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When you're on a campaign, it's often fun to tell horror stories from other campaigns, or to commiserate about other stories you've heard.
But when you're working on a campaign you want a simple idea all the time: that your work makes the difference. You want to believe that your hard work will turn the tide and create victory.
When you talk about voter fraud committed by the opposition, about incompetent morons who run campaigns, about endless seas of money spent on consultants and none on grassroots, while all those things might be true: they demoralize the workers, the idealists who are trying to win against the odds.
If you notice a colleague, volunteer, or even a supervisor saying these inadvertently negative, morale-sapping statements, don't loudly correct them. The next time you have a discreet opportunity, take them aside and gently explain that such talk hurts the work ethic of volunteers, and while they might be technically right, there's a better time for that discussion: after election day.
Keep a positive mindset, and project a positive message. Keep the message simple and avoid the horror stories.
Recently I was working with a student in politics who asked for help to become more effective in general. Her question brought to light quite a bit of what I discuss in the book: 1) what do you want to do, 2) what are you actually naturally good at, 3) where is the need for you, 4) what skills do you have, and what skills can you learn, to be useful, 5) how to find the right organization to match your desires, skills and passions with a good work environment.
This student, a great college student from a school in the South, is very intelligent and very aware of political issues. But she knew that there was a big deficit missing. And she was right: she didn't know how to canvass, how to interact, how to connect with people.
Many groups and campaigns talk about canvassing, but very few actually engage in it. Everyone does 'field work' but often that work looks like it's increasingly done from a cubicle.
Politics is about engaging people in our democratic system to engage and participate in the process. It's about channeling issues, using persuasive skills, and motivating people to action. That persuasion is too often used solely to motivate people to donate money, or a small amount of time. Yet that's not what our democracy is supposed to be about: we the people rule ourselves. Yet very few groups give an effective answer to that question.
The connection to canvassing is that it is the starting point for a major deviation in thought away from traditional politics. Beltway groups engage in major media buys, in direct mail by the tens of thousands. But canvassing gives you the power to engage your fellow citizens to act differently, to vote differently, to live their lives in a new way.
Most groups don't know how to canvass and never do. It's not a hard skill to learn, but it requires forcing yourself to go out and recruit for an issue, for an action.
So what this young student and I did was go out and recruit for fake groups at a few local colleges. It's a small step, a baby step, toward a more important realization that politics isn't like the movies: it's not palace intrigue and big donors and big media. It's often the person you talk to for a moment on the street, it's the small bit of human interaction you rarely find on important political issues outside of your social circle.
How often have you engaged your neighbors and local citizens on the important issues of the day? On abortion, immigration, taxes, regulations, health care, foreign policy, and the like? If you're like me, probably very rarely.
Canvassing is a skill in itself, and many campaigns use it effectively to build better voter files, and for a wide variety of related campaign goals. But a job applicant, and a political employee, who is comfortable canvassing is one who thinks about politics in an important way, one who realizes how important it is to be effective, persuasive, and compelling.
Canvassing is a rare skill but an important one, and one that you can get quite easily to set yourself apart from others. Engage your other citizens and set yourself apart.
Sometimes you have events, family obligations, or things you need to take a day off from the campaign to do. Obviously you should do this very rarely, especially as major deadlines like primary day, election day, and various filing deadlines come up. But when you leave the office for any extended period like that, make sure that you confirm your absence in writing.
It's easy for a previous agreement for you to take a day or two off to get lost in the mix. If you decide to take time off, and don't show up, your boss may think that you're just skipping out on work. And managers and people above your boss will have a zero tolerance for not showing up to work. Their perspective is that you are completely disposable when a transgression like this arises.
So it's always important to confirm your absence in writing. Confirm the exact dates that you'll be gone, and make sure you clarify when you'll be available by phone in case something comes up. When you work on a campaign or in a political organization, you're always on call because crazy things come up all the time.
Always confirm your absence in writing. A quick email can remind a distracted boss that they agreed to let you miss a few days, and can save you huge office politics headaches.
I don't necessarily agree with this entire list. For example, in number 4, when asked what your biggest weakness, it seems very insincere and shallow to focus on something that's a hidden strength. The exchange they're setting up goes like this:
Q: What's your biggest weakness? A: I'm just so hard working that people have to tell me to stop, I mean, I just can't stop being productive and value-added for the company I'm with!
It's just ridiculous. A better way to handle it is to reframe the word "weakness" - instead of interpreting that question to mean "fatal workplace characteristic" (which everyone has a quirk or handicap of some sort), turn it into a different form of weakness. Think of a skill that you're currently trying to learn. When they ask "what's your biggest weakness" you're thinking of that big red flag that might cause you not to get hired and are tempted to blurt it out. But relax, be Mr. Cool, and think about the one workplace skill you'd like to get better at. Let's say you have a background in political organizing and volunteer work, but you don't have much experience in fundraising. What if your answer looked, instead, like this:
Q: What's your biggest weakness? A: Well I've spent a lot of time focusing on working with people one-on-one with my organizing background and as a volunteer coordinator, but I've never asked for money before. I've read about it, but it's a valuable skill and I know I need to be better at it. It's something that I hope I can learn with your campaign/organization.
That kind of answer makes you look: 1) self-motivated, 2) honest, 3) honest about yourself, 4) introspective. In short, it makes you sound awesome. Trying to game the answer to secretly slide in a positive trait doesn't work, it's so shameless and transparent that it's counterproductive to do it.
That's a long digression on one question on this infographic, which is in itself a handy chart to help calm your interviewing fears. But think through the questions and give solid answers. Often the best answers aren't canned ones and aren't predictable.
I was recently talking with a friend who is a hiring manager for a group, and a hiring consultant to several other groups. He was asking my opinion on a group of recent applicants for a political job opening in the Northeast. He was trying to distinguish between the resumes because, in his words, "none of them stand out."
And it caused me to reflect for a moment on the miscommunication between employee and hiring managers. Let's consider a few frustrating things about political hiring in turn:
1) A hiring manager looks down on applicants with certain job titles or job categories. Even though in this economy it's often wise to take anything that's offered, they still have this presumption that talented people don't take certain positions, that they always land in leadership positions. Thus it can be hard to transition from a support role to an admin role because of this prejudice.
2) Many entry-level jobs are glorified secretarial positions where you're doing the work directly assigned to you, and you aren't given the freedom, authority or resources to stand out. Yet a hiring manager is still going to look for flair on a resume. They want leaders but they're hiring from a pool where people weren't given any leadership opportunities.
3) They somewhat implicitly punish those who are honest in their resumes, and reward those who puff up their accomplishments and stretch the truth on their accomplishments. People are often wise enough not to lie on a resume, but there are many things they can creatively take credit for that are very undeserved.
Most entry-level jobs in politics are ill-suited for 'standing out' on their own and so, when you're ready to move between organizations, it can be very difficult to let your real talents and skills shine through.
