In order to develop a budget and a communications strategy when running for office, it is very helpful to do a benchmark survey. When should you do one? As soon as you’ve finished your research and have the money.

Looking for Help in Your Campaign? Call Jay at (845) 458-1210. The call is FREE.

I’ve worked in more than 300 campaigns. The most difficult were those in which I had no data– Races in which I had to second guess where my client stood with the electorate, second guess what I needed to tell the electorate about my client’s background, values, issue positions or about his or her opponent.

I hate those kinds of campaigns, and you should be very suspicious of any consultant who claims to know what you need to do in the absence of any data. I compare that to a contractor who says he can build a brand new customized million dollar home with no blueprint. No he can’t. Even if he is an experienced builder. Even if he’s built other million dollar homes. The fact that you are building a customized home means he has never done one quite like yours. Your campaign is a customized operation, and no one has ever run one quite like yours.

Download Your Free Political Roadmap

When doing your poll there are a couple of mistakes to avoid:

  1. Don’t assume that you or your media consultant knows exactly what your strategy should be without taking a sample of public opinion. If you do, you may find at the end of the day that you’ve blown hundreds or thousands or millions of dollars on a communications strategy that was completely flawed.
  1. Do not use polls to determine your positions on fundamental issues. If you need a poll to know that you should not be running. The purpose of a poll is to test the salience of your own ideas and how they fare in the political marketplace, provide insight on how to introduce yourself to the electorate, what values to highlight in your advertising, issue positions to emphasize, how to disseminate your message and how to box your opponent.

Done correctly they will give you a Political Roadmap between where you are the day they are taken to where you want to be on election day. And done correctly, they will tell you the cheapest way to do it.

This is what you want to learn from your benchmark poll:

  • What parts of your biography do voters find most appealing? How do they react when told of your accomplishments in private or public life? Which of your issue positions and fundamental values do voters will find most appealing?
  • What parts of your opponent’s biography, accomplishments, and issues positions do voters like most? What things about your opponent do they like least? How do voters react to the flaws in your opponent’s record and issue positions?
  • When you compare your biography, your fundamental beliefs and issue positions to that of your opponent, which contrasts do voters find most compelling?
  • Of course, you’ll also want to know your name recognition. Your opponent’s name recognition. What voters already know about you and your opponent. What they like most and least about you and your opponent. What issues the voters say are most important. And, of course, some demographic questions to ensure that the electorate was properly sampled.

If you are like most candidates, you will seek the help of a professional poll taker. Before you hire one, check their references. Ask to see strategy memos they’ve prepared for former clients. Did they simply report numbers or did they offer useful insight on the advertising strategy. There are plenty of poll takers who know how to take an accurate survey.  Make sure you hire one that can also give you some insight on your communications plan.

Finally, make sure you know at the outset what your survey is going to cost. Get it in writing. Make sure that you receive a copy of the crosstabs. Do not make the final payment on your poll until the report and analysis is delivered.

Have Questions? Call me at 845-458-1210. Or email me at [email protected].

Last Week’s Video: Running for Office? Preparing for the Campaign: Research Your Opponent

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

How to win an election:

Running for office and knowing how to win an election is a challenge, especially for first time political candidates just learning how to run for office. Discerning the fine points of how to campaign, raise political contributions, and execute a political campaign strategy often requires the help of someone who has served as a political strategist or who has experience as a political consultant.

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