A good campaign staff can propel a candidate to victory, but even the most skilled staffers have problems developing and executing the overall strategy. This doesn't mean that staffers don't contribute to a successful strategy. It just means that they are so close to the ground and caught up in the minutiae that they can't effectively gauge the direction (or misdirection) of the campaign.
A mistake many first time candidates make is to rely on staffers for strategy instead of hiring a general consultant that formulates and directs the campaign's strategy. In the mind of many candidates, a "campaign manager" doubles as a "strategist." The most significant problem with staff driven strategy is that strategic decisions are clouded by ground dust – the issues and chatter surrounding the campaign's ground operation.
This can force the campaign off track very easily, as the staff and candidate lose focus of the bigger picture.Allowing a general consultant to develop and oversee the strategy gives the campaign a more objective director. This also gives staffers the opportunity to devote their time and focus on execution.Staffers should be encouraged to give the consultant feedback so the strategy can be fine tuned. In fact, the sum of the team – paid staffers and consultant(s) – are greater than their individual parts.
The most effective campaigns have a balance of both. Few campaigns find victory using just staff or only consultants.
Tyler Harber is Vice President and Director of the Political Division for Wilson Research Strategies, a leading public opinion research and political consulting firm for Republicans. You can follow Harber at www.w-r-s.com or on Twitter @tharber.