One important take-away from this is that if you're just treading water and collecting a paycheck, find a volunteer opportunity that will look good. Helping out on a campaign, or helping a friend run a local campaign, is a great way to stand out and take that opportunity.
As well, you can 'stand out' even without a major budget. Shine through your hard work and effort. Everyone is always impressed with fundraising. Sitting down and raising cash through a phonebank and tracking your success is a good thing to add to a resume. As well, even as a volunteer, ask for a job title. Even if you're just the deputy volunteer coordinator, it shows a certain amount of leadership that many hiring managers find desirable.
In practice, it's worth noting, many of these hiring managers don't want independent thinkers. They're searching for 'leaders' but are upset when they actually find them. Often they want people who will simply do what's told, and don't want anyone to challenge them or their assumptions. There's a frustrating irony in that fact, but it's still one you have to overcome if you want to be able to pick a job and not have a job pick you. You need to exhibit leadership traits on your resume to get noticed, but you also want to show that you're the proverbial 'team player' and can take direction. Few bosses or campaign managers enjoy being challenged.
Also, focus on opportunities that come up that give you the opportunity to stand out. One of my favorite past political jobs was one that no one wanted, mainly because no one saw the potential in it. I wanted the job so bad that I overplayed my hand and wasn't their first, or even their second, choice for the job. But when I got it, I broke all previous records with ease. It was easy to stand out, because the position was scalable, I knew the predecessors were half-assing their work, the work was critical to a much larger organization, and the leadership of the organization had very low expectations for the output of that position. It was a golden opportunity, because with little effort I could get widely noticed. There were other positions in the same department that had none of the same characteristics, some that were paid better than this one. Thus it would have been foolish to accept another position, better title, or other opportunity in the organization because this one was the best for me and my career. It's hard to have that analysis from outside the organization, but it's often easy to spot these opportunities if you regularly talk to those who work in such groups. Befriend them, go to lunch and dinner with them, and ask them about work. Figure out and really understand the places you're applying to, what they have to offer you, and where you can really thrive in a specific position.
When you're starting out, it's hard to get noticed because you likely haven't been given the chance to be noticed. So you need to create your own luck, and you need to think about ways to highlight your skills. You also want to think about your own long-term career plans and jump at positions where you can thrive and get wider notice.
When you hear these things from a candidate, sometimes it's just that they're confused about what's really at stake. But often when you hear these things, the right thing to do is to reassess whether this campaign is right for you.
Losers love excuses. This is a great two-part list:
On several political jobs I've witnessed and been exposed to false promises by supervisors, intending to motivate performance. A common false promise on a campaign is the promise of a future job, or of a better title. "Help us get through the primary and I'll make you the campaign manager!" or "When our candidate wins, he'll hire you to the office" and similar long-term promises.
I once sat in a Vice President's office, who at the time was my boss's boss, and he told me that he saw me as a future VP at the organization. I knew this VP hated me, he could barely conceal his contempt, but he fed me this confusing line. And instead of motivating me to work harder, it made me doubly more suspicious of management, it made me wonder what else I was taking for granted in what they were saying.
Most employees and staff aren't looking for vague assurances about their future. They all assume they'll be promoted, that their worth is well-known. So going to them and giving them these kind of false promises either comes off as validating what they otherwise believed, which does little, or it doesn't fit with their expectations and so gives them suspicion.
If you want to dangle a carrot in front of an employee, think about what their real needs and wants are, what they really want.
Most want a bigger discretionary budget to do more things. They want to make it easier to do their jobs. They want to have bigger successes. Motivate them by explaining how their hard work can lead to bigger budgets, more staff, more resources. That's a motivator.
Most people want more vacation time, or to work on flex-time. It makes it easier to do work and easier to work around family and social obligations. Motivate them by saying they can work half-days one day a week from home if they can meet their goals. That's a motivator. An extra day of paid vacation a year is an enormous motivator to most people, and it's a relatively easy management perk to offer.
Simple things like designated parking spaces are a strong motivator. Office acknowledgement of success, making them feel valued to their coworkers, is another strong motivator.
On a campaign all these same issues exist, but on a more compressed timeframe. You need to motivate people with soft rewards instead of false promises. You need to get them to work hard, but you don't always have a lot to offer. Vague promises that seem sketchy to the worker of future promotions is a bad incentive. It seems unrealistic, and it won't motivate them in the ways you want. Not to mention that if two employees find that you've promised them both the same position, you've created serious office drama.
It's much better to offer more immediate and direct rewards that make them want to work harder. Don't make the mistake of trying to motivate workers through false promises.
When you're applying to work somewhere, they may offer you a range of possible days to interview.
Always take the first one you can.
The reason is that hiring managers usually hire the first or second person they interview.
They create a baseline in their head. They're worried they won't find anyone they like. So they go through the first two interviews with a lot of trepidation about whom they're interviewing. They're looking for red flags.
But by the second interview, if the candidates look good, and all things being equal, they settle for whomever they interviewed first.
First impressions are the lasting impressions, and the first person to impress competence on them is often who they go for.
Now, for some positions, you might be the favorite from the start. Obviously this doesn't apply as much if you can wow them at the end. But if you're in a queue of other candidates, and as I said everything else is generally equal, strive to be one of the first people interviewed and do really well in the interview.
More often than not they're relieved to have competent applicants and may offer you the job on the spot. Some employers will also cancel future scheduled interviews if they find someone they like early on. So work hard to be first.
Men are, as a general rule, more oblivious to fashion and style than others. It's also harder to appreciate clashing colors and styles for them than for others.
Often, especially as a young man, a tie is a formality of the workplace and not a fashion statement. So the mindset is to use any tie, preferably one that works in most settings.
And true enough, with a dark suit and a white dress shirt, a red or blue tie works just fine in most situations.
But there are times when the tie will clash with the surroundings, or you will run into people who are wearing the same suit and same tie. Though not common, it's not rare to have a tie-clash with either the event, other people or general situation.
One example: if your candidate is a man and shows up wearing a similar suit and a similar tie, you don't want to look like a 'mini-me' version of the candidate. You want to quickly change out your tie.
Some quick tie rules: 1) Keep at least two different color ties in your trunk: ideally a red one and a blue one 2) Buy nice ties. A Hermes tie is expensive but lasts a long time. A more expensive tie will look the part you want to project: high-class.
3) Throw away/donate any tie that gets a stain on it.
4) Never wear a novelty tie.
5) Never wear a tie that has the American flag as a pattern.
6) Never wear a bow tie.
7) Learn three different knots for ties. Use the right one for your type of dress shirt, and for your neck size.
8) Never tuck in your tie to your pants.
9) Never ever use a clip-on tie.
10) Don't take your tie off in front of other people. Do it in the restroom or after the event.
There are a variety of ways in which one can be disagreeable.
Many of them are inadvertent. It's easy to brush up against people's egos and expectations.
