Five Takeaways from the 2016 Party Conventions for Local Candidates

Getting past the party and personal politics from the party conventions over the past couple weeks, there is plenty to learn from the many speakers and the approach everyone is taking toward the Presidential election. Here are five takeaways that The Campaign Coach pulled from the two weeks of insanity, er, the American political process in action.

1. Be honest with voters – Not using this forum to accuse anyone of dishonesty (though wouldn’t that be fun?!), but we’re talking more about how you relate to voters. People can see right through someone who’s not genuine. On the national stage, every word, every facial expression and every gesture are monitored and judged – you’re probably doing it yourself. That’s not exclusive to candidates for higher office. Listen to the experts analyzing the candidates, and learn from their insights. Believe wholeheartedly in what you’re saying, and it will come across clearly.

2. Watch for the “Gotcha” – Your opponent might not have the technical savvy of Russian hackers and your private e-mails may not be distributed through social media, but you can be certain that they’ll have the ability to dig up something on you. Know what it is and be ready for it. If it’s something that has legs, the longer you go without responding the longer your opponent will have to make it a “relevant” campaign issue.

3. Make no expectations of the media – That’s not to say avoid the media, definitely don’t do that. But don’t assume that what you say or do will be interpreted a certain way by a reporter, or his or her editors back at the newsroom. If you are diversifying your interest in the conventions, you’ll know that every single thing that’s being said by the candidates is being spun in any number of different directions. It can happen in your free weekly paper as easily as it can happen on FOX News or MSNBC.

4. Who you surround yourself with is important – Much is made at the party conventions about who the various speakers are. They range from celebrities with significant “pop,” champions for causes that bring emotion, colleagues in elected office whose endorsement is valuable – and, for some reason, former opponents who may or may not say nice things about the nominee. At the local level, everyone knows everyone, so the people who publicly associate with you can play a pivotal role in your successful election. Creating a strategy for this is important.

5. Know that everything you say publicly is “out there” for someone to use against you – This is a significant component of this year’s Presidential election, with two candidates who have been in the political spotlight for decades and have taken many positions on many different things. The media is asking both candidates about things they said 20 years ago that may or may not even be relevant today – but they said them. When you run for office, even at the local level, you are voluntarily putting yourself out to the public, which means presentations, interviews, letters to the editor you may have written, social media posts, and even casual conversations can be fair game. Be smart about your public persona – past and present – and make sure that how you’re presenting yourself is consistent with your message, and your campaign’s viability.

What’s happening on television in front of the entire nation seems very different from the way elections are conducted at the local level, but there are innumerable similarities, and there’s much to learn for candidates running themselves. It’s very difficult sometimes, especially for those of us who are already politically-minded, to get past the partisanship and bickering in the media, but if you’re running, or thinking of running, at the local level, we encourage you to focus on why and how candidates and parties are doing what they do, and see where you can pull insights into your own campaign.

Then, to take that knowledge to the next level, download The Campaign Coach’s free e-book: Campaign Lunacy: How to Avoid the 7 Biggest Mistakes That Can Keep You From Getting Funded, Getting Votes… And Getting Elected!