Thinking of running for office? You’re probably wondering what the first steps to take are.
While there’s a lot of varying information online and plenty of advice handed out freely, it’s crucial to your campaign’s success that you have a pre-filing strategy.
Before running for office, consider the following outline and checklist. These strategies and tactics were developed to help guide potential candidates down an organized, collaborative, and fruitful path.
Prospective candidates require a “ready, aim, fire” approach. Oftentimes, those interested in running for office are ready to dive head first into their campaign objectives and fight for the causes they represent, armed with social media hashtags and a list of supporters in hand. This is also known as the “fire, ready, aim” approach.
It’s backward and creates holes in your campaign strategy. Candidates cannot afford to miss crucial research, planning and foundation building details before they file for their position. Here’s are some steps to take to ensure you get some early momentum out of the gate:
Create a pre-launch plan.
Take a step back to assess the big picture. Craft a plan from start to finish including your ideas and the steps required to launch your campaign successfully. Enlist a trusted advocate, seasoned campaign professional or consulting firm to review your strategy and to setup milestones.
Next, utilize the following checklist before you file for office to put into place the necessary research and preparation required before launching your campaign. It’s crucial to your success rate and your overall campaign management.
Do your (self) research.
This is the most critical step and frequently overlooked or incomplete. Here’s how it breaks down:
Develop a personal contact list including friends, family and community leaders. Gather your list of family, friends, business contacts and holiday lists to organize as potential donors, opinion leaders and supporters you will need to tell before you run and after you file. Having email addresses is important.
Manage your reputation by searching for your name on Google. Take note of any records or issues.
Review any online biographies or personal information such as business, public office, boards, et cetera. and make sure they’re up to date.
Social media accounts
Review social media accounts for photos or controversial posts. Be sure to check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.
Ensure your government filings are in order including your taxes, liens, business licenses, home or rental records, voter registration and history.
Create a list of prior places you have lived, jobs, or personal details.
Clear any lawsuits, legal issues, divorces, or issues with ex-spouses and partners.
Secure person URLs. Do you own your domain name or name of the campaign? If you know who your opponent will be, see if you can buy their domain name too.
Account for any previous campaign donations. Make sure you review who you contributed to in other campaigns, especially partisan or losing ones.
Join community, partisan, or activist groups you want to put on your resume well in advance of running so you have an affiliation or leadership history.
Nail down your online presence and personal story.
Next prospective candidates will want to secure, develop and manage their image online and in public. Consider the following checklist as you proceed into this step:
Have professional headshots and photos taken.
Gather old family photos, pictures from your youth and those that share your stories, especially ones where you are active or in the community.
Develop your biography and finesse your resume. Keep it lively by also creating fun and interesting stories about your life experiences that you can share during interviews or in press announcements.
Research and document any places you have taken a position on issues, spoken in public, testified or made statements that can help or haunt you.
Create or manage social media accounts
Perfect your social media accounts. First cleanup accounts and if needed secure accounts to solely represent you during your campaign. Pay attention to the details of imagery, video content, hashtags and most importantly what you post.
Compile a list of the awards and honors you have received.
Decide if you will disclose religious affiliations and organize lists of contacts you may have.
Organize memberships and organizations you belong to and want to put on your candidate bio. Reach out to your local and national affiliations and start the conversation with them about your campaign early.
Obtain records of your education background including degrees and certificates.
With this checklist of key research and background considerations, candidates can begin to embark properly on the journey of filing for office and be more efficient during the early and stressful days after the launch.
For those already in office and the campaign staffs involved, it’s a good idea to double check the list above to ensure these items are in place and ready for the next election.
Rick Asnani is the founder and president of Cornerstone Solutions, a nationwide, non-partisan political and public affairs firm. Rick has 25 years of campaign and ballot issue experience.