Our firm has long been active in managing local ballot measure campaigns. From school bond measures to ballot measures around local zoning, spending authority, energy utility management and other issues, we are proud that our team has won every one of the campaigns that we have managed. While each campaign is unique – unique voters, unique geographies, unique local political considerations, unique issues and messaging; there are certain best-practices that lend themselves to almost every successful effort.
Project Management Timeline
One of the most important tools toward ultimate campaign victory is a calendar. A calendar, or more accurately a project management timeline, is essential for planning and execution. When building these timelines, we generally start with the end first. Starting with election day, we work backward to populate our timelines with critical tasks and milestones including media outreach, ad buys, canvasing efforts, coalition building, stakeholder and community engagement efforts, etc.
Just as important as having a proper plan is what you do at the beginning of that plan: polling. High quality research, including polling, is a critical part of just about every successful campaign effort. Polling is much more than just a snapshot to tell us where voters are on a particular issue at