This post is the first in a series on how to put your campaign plan together. See the bottom of the post for links to each of the future posts, as they're published.
A campaign plan is central to your campaign. It's what I focus on at Campaign in a Box -- building customized campaign plans for first-time candidates.
Too few candidates take the time or have the expertise to write out what they'll do on a weekly basis. That's a mistake. A simple campaign plan keeps you (1) focused on doing the right things to win your campaign. It also ensures you (2) spend your money well and (3) stay on message.
Focus your campaign
As part of your campaign plan, you should create a calendar. The calendar includes which houses you will canvass, which groups you will speak to, which days you’ll raise money, and when you need to have money in the bank for expenditures.
Without a calendar to focus what you’ll do and when you’ll do it, the campaign gets unorganized. Unorganized campaigns don't tend to fare well.
Why don't poorly organized campaigns often succeed? Because campaigns are hectic. Your opponent will say or do something unexpected. A planned volunteer day will fall flat. The local media will write something negative about you.
These unexpected things happen to all campaigns. And when they do, your instinct is to throw out the plan and react to the new development. A thoughtful campaign plan -- written down on paper -- keeps you on track when the unexpected happens.
Spend your money wisely
Few first-time candidates know what to spend their money on. Phone vendors, ad salesmen and frisbee makers will often call you to sell their products. Many of them make convincing arguments for what they’re selling.
Every good campaign plan includes a campaign budget. Itemize what you will buy and when you will buy it. If it’s not on the list before the campaign gets going, you don’t buy it. But without a budget in place, it is easy to be seduced by vendors selling their products.
Stay on message
You will also develop your message in your campaign plan. This is important — if you don’t have a single message, voters won’t know why to vote for you. Some elections are popularity contests, but more often voters need to know what you’ll do when elected.
Generally, voters have the ability to remember about one thing about you. Taking the time to develop the one big theme of your campaign is important. It needs to be authentic to you, it needs to contrast well with your opponent and it needs to resonate with the voters.
If you have no central message, your campaign won’t be about anything. You should develop that message as part of your campaign plan.
This series on creating a campaign plan will go for the next couple of weeks. Below are some of the topics I'll cover. It's not comprehensive, but touches on some of the more important pieces of your campaign plan. If you want help with a comprehensive campaign plan, contact me here and we can talk about your campaign.
Here is what the series will cover:
- Why does a campaign plan matter? This introductory post. (1/5)
- How to determine your campaign message. Step by step, simple way to create a message. Part 1. (1/6)
- Two steps to creating a (basic) campaign plan. For a shoe-string budget. Part 2. (7/26)
- Five things a first-time candidate must get right. Part 3. (7/27)
- How many voters should you talk to? It's less than you might think. Part 4. (7/28)
- How to create a campaign calendar. A calendar will keep you focused. Part 5. (8/1)
- Schedule out your fundraising plan. A must if you don't want to run out of money. Part 6. (8/2)
- How Campaign in a Box can help. Our comprehensive approach to campaign planning. Part 7. (8/3)
Check back often over the next two weeks for new posts. You can also follow me on twitter (link below) to be alerted when I post new information about your campaign plan.
If you would like to get more campaign tips, you can check out "First-Time Candidates" magazine, subscribe to the blog or connect with me on twitter or LinkedIn. You can also get campaign tips emailed to you once a week by signing up to to the right of this post.