Here are some common ones:
1) Mismatching - when someone says it's cold outside, do you instinctively say "oh well it's warm to me" or "well it's warm compared to where I came from last week!" or some other oppositional phrase? It's very natural to try and mismatch with any statement from another person. Instead, try agreeing with them, embrace their opinion rather than trying to force out your own.
2) Correcting errors - when someone uses incorrect grammar, do you correct them right away? When they make a simple mistake about a date or election, do you rush to correct them? When you do this, you act like the overeager kid in middle school who rushed to correct their fellow students and even the teacher. You're obnoxious. You think you're being helpful by providing the right answer, but you come off as an ass. Don't correct people.
3) Correcting errors in front of other people - another fault when correcting someone is doing it publicly. The quick interjection that something they said isn't quite right. Doing this in front of someone's boss or colleagues is almost unforgivable. But when you're used to being Johnny-know-it-all, it's easy to do. Also, when you lose respect for your boss or colleagues, it's so much easier to correct them without thinking, just to show them that you're smarter than them. This is an enormous mistake, and makes you look bad not only to your victim, but to everyone else witnessing it. They don't think you're the smartest person in the room, they wonder when you'll turn on them and start acting in such a childish way towards them.
4) Philosophy - often in political jobs people don't get their fill of political philosophy. Often, their family members either aren't political enough, or well-read enough, to compete with them. So they want to engage in spirited political discussions every day, they want to find the one minor thing they disagree with you on and constantly harp on that small division. Whereas in college, many find these kind of debating exercises enjoyable, and a good way to spend a weeknight at the pizza joint, in the workplace it's uncouth and unprofessional. Looking to find the one item of political philosophy that someone disagrees upon, or castigating coworkers for not reading enough of your particular favorite philosopher, is commonplace and supremely obnoxious. Many people have not read great works of philosophy, and can't separate Hume from Holmes, or Rawls from Heidegger, or Kirk from Burke. Don't drag the workplace into such conversations, and if you catch yourself doing it, find a gentle way to exit the conversation. If you witness others doing it, encourage them to get back to work and find things to agree upon.
5) Finding the one thing you disagree about - similar to the previous paragraph about philosophy, is the uniqueness of new people in politics trying to figure out the one thing they disagree about. You quickly go through political issues, candidates, to see where you diverge politically. I've seen this, and unfortunately engaged in it, on the most inane and irrelevant issues. People prefer to focus on what divides them rather than what unites them. Don't tell people what you disagree with them on, and don't go through the search and race to figure out where you diverge. Assume people agree with you on most things, and be positive and supportive of their positions, not dismissive and contrarian.
6) Gossiping - it's never a good thing, and never productive. Wondering who is dating whom, who is interested in whom, always leads to friction and awkward situations. If you gossip ten times in the workplace, it's almost a guarantee that one of those times the subject you're gossiping about will either overhear, walk into the room mid-sentence, or otherwise find out what you've said. It always leads to problems. Keep focused on the job, and try to separate your personal life from your work life. If you have to gossip, gossip about celebrities or reality TV, don't gossip about your coworkers.
Those are six quick ways to be less disagreeable in political jobs. These tips can not only help you build better relationships with coworkers, but those friends who now dislike you less, can end up being great sources of strength for your career. Many people will refuse to help you because they carry a petty grudge, or remember some small mistake you made years ago. Being less disagreeable is a surefire way to have a stronger political career.
When you're meeting new people, it's almost cliche to ask "what do you do" in order to quickly qualify them.
You want to know why they're relevant to you. You want to know how they can fit into the plan for your campaign, and you're interested to compare them to yourself and to others you know.
You want to place them in the proper political caste.
Even though many or most do this, try to avoid doing it. It's uncouth to reduce people in this way, to 'objectify' them in such a way that makes their worth solely what they can do for you.
Develop your skills at smalltalk. Ask why people are involved. Ask what they're passionate about. Ask them for funny stories, for jokes, for the interesting news of the day. Have a normal conversation instead of being a politico sociopath. The proverbial "what do you do" question can say a lot about you, and that statement can be bad. Learn how to connect with people in ways that doesn't involve benefiting your job/campaign/workplace.
By qualifying people too quickly, you lose the opportunity to really develop a relationship.
Sometimes on the job you're given an odd request or odd job, and you need funds or special permission to do something. You go to your boss, you ask politely, and they approve it. Most of the time the approval is pretty general. And when you move the task along, you discover you need something slightly different, or slightly more than what you were given approval for, and there's two ways to proceed: 1) assume the authority and do it; 2) re-ask for permission and appraise your boss of the change.
More often than not, the right answer is to not re-ask for permission. When your supervisor approves an expense, they also implicitly approve what it takes to get the job done. As well, again more often than not, they approve something expecting the result to be given to them in a reasonable time.
A common mistake is to blow off things your boss asks for, to think that it's not that important, or to think that changes render the boss' request invalid.
When your boss asks for something, deliver it. Don't re-ask for permission because it seems as though you're asking them to reconsider what they've asked for, instead do what it takes to deliver.
One related tip, is to have a set amount that you're allowed to buy on the company account at any one time. This will prevent a lot of problems on the job. It might be $10, $50 or $500, but have a clear understanding of what authority you have to buy necessary items. And once you have that authority, don't ask for permission over and over again. You can become a pest.
On any campaign and in any organization, there will be little routine tasks that you are asked to do.
On any campaign, for example, a daily media briefing and clippings are often required. These are summaries of any relevant news story, with the full article provided.
When you start on a campaign, it might be tempting to take one of these jobs and try to do it very well so that you can stand out. And if you thought that, you would be wrong.
The reason is that the routine tasks always get taken for granted, no one appreciates things that become routine. And when you accept tasks like this, it sucks up a certain chunk of your day. As a result, you have less time to spend on new projects, to work completing existing projects, and other things that could help you stand out.
The monotonous routine tasks aren't the right way to stand out. If possible, avoid accepting the task. Don't fall into the trap of assuming you can just work harder and longer, because you'll be prone to burn out. Those who go far know the right mix of accepting work that will help them get noticed, but leave enough spare time in their daily schedule to accept emergency tasks. And those last-minute, urgent, tasks are the right way to get noticed, because you become perceived as a life-saver.
If you want to move up fast, and have plenty of time to focus on new projects, avoid accepting the monotonous daily tasks as assignments.
A very common problem is being unfocused, undisciplined and unorganized.
"Being Organized" sounds like a good idea, but it requires having a focused plan.
For starters, have a day planner of some sort. The Franklin Covey system is well-known and common, but there are many similar products. You want some written way to keep track of your day and tasks.
A written day planner of some sort will help 1) remind you of what you need to do, 2) keep that task list prioritized, 3) stay focused on what needs to get done.
Being organized means not missing important deadlines, and it means keeping all your information in one spot so you don't have a mess of papers.
