappropriate language – Since this person will be representing you, someone who uses abusive language would demonstrate a lack of respect that will have a negative impact on you and your campaign.
- Bragging – Talking about themselves and/or bragging about their accomplishments would indicate that the person is NOT a team player.
- Unprofessional appearance – Since this person will be building an image for you as a candidate, the last thing you want is a slob, who would make you look like a joke.
Note: If you are running for higher office – or in a large state such as California or Texas, your staff would most likely be paid.
After you have your campaign manager on board you will need to staff up the other critical players who will report to the campaign manager. If you want to be a successful candidate, you will need fill the following position:
- Press Secretary
- Deputy Press Secretary, if funds allow
- High Dollar Fundraiser – Works with candidate and Finance Chair
- Low Dollar Events and setting up a direct mail program
- Events Coordinator and/or Scheduler
- Sets up your house parties (works with Press Secretary/Fundraising and Finance Counsel to set up events)
- Digital Communications Director
- Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, Flickr, YouTube (works with Press Secretary)
- Technology of the Website, Website Architecture, ensure site is secure and 508 Compliant – I know it doesn’t apply, but you want to make sure that everyone possible can access your information. The webmaster will work closely with digital communications and fundraisers.
Note: You need to ask the same questions of these applicants, and make sure they all meet the same criteria. It is very important that your team gets along, since you don’t want to portray a unified front to the public. Divisive situations in leadership teams can easily translate to losing the campaign. Remember, these peoples’ jobs are to make you look good, by making themselves look good.
Once your team is in place, do not make the mistake of micro-managing him or her. Put faith in your campaign manager. Also, don’t take sides in arguments between him and people under him. Trust me on this one: both parties will put their spins into the mix. Let the campaign manager be the bad guy.
It’s important to put faith in your leadership team. With that said, if you sense something is wrong most likely it is, so don’t be afraid to fire your campaign manager and get a replacement. Also, don’t be afraid to tell your campaign manager that some of his team members aren’t rowing in the same direction, and he needs to make a change.
Remember this: YOU are the team owner and your campaign manager is the head coach. Don’t be like Dan Snyder in year one and micromanage every aspect of the team. With that said, you don’t want to be 100% laissez-faire. You need to strike a balance.
Most important: Have faith in your ability to hire the best talent for your campaign manager.
Coming Up Next
We will dive into the world of campaign collateral do’s and don’ts in order to avoid some of the mistakes that Yours Truly made when I first ran for office.