Important Elements of a Campaign Strategy
Important Elements of a Campaign Strategy
Campaigning for any type of elected office requires a sharp eye for
detail in regard to what voters are looking for in a candidate. A campaign
strategy should be comprehensive in its efforts to reach as many voters as
possible. Yet, without a solid base of ideas from which to expand upon, the
message being conveyed can easily be lost or taken out of context. In order for
a campaign manager to avoid this blunder from occurring and maximize the
candidate’s chances of victory, he or she must pay attention to a few basic
campaigning elements before attempting to stretch the campaign to its maximum
visibility. First, the campaign manager must identify the important issues in
the election as well as the voters supporting the candidate and those who are
undecided. Developing a general campaign theme, preferably one with a catchy
phrase to use in speeches, is the second critical element. Finally, an
important concept that must be incorporated throughout the campaign is the wise
use of the media, both paid and earned.
Identifying the important issues and the voting makeup of the
constituency is a preparatory task that should be done mainly before the start
of the campaign. The decline of partisanship has led to a rise in issue-based
voting, therefore making a candidate’s knowledge of the issues a much greater
factor. Yet, simply having knowledge of an issue is not sufficient. A concrete
stance should be taken on positional issues. The phrase “concrete stance” tends
to imply that the position taken should be somewhat extreme when all it really
infers is that it should be a belief held consistent throughout the campaign.
In all actuality, it is in a candidate’s best interest to avoid taking any
extreme views if at all possible.Recognizing the voters who are supporting
the office seeker is important in managing a campaign because it helps to ensure
retaining those voters. More importantly, the undecided voters or those who are
“on the fence” must be targeted for relentless campaigning. This group contains
the “sway votes” which are an integral part of winning any election.
Understanding the issues and the voters is something that should be done when
running for any office. Obviously, it would be easier for someone in the race
for county commissioner to achieve a sharp awareness of his or her constituency
than it would for a presidential nominee. Still, it is vital for a candidate at
any level to develop a grasp of the different groups that will decide his or her
fate. As stated earlier, this dimension of the campaign process is primarily
dealt with before the campaign commences. Once completed, the popular
definition of the word campaign takes form.
Conveying a message to the voters in the form of speeches, advertisement,
and public appearances is the primary objective of a political campaign. This
lets the public know what any given candidate can offer them if elected to
office. The simplest manner in which to convey whatever message is to
incorporate it into a campaign theme. “It is a serious mistake to assume that
voters are paying close attention to your election, or any election” (Shea 1996,
148). The fact is that most voters do not go out of their way to make the right
voting choice. All a voter wants is a quick and simple reason to vote for a
candidate. If every voter researched the possible candidates before each
election, campaigning would be obsolete. The political campaign serves as a
vehicle to inform voters. The best and most effective way for a candidate to do
this is with a campaign theme. A campaign theme should be general in nature.
It should be an idea that a large group can grab hold of. If the theme
selected is too precise, it portrays the candidate as narrow minded. Simply put,
the broader a theme is, the more voters it attracts (Shea 1996, 150-151).
Naturally, an election on a smaller scale will probably allow a more specific
theme. We have seen the importance of a campaign theme recently in the 1996
presidential election. The incumbent, Bill Clinton made himself out to be a
candidate concerned about our future. He backed this idea with his support of
education. Furthermore, he reiterated this theme throughout the campaign with
his catch-phrase, “Building a bridge to the 21st Century”. His main adversary,
Republican Bob Dole, focused on the issue of taxes and more specifically, his
proposal of a flat tax rate. In contrasting the themes of each nominee, we can
see a glaring difference. President Clinton portrayed himself as the president
that was right for our future. This was something that everyone wanted his or
her president to be. Senator Dole, on the other hand, while focusing mainly on
taxes, shunned many voters that did not see a revamped income tax system as
major concern. Albeit clich, Clinton’s theme appealed to voters who could not
be burdened with keeping up on complex tax proposals and obscure issue stances.
The growth of the media has made it into a powerful force in politics.
This is especially evident at election time. Candidates can use television,
radio, and the internet as a way of reaching voters with their message by way of
paid advertisement. However, with both candidates usually utilizing the media
in this fashion, it often results in a stalemate. What then becomes
increasingly meaningful is the coverage given to each candidate by the press.
This has been termed “earned” media as opposed to the aforementioned “paid”
media. If a candidate can use the press to shape the image of a likeable and
trustworthy public servant, he vastly improves his or her chances of election.
However, the news media is a “two way street”. Scandal and controversy can also
be exploited by the media, thus greatly reducing a candidate’s chances. The
clever manipulation of the media in order to attract “good press” and deter “bad
press” is becoming an increasingly vital part of a campaign strategy. (Shea 1996,
A campaign strategy is a complex process of acquiring and allocating
resources, polling, image creating, and persuading. The elements discussed here
do not produce a truly comprehensive strategy. However, if adhered to, they
allow for other aspects of a campaign to fall into place.