Once you have a physical day planner, keep track of all the things you do in a list format. Write out all the things you need to get done today. Prioritize them as either A, B, or C tasks. A tasks are ones that are vital to be completed today, they are important and timely. B tasks are important but not urgent timely. C tasks are ones that will grow into B's if you don't get them done.
Once you've ranked all your tasks by putting these letters next to each one, assign each one a number. So for example, you have A1, A2 and A3; and then you have B1, B2, B3. You want to prioritize each item and keep them in order, so that you can work on them in order. Once you've spent 5 minutes doing this, start working on A1, and when finished, work on A2.
Working this way forces you to stay focused on the most important tasks of the day, it prevents distractions. It also shows you how you're using your time and how it can so easily be sapped by chatty coworkers, youtube, facebook and other time-sinks. Stay focused on the most important things and get them done first.
If an unanticipated urgent project comes in, add it to the list. Maybe it becomes A3.5 for the day. More often than not, however, many things aren't truly urgent and you can see that you spend a lot of time reacting to things, and not really working through the tasks at your job so that you're ahead of the game.
By writing these things out for a few weeks, you'll start to get a better appreciation for things that are truly urgent, and things that can wait. That's a liberating moment because you can then push things down to B's and C's and really get the urgent things done. It also encourages you to assess what you should be doing to advance your career.
Staying organized is a form of healthy living, it prevents crises, and it reduces anxiety and stress. By having all your tasks in front of you, you can take control of your day in a new way.
If you want to succeed in politics, you need to be self-organized. Starting with a day planner, especially for recent grads who are perhaps unaccustomed to one, is an important first step.
When you're given work on a campaign or in a political organization, often you won't have enough information to go on, but your supervisor clearly doesn't want to be bothered with more information. It's a frustrating situation.
Many supervisors have the bad attitude "it takes longer to explain than it would for me to just do it myself" mindset. They're hurried so they don't give you the direction you need to do well.
How should you handle this situation, and how should you answer their request? First, keep it simple. Write out the questions they wanted answered and answer them. Make sure that's in your response to them. That will keep you focused, disciplined and your answer short.
Unless the research or project is sensitive, it's usually the right answer to write a detailed email or memo to answer the request.
Always try to keep it to one-page. Most people don't want to read more than one page. Keep it straight and direct, to the point.
I was once asked by a very wealthy fellow to write out a multi-million dollar plan. I wrote a succinct plan that ended up being 30 pages. He was offended that it was that long. He said he was looking for something 3-4 pages long.
People don't want to read a lot. Reports should always be one-page. Big reports should be three-pages. Ten-pages seems way over the top for most people.
What you learn in college, how to write for 8-12 pages with ease, really does you a disservice in these situations. In politics and in organizations, you want to be succinct and to the point, you want to keep your reports short.
And if you're confused at all about what you're supposed to be answering, make sure you understand, write out, and answer the questions your supervisor asked. If you write out your response to them, you will show your work so that your supervisor knows that you took their request seriously and attempted to answer it.
A friend once said to me that no one got paid to indulge their hobbies. You get paid to work because it's unpleasant, because it takes effort, and because you wouldn't do it otherwise.
On a campaign, many of the paid staff you'll run across are recent college graduates, or in some cases current students.
One common problem with this demographic is that their perception of work is very skewed. Instead of doing literature drops and canvassing a neighborhood, they will try to use 'social media' to win your campaign. Instead of building lists and working turnout, they'll talk about grandiose strategies for victory. You'll ask for logistics, they'll want to talk about abstractions.
Many people aren't used to actual work. And it can be very difficult to motivate them to do actual work.
The best way to motivate them is to make your expectations absolutely clear. If you expect a thousand voter cards to get delivered, explain it with the number. If you want 200 doors knocked, make that clear to them. If you want a hundred new people added to your voter file, explain it in those terms.
Make it measurable, realistic and important. And don't accept the response that blogging or word-of-mouth will suffice: make it mandatory to go out and do real campaign work. Keep people focused on numbers in front of them so they can't use abstractions to rationalize inaction.
Many low-budget campaigns produce their own campaign material. And this is good because it saves necessary funds. But in time, either at an organization or a higher-level campaign, you'll need to deal with designers who can make your products look sharp.
When you work with a designer, there are a few critical things to know before talking with them:
1) Know the dimensions of what you want. Don't rely on the designer
2) Have a basic idea fleshed out
3) Know the graphics you want to use, what's your idea on pictures and things to emphasize
Having these things in mind will allow a designer to improve upon what you have, instead of having to make things from scratch. It's hard for designers to work from scratch because it's understandably very frustrating to have constant revisions demanded by you when you didn't give them much to work with from the start.
Having a general idea, even a sketch of what you want, will result in a better product because it's so much easier for them to improve upon your general idea than to create one from scratch that you may not like. Even if you just give them a similar thing to base their design off of, you'll be better set.
As well, during the editing process, keep three things in mind:
1) Do a few long-lists of revisions rather than a dozen smaller lists, it's much easier for a designer to work through a long list of 100 things, then to deal with five lists of 15.
2) Limit yourself to four rounds of edits, it's very easy to overdo the editing and try to perfect it, and you end up wasting time and frustrating everyone. Four rounds of editing is plenty.
3) Number all your edits and give all relevant information when you send edits to the designer, even if you have to repeat things from prior discussions or emails. Don't take anything for granted. If the designer is going through your edits at 2am, don't rely on them to remember a discussion from a few weeks ago- restate everything.
There are three types of political fundraising: 1) Direct Mail: stuff that comes to the mailbox
2) Telephones: telemarketers
3) Direct Solicitation: asking people in-person
The skills involved are many. You want to be a good writer for direct mail. You want to be good on the phones. You want many in-person skills for direct solicitation. All depend on skills like persuasion, marketing and salesmanship.
Private industry teaches these skills all the time, and there are a variety of books that are directly relevant and useful for your purposes in raising funds for politics. Here are a few of the better ones:
1) Secrets of Question-Based Selling by Thomas Freese
2) Influence by Robert Cialdini
3) Asking by Jerold Panas
4) Direct Mail by Ben Hart
5) The Artful Journey by William Sturtevant
6) My Life in Advertising and Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins
7) Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy
If you know of other ones, please email me and I'll add them to the list.
If you're running a campaign or organization, you want to make a change in politics one way or the other.
The problem is that you have to decide where to focus your efforts: the culture or in politics.
And if the latter, what do you do? Run always-positive campaigns, where people then complain about "ads that don't say anything" or go negative and have people complain about "mud-slinging"
Many campaigns try to do both by being officially positive, but unofficially negative. They do this because it's effective, and relatively easy to avoid putting the campaign name on outside actions.
Negative information on individual politicians or aspiring politicians is very effective. It's effective because the public knows that they get a steady diet of lies from the candidate of course, and the media and its always-obvious agenda sells a steady diet of lies as well. It's hard to find the truth if you're a voter, even if you're motivated to do so.
