"I always considered myself shy. When I decided to run for office, two of my closest friends laughed uproariously. They said, 'You realize you have to talk to people to win?' But I quickly learned that talking to voters is not about me, it's about them. I can't serve you if I don't know what you need, so I have to find out."
- Stacey Abrams, politician and former gubernatorial candidate
You've decided you’re going to run, identified your story, learned about fundraising, and developed a platform… but how do you communicate your story and platform with voters?
Campaign communication is multi-faceted, and involves a variety of communication channels. You’ll knock on doors, appear at events, make speeches, establish an online presence, and work with the media. Seem like a lot? Don’t worry – we have your back!
Establishing an online presence:
Even if you prefer to stay away from social media platforms like Facebook or Instagram in your personal life, you will need to be present on social media to run a successful political campaign. Your digital presence is more important now than ever: a voter may never meet you in person, and will look for you online to learn more about you and what you stand for.
To run for office, you’ll need to create a website that tells your story and showcases your issues and ideas. You’ll also need to establish a presence on several social media outlets, like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Your website should be informative; it’s the first place voters will turn for information about you and should include your candidate bio and issues. Your social media, on the other hand, should showcase your personality and act as a snapshot for your campaign, with pictures from campaign events, behind-the-scenes moments, and any other material you want to feature! Social media can show voters what you are doing from day to day and give them a chance to talk back and forth with you or the campaign on everything from small potatoes to the occasional hot potatoes.
Sprout Social offers a comprehensive social media guide for political campaigns, with information on budgeting, analytics, strategy, and more.
Joanne Sweeney is a digital marketing and social media consultant, and a former candidate for public office. Her blog post for the Digital Training Institute offers some fantastic advice on executing a social media campaign.
Cosmo teamed up with How to Run for Office to publish a series on women in office. We particularly like this piece, 12 Absolutely Essential Things You Should Know About Running For Office, which offers some great campaign advice from politicians and political strategists.
Working with the media:
Working with the media is an essential part of any campaign, but can be very intimidating for candidates who don’t have experience talking to journalists. It’s important to keep in mind that the media you’ll be interacting with will most likely not be CNN or the New York Times. You’ll be interacting with your local, statewide, or regional outlets, where the reporters you’ll be speaking to will likely be members of your community. Just like anyone else, reporters are people who want to feel respected and valued, and who appreciate basic kindness and courtesy! Treat journalists like you would any other person you meet in day-to-day life, and remember that most aren’t out to get you, they’re out to get a good story that helps their audience understand important issues, people, and ideas.
A key concept of good media relations is to be proactive, as well as responsive to media inquiries. One of the most important things you can do to be proactive is to research topics in your community that interest you and become familiar with the journalists who cover them. Read/view a journalist’s stories on the topic, then branch out and explore more of that person’s work. What do they care about, know about, have a lot of experience in? The more you know about the person who can help you reach an audience, the more targeted your information for that person can be -- and the better the story that results for both of you. Again, this is good human relations, first and foremost.
The National Democratic Institute* provides amazing resources (like this Campaign Skills Guide) for candidates on all sorts of topics. We found this guide, Building a Communications Strategy: Tactics, Tools and Techniques for Reaching your Audiences, particularly helpful. The guide covers different types of media, how to prioritize outlets to reach your target audience, and more!
* Note: the NDI is an internationally-focused non-partisan group, and invokes the use of “Democratic” in the sense of “democracy,” rather than the US political party.