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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Working with a Designer

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.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Important books relevant to Political Fundraising

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.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Opposition Research Dumps

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.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Quick and Easy Recruitment for Politics

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

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When to send references for a job opening

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.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to format your resume for political jobs

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.