There are often people who know these facts, but only keep it within their social circle. People "in the know" are aware of all the negative information, but that is kept from the voters who make decisions because people are often too fearful to put their name on things.
As well, many campaigns are reluctant to do the same because they feel it might track back to them. Many a campaign has lost by a thin margin and then felt regret at not releasing the damaging information they had. Many campaign managers also try to game the system too much by releasing the negative information at key points, such as the Gore campaign's 2000 release of Bush's DWI charge, the Friday before the election. This is very crafty, but you run the risk that people won't discover the information until it's too late. Unless you have a great relationship with the local newsmakers, trying to time it is too difficult and complex.
Too few people do the obvious: create a negative blog to collect all the negative information on particular candidates. Broadcast all the complaints. Make it very public. Collect everything and enable anonymous tips.
You obviously want to avoid legal issues like defamation, slander and libel, but you can broadcast truthful things, and report responsibly on what people are saying or what are the common rumors going around that otherwise aren't well broadcast.
It's simple, free and easy, and everyone should do it. It's better to create accountability to those in power than to let the upper echelons of elites control such information.
Be careful to be responsible with this and not repeat extremely salacious things that are likely untrue, but report with zeal those things that are true and are facts stubbornly hidden from public review.
Recruitment is critical to any new campaign or organization. Recruits are volunteers, future leaders, and the foundation from which all good things happen.
When you need more people and don't have them ready, where are you supposed to find them?
Many people say "social media" is the answer. But the problem is that a million other people are doing the same thing, such that "social media" is often just white noise to many people. How often do you read Facebook messages from groups or people you don't know? How often do you really check Tweets on Twitter?
Old-fashioned recruitment methods pay the best dividends for the least work. Whether you're at a college or in neighborhood, standing in an area of high foot traffic and asking people to sign-up is the best method.
Don't waste paper by trying to give people handouts. All you want are names, emails, and phone numbers from people. This means you need to have a sign-up sheet and a clipboard.
Don't do it for very long, and do it in teams of at least two. Two people out for 45 minutes should be able to get 30 people each, and that's plenty to start.
Ask people walking by a simple one-word question. It provokes a level of confusion that gets them to ask you to say it again, so you have their attention. If you're recruiting for Democrats, ask them "Democrat?" If you're recruiting for pro-lifers, ask "Pro-Life?" And when they say they are, tell them to sign up. Don't ask if they'd 'like to' sign up, make it a non-negotiable. If they try to leave off their email or phone numbers, insist that they put them on. I often make a joke at this point that I need their email to spam them and their phone to sign them up for robocalls at 2am. Most people appreciate the humor and then sign up.
And don't waste time with individual people. This is a game of quantity and not quality. Many people who will waste 30 minutes of your time with their anecdotes, stories or debating you, will never ever act within your group. These people are time-sinks who steal from you, by taking away the precious time to recruit other people.
Many private companies, campuses and the like get very uppity about this kind of recruitment, and will inevitably send someone out to ask you to leave, or even call the cops on you. If this happens, stay cool, play dumb, and move along. It's not worth arguing about the constitution or your rights, it's best to just move on. It's also a good reason not to stay longer than 45 minutes, because they often won't notice that quickly.
You also want a quick in-person meeting after the sign-up, some way to channel their participation. Many will not show up, but some will, and from the ones that do show up you can accomplish great things. If 100 people sign-up, you might expect no more than 10-15 to actually attend the meeting, but that's plenty. And you can use the list you've created in many other ways.
But the point is that it's critical to have an event within 48 hours that they attend, that capitalizes upon their interest. This follow-up meeting is critical. You want it to be short, fun, and it immediately involves them in the group and in the action of your group. You give them a simple assignment. But that's a discussion for another post. The point is that you don't lose the momentum from their recruitment and signature, to a meeting and acting as a part of your campaign or group.
So, to recap the main points:
1) Have a sign-up sheet + clipboard 2) Use single word questions, not taking no for an answer
3) Have two people, 45 min. max in a high-foot-traffic area 4) Have a meeting soon thereafter
5) Don't hassle with handouts, brochures or the like
6) If someone tells you to move on, do it before they call the cops. If you have to deal with the cops, offer to move on and plead ignorance.
Common mistakes: 1) Not being aggressive with people who walk by/being passive and 'waiting for them to come up to you'
2) Fumbling with handouts and other materials to give them
3) Not having a meeting to drive them to, letting signatures on a sign-up sheet sit idle for weeks
4) Sending people out one at a time, where they often feel socially pressured to stop recruiting
5) Getting into debates or discussions with people who walk by, losing the opportunity to get more sign-ups
Many places ask for three references. In all honesty most places never ever call them.
Don't waste time saying on your resume that "references are available upon request" because everyone already knows that they are.
You want to send along references after they've looked over your resume and have emailed you though. You don't want to send references prior to that.
The main reason not to just send along references with your resume is that people are always judging you. They are judging the quality of your resume, and they'll judge your references when you send them. Here are a few thoughts they'll have if they recognize the names:
1. If the reference shares a last name: "Oh, a family connection, lame..."
2. If the reference is someone well-known: "How in the world does this guy know that guy?"
3. If the reference is someone well-known: "He probably doesn't really know this guy except in passing, or maybe from being friends with one of their kids."
4. If the reference isn't someone well-known: "Oh, this must be a family friend or an uncle or something."
5. If the reference isn't a former employer: "Oh, he got fired from past jobs."
6. If the reference is a former employer: "This guy might be a brown-noser and suck-up."
In short, there are stupid petty reasons to deflate even good references. But you don't want to expose that part of your resume until you know that they're interested in you. You don't want to tip your hand or seem over-eager by sending along your references.
As well, people know that references always say positive and glowing things, so it often seems pointless to call knowing that you're not going to really learn anything useful about the applicant.
Send references only when they ask, and realize that there's a 10% chance that your references will get called. And don't send them unless you're asked.
No one thinks that anything you learned in college has any relevance to campaigns, because most of the time it doesn't.
Structure your resume in such a way where the most important things and most appealing things to a potential political employer are highlighted at the top. Make sure to include relevant past campaigns and volunteer work on your resume.
The advice you hear from a college guidance counselor or a human resources officer is generally useful, but also not directly useful for political jobs.
People in politics get hired because they're trustworthy, because they've been involved in past campaigns and already know people, and lastly because they have relevant skills and talents.
Understand that whomever is hiring you for a campaign likely doesn't care whether you were on the dean's list, or whether you volunteered at a soup kitchen or the various jobs you had during high school or college.
They care that you can be trusted, that you already know who's who, and that you have some useful skills.
When you format your resume, keep this in mind. Ditch the items that aren't immediately relevant. Include volunteering on various campaigns. If you lack any campaign experience whatsoever, include even student government races. Show that you're addicted to politics so that they think you'll do well in the position.
Major mistakes on resumes I've seen for both campaign applicants and political organization applicants:
1) Zero campaign experience
2) Nothing politically-related listed on their resume
3) Highlighting immaturity or inexperience
4) Highlighting nepotism, i.e. "worked at my uncle's pizza business for the summer"
5) Resumes longer than one page
6) Listing your academic research areas that were inapplicable
Your resume should be one page and to the point. It should highlight you as someone who is trustworthy, ready to work, and who already knows the field, geography, race and place. You also want to highlight the skills you have that are relevant to the job.
Also, as a side note, always title your resume computer file like this, "Firstname-Lastname_Resume.doc", that way when your hiring manager is downloading a dozen resumes at a time, he doesn't get lost when sorting through them.
Format your resume for political jobs by changing it to highlight the things that will be noticed and help you get the job. Make sure to include relevant prior campaign work.
When applying to a campaign job, does your resume match the job?
I'm sure you've heard this advice from guidance counselors before, adapt your resume to match the job you're applying for.
And while this is sound advice, I realize it's unrealistic to spend the time adjusting your resume for each job. You should at least have a 'political' resume and a 'non-political' resume. I'd even say you should have a 'political: campaigns' resume and a 'political: other' resume.
Regardless of how you choose to do it, make sure your resume doesn't make you look like your real life plans are elsewhere.
I was recently interviewing a candidate for a political position, and asked him what his five year life plan was. His response was that he wanted to be in international affairs with a graduate degree. The job I was interviewing him for was, clearly, his last resort and he'd be jumping ship as soon as he could.
When a job asks you what your five year plan is, your response should always be, "working here, hoping for a promotion, working hard and being a valued member of the team."
It shows that you understand the situation and the real question, it isn't a time to be indulgent. When you make a resume and express your life plans, don't say or even hint that you want to be in international relations in ten years, or that you have a secret path to be a professor.
No one wants to know your real life plans. They want to hear that your life plans matches with their employment needs. That you'll be a stable regular employee for them, that's what they want to hear.
When you give these lofty dreams, you're embracing certain negative stereotypes: flaky college students, being unrealistic, being difficult to work with, etc.
Come across as someone looking to work hard, take direction, and make progress. Come across as someone whose life plans matches the job you're applying for at that moment.
When you incur expenses for a campaign or organization, always keep copies and a backup of your receipts. There are a few key reasons:
1) The organization might lose their copy and need it again, let's call this the absent-minded boss problem
2) The organization might refuse to reimburse you for a specific item, the confrontational boss
3) The organization might refuse to reimburse you for an item and not tell you, the evil boss.
I've seen and worked for all three. Each one should tell you that keeping a backup of your expenses is critical. Even if you can write-off that one invoice, these reimbursements will add up over time.
Campaign websites run the gamut from great to horrible. The websites that you've probably seen most often are the ones that have budgets far beyond the cost of your entire campaign. They're bad comparison points because you'll likely never be able to compete with them.
There are also an endless stream of companies, vendors and 'friends' who will want to build a campaign website for you, and give you the best rate they can give you, usually $1000 or something astronomical. For what you need, and for what you want done, you can easily get by spending $100-200 on a campaign website, with few frills. Don't pay the unemployed recent college grad a thousand dollars for your website, you're not getting anything and they're getting their beer budget donated to them for the summer.
So, decide to do it yourself, and let's go over a quick list of things that should be on your campaign website.
Issues - list out and discuss the top three issues facing your district. Don't get into a policy wonk discussion on each issue, because each extra issue you discuss means you made the pool of potential supporters smaller. You want to be clear, smart, wise and consistent on the main issues of the day.
Gallery - put up at least two dozen nice pictures of your candidate and their family and friends. Keep it plain. You want people to see your candidate in a few different settings, talking to people, at their work, talking to people in the community.
Contact - you don't need a physical campaign office, but you do need a mailbox. Also, it's very easy and simple to set up a Google Voice account so you can at least receive voicemails and respond to people who inquire. Have a separate number for 'media' inquiries, realizing that 95% of those who will call this number will likely be obnoxious bloggers looking for a scoop.
Donate - make sure you have a system set up to accept donations. Paypal is an altogether horrible service for accepting campaign donations. And several campaigns I know have had their entire paypal accounts frozen until after election day, when the released funds did them absolutely no good. There are a variety of donation providers who can process donations for you.
Make sure you can update this site, and that more than one person has access to it.
New volunteers are a great source of talent and work. They add new personalities and momentum to a campaign. But many campaigns misuse them and, as a result, they often stop coming in or leave.
Let's go through a few effective things to do with volunteers:
1. Don't give them "bitchwork" - things that no one else around the office wants to do.
2. Don't give them menial tasks - things like letter stuffing
3. Don't test them to see if they'll do hard work, asking them to clean the bathroom
4. Get them involved, make their work seem important
5. Show them why their efforts can make a difference, how their action will get more votes
6. Keep a spirit of idealism, and don't project cynicism
7. Even unpaid people should be treated well, free volunteers aren't worthless, they're priceless
8. Have them learn a valuable skill: teach them basics of fundraising, or how to do graphic design
9. Value their time, with real dollars: keep track of how much time they've invested in the campaign as though each hour were worth at least $10, and treat them as a donor. If someone donates 40 hours, treat them like you would someone who just donated $400.
This isn't an exhaustive list, but many campaigns violate these basic concepts. Treat volunteers well, find opportunities for mutual win, and you'll recruit more people and retain even more.
Getting people to take action is difficult. Anyone who says they're great managers and enjoy management either isn't doing it or hasn't done it very long.
Your title isn't a statement of your authority. When you're trying to encourage a recalcitrant employee to do something, never use the phrase "because I'm the boss" or "because I'm the campaign manager" or "because I'm whatever-title" - your title doesn't confer authority.
Your authority is whether people do what you say, it's your persuasive power to get things done because people trust that what you're asking them to do is urgent and necessary.
If someone is refusing to do the work you assign, or unable to do it the way you want, you shouldn't be afraid to separate that employee from the workplace. A paycheck is dependent on completing the required tasks, and there are plenty of people who are highly talented and looking for work such that you don't need to tolerate obstinacy from employees.
And yet many campaigns and organizations will tolerate lazy and mediocre employees because they think them too important otherwise. They're vital because of who they know, because the perceived costs of replacing them are too high.
You need people who will complete the tasks given to them, and who will work when assigned. If someone refuses to do those things repeatedly and defiantly, it's time to consider terminating their employment. The real challenge is when you don't have that authority and can't fire them, but have to work with them anyway.
In those cases your authority is only persuasive. You have all the responsibility and none of the necessary authority, a very challenging position.
And no matter if you can fire someone or not, most of the time your authority is much less than you think it is, so try to rely solely on persuasive power with people instead of the coercive power of terminations and saying "because I'm the boss."
There are many people in leadership positions in politics who are very ineffective.
I'd like to profile a few so that it's easy to think about solutions, and potential mistakes you can make when dealing with them.
One common trait is that these people stymie people who try anything new. They suffocate innovation and creativity, and push good people out. As Warren Buffett says, when a good manager meets a bad organization, the organization always wins. In this case, these people create an organizational culture that pushes good people out.
The tempting thing is to instigate a coup against people. Coups often work, but also often come at unpredictable costs. You can lose donors, entire segments of your political base, among other problems. Coups can be messy, prolonged and unstable. As well, when you run a coup of some sort, you're asking people to be duplicitous and conniving, traits that those people often can't turn off later. It's hard to trust a coworker who just dethroned someone. Also, more often than not, coups fail. Most people prefer stability over progress, the devil they know instead of the unstable revolution.
That said, these personality types are clingers who are unlikely to ever give up their positions of authority. As such, they remain and enforce a strict rule of mediocrity over their campaigns and organizations.
In many cases, it's simply not worth fighting the existing leadership for control or to push new ideas. Most leaders are unwilling to change. But in the hopes that every flailing campaign or organization can be turned around, let's consider some potential problem leaders and potential solutions.
So with that in mind, let's consider several leadership deficit archetypes:
Joe - Joe is an older fellow involved with a local political group. He's in the communications industry and tries hard to be 'hip' but is also insecure enough that he hates being the 'bad guy' so he tries to get other people to do what he wants without having to tell them what to do. Joe is in a leadership position and likes it. He wants to keep it by not making any mistakes. He won't allow anything new in 'his' organization, so he has a dozen side outlets for his mediocre creativity. He's worked in middle-management corporate life for so long that he thinks that mindset is the same in politics: run things quietly and be unassuming and, in time, things will just work out. Joe's leadership atrophies the grassroots, and kills any effective actions before they begin. Joe always has a reason to say no to new ideas.
Joe is the antithesis of creativity. He also doesn't trust himself to do anything risky.
Solution: Business types can be very hard to change or displace. They're going to have a common refrain of either "that's not how we do things around here" or something like "that's not how it's done in the business world" to shoot down any innovation. The easiest and best option is probably to walk away from this situation and not try to reform it, it's likely a lost cause. Your time and effort is better spent elsewhere. It may be wise to sit and wait for Joe to leave the organization so you can, then, turn it around.
Mary - Mary is late middle-aged divorced woman. She's highly insecure and tries to rule by consensus. When that doesn't work, she acts petty and catty with those around her who try to do anything new. Her involvement in politics is part personal, so she makes any political problem or issue into something much larger and disproportionate to reality. She might be a former low-level politician. She's also insecure, and so she never feels comfortable making a decision without excessive consensus and discussion even though she wants to be the final word. She wants the final word, but wants it to seem like consensus so she's not perceived as heavy-handed. She wants to have a group come to her guided consensus, not exert any active leadership.
Mary likes new ideas and new people, but she wants to talk and not act. She wants a huge crowd of people before she'd be willing to act, and even then she'd never be willing to be edgy or confrontational.
Solution: What Mary needs is someone of high-status to her to come in and displace her. Former leaders are hard to demote, so they often have to be pushed aside. But she'll never acquiesce to anyone she doesn't feel intimidated by. She'll also never allow someone from below her to displace her.
Betty - Betty is an older woman who was involved since the founding of the organization. She's a mountain of organizational history and knowledge. However, she's also a micromanager. Nothing happens without her involvement, and the staff she oversees don't know how to act without her prior approval and so, as a result, do almost nothing unless she demands it. The organization is thus poorly run and highly dysfunctional. There's a climate of fear because no one knows how to keep her happy and to adequately do what she wants. She's very communicative, but often gives conflicting statements. Betty is likely wooed by consultants and vendors much more than she ought to be, due in part to the fact that she can't trust her staff to do what she could otherwise have them do for cheaper, if she'd just trust them to do it in the first place.
Betty is tired and frustrated with the pace of the organization. She wants something new, but doesn't realize how she stands in the way of progress. She has the clout to shoot down any new idea.
Solution: Betty needs an outside consultant with status to impress her into a dramatic turnaround of her organization from top to bottom.
These are just three examples, and there are many more, but it's a starting point to really profile and assess the situations you find yourself in, and the internal politics of the campaigns you encounter.
Fixing broken organizations is a thankless job, and is often unsuccessful, but you can often succeed in time.
It's become fashionable for campaigns and politicos to worry about anonymous comments. They wonder who writes them, where the gossip comes from, and what to do about it.
It can become an obsession to find out who is saying what about you.
Some sources of this frustration are politicians frustrated by inaccurate wikipedia pages, or candidates who see foolish things written about them on blogs, or small websites that publish guilt-by-association accusations.
Worrying about these stories is a distraction and a losing cause. People will always gossip, and they'll always talk behind your back. At least with anonymous commenting, you can know what they were saying otherwise.
And since there's no way to take down the comments or false facts, you need to fight them with your own. As I've said elsewhere, you should always respond to repeated statements and comments like this, but be careful that you don't obsess over these kind of anonymous comments and attacks.
Most of your electorate will never read it, and few will hear it. It's hard to keep perspective that most people are simply unaware of even the gossip around their Congressman, much less any downballot race. If it's county or city politics, virtually none of the electorate even knows who the elected officials are by name.
Anonymous attacks are largely worth ignoring. Don't dignify them by wasting your time on them, and don't let your candidate or organization waste too much time worrying about it.
Campaigns and Political Organizations often fire lots of people. In my experience at least half of employee departures weren't voluntary.
And you can tell a lot about a place by how it lets people go.
The person being let go once passed an interview. You likely worked alongside this person for a while. They were part of the team, and now they're not.
How do they get let go?
Most places are very low-class about terminations. They're downright ugly. They surprise people, they don't offer severance. I've known places that refuse reimbursements that were pending at the time of separation, or challenged items on a corporate credit card from the previous month. I've seen places purposefully fire people during certain times of the year so they would have a harder time finding a job. There was a place in DC that purposefully paid people barely enough to live on, and then fired them at the drop of a hat. They were an abusive organization, and they were exceedingly well-funded, with an eight-figure annual budget.
People can be ugly on the way out. And if you're still within the organization, make no mistake, they will likely treat you the exact same way on your way out.
The best advice I can give you if you're in that situation, or worried that you might be in that situation:
1- Always keep your resume ready
2- Always have a plan
Your plan should be simple: what skills do I uniquely have, and what places might hire me for those skills. What is my 'highest use' and the best source of employment. Have that list made before you get separated from a campaign or organization, because in the emotional turmoil of starting over, it will help keep you focused and disciplined to move forward.
Wherever you're working right now, ask yourself "how does working here help me in the long run" - what kind of other jobs does it set you up for, and what kind of groups and leaders can take notice of your good works? I had been working a job for two months and was offered two better jobs because someone who noticed me in that position now realized I was perfect for other positions. I declined the offer, but he would not have offered that job to me before. He took notice of me because I was doing a great job, working hard, and had potential. Working hard at your current position will get you noticed, and you should try and leverage that to always keep your options open, and make those opportunities work within the plan of where you want to be. Keep your resume ready, and always have a plan.
It is almost a constant complaint from campaigns and organizations: we need more volunteers! We want young people! We can't recruit!
The truth is, however, they likely have plenty of volunteers and they simply don't know how to process them, how to get them involved.
Most campaigns and organizations have a problem retaining volunteers, not recruiting them.
I worked at a place that wanted to do background searches for volunteers, and I knew a campaign that insisted on the same. Many groups refuse to buy even simple food for their volunteers.
Several groups I've met ask indignantly what skills I have to volunteer, and act as though I'm asking them to do work to volunteer for them.
I volunteered on a major Senate race a decade or so ago, and their idea of volunteer work was to sit me in an empty cafeteria with a phone and a spreadsheet of phone numbers, to do voter outreach.
Groups often don't know how to process volunteers.
What are volunteer best-practices?
1. Get them socially involved immediately. Introduce them to all staffers and paid people.
2. Get to know them a little bit. Ask them where they went to school, what their hobbies are, what they feel really good at.
3. Give them a title. It can be "assistant director of volunteer outreach" - but make a title up and make them feel like they exist within the campaign or group's hierarchy.
4. MOST IMPORTANT:have regular work for them. Make sure it's not mundane like letter stuffing or making calls. A great example is to give them a stack of literature or newspapers to go out and distribute to their neighborhood. It is important to sit down and make a list of all self-contained projects that volunteers can do, and have that list ready for any new volunteer to choose from, or be assigned a project from.
5. Ask them for a resume if they have one. You'll see their actual skills right away, and can use those for the campaign.
6. Play matchmaker: try to pair single people together. They'll have more in common even if romance doesn't happen. People often volunteer to meet other people, so fulfill that need for them. Also try to pair people with similar ages if possible, and always try to bring in volunteers in small groups so they have some camaraderie.
Volunteers often stop volunteering because:
1. They feel they aren't needed
2. They feel like they're only given boring work
3. They're the only volunteer or otherwise isolated
4. They don't feel like they're a member of the team
5. No one reminds them that they're needed
A friend was recently relaying a campaign story that I thought was important.
The friend's boss was running for statewide office. He was a notoriously hard person to work with, and very abrasive. And the friend's job was to interrupt him during important meetings and be scolded for interrupting.
So that the candidate could look at the donor or important person and say, "Can't you see that I'm here with Mr. Jones, and we're talking about important things! I don't care that I'm late for my other appointments, I want to stay here and talk with Mr. Jones."
It made the candidate look like a leader, like someone who cared about the people he was meeting with.
But the staffer had to suffer through this repeated indignity. He has a thick skin so it wasn't an issue for him, but for other people it could have been difficult to deal with.
Your job though, is to always make your candidate or organization look good. Sometimes that means little acts of theater like this, but it always means working as a team, working through these situations, and playing your part.
Sometimes your job will mean your candidate wants you to interrupt them just so they can tell you no.
Without question, campaigns and organizations waste the most money on consultants.
Many would say "media" - but at least the media translates potentially into new voters or new donors, and raises your name identification.
Consultants offer and pitch a variety of often worthless products. It's almost cliche to notice on LinkedIn the number of people who list themselves as "Social Media Consultants" as though Twitter requires specialized paid staff.
Many vendors and firms will also charge an arm and a leg to do very basic things. And a good rule of thumb when it comes to consultants is, if an intern can do it, an intern will be doing it. If you hire a consultant to do "social media" strategy, it means the consultant will pay an intern $8 an hour to write up a three page report, and charge your campaign $1,500 for their expertise.
Consultants: almsot always a total and utter waste.
Vendors are sometimes different, I call "vendors" those who offer a specific product other than their emails and pretty thoughts. Vendors exist for creating tv commercials, for writing and producing direct mail, for creating a website. You pay them for a result.
But even vendors can be quite wasteful. You'll notice many become family affairs, with multiple related people working together. And while some family enterprises are well-run and great, most aren't. Most exist as a subsidy to that particular family, and most of the people are socializing during the day and not working.
Many campaigns will try to steer vendor work to their friends. This is also a mistake, because you always, and I repeat and emphasize always, get substandard work for higher prices.
When the candidate's cousin is making the campaign website, it ends up being six weeks late and costing twice as much.
Also you'll sometimes see family members hired as consultants. This even happened on the Romney campaign, and it's a sign of extreme unprofessionalism, because it forces you as a campaign staffer to be forced to explain to donors and voters why the relatives are on staff and what they're doing. It also complicates recruiting volunteers because now you have to explain why the family gets paid and the volunteers are expected to work for free.
Two other quick sources of expensive and unnecessary campaign expenses are ridiculous office situations, and excessive legal counsel.
I've seen 12 person campaign staffs working out of a 50,000 square foot warehouses. I've seen 5 person political organizations paying exorbitant $4,000 a month office space rent when they could have moved ten miles and paid a fourth as much.
Media is a big expense, and people love to hate on its costs. And I'd agree that it has low returns. People also love to hate on the mail programs, and sure enough, mail does have frustratingly low response rates. But both of those things have positives, they're not total wastes.
Pricey consultants, sloppy vendors, families on staff, excessive legal consultation and silly office space rentals are the source of real campaign waste.
Unfortunately usually only flows bottom-up and too rarely top-down. Many groups, campaigns and organizations find people very disposable. It's as though they expect the individual to bleed for their ideology, but their
In a way this mirrors general workplace frustrations where the elite management are often at odds with, and acting with a certain immoral outlook upon, the workers. If you are being hired, you are a worker in politics. If you are doing the hiring, you're in management.
And workers can be taken advantage of, and often are, a few horror stories:
1) Not being paid, having the last pay period denied 2) Not honoring invoices or reimbursements 3) Sabotaging future job opportunities or lateral transfers 4) Not having the proper withholdings, so the individual is stuck with a hefty tax bill which the campaign should have paid.
I'm focusing on the financial because it's the most poignant, the one that can translate across ideologies the easiest. These kind of problems are why, in the book, I outline why 1) your negotiating position is never better than when you start, 2) you should always have a personal plan that doesn't include your current outfit, 3) you should bone up on marketable skills to offer elsewhere, 4) always keep your resume updated.
I've known people who lost state party jobs simply because they supported the wrong person in the primary. I've seen people fired because a new manager simply didn't like them. I've seen people fired two weeks before Christmas, multiple times. I've witnessed terminations that were tough, wrong and immoral, but they happen all the time.
And no matter how often this happens, or even happens to you, you should still try to remain loyalty to your employers. It's unfair, but it's a better policy than cynicism.
And the best thing you can do is simply be prepared. Don't be reliant, be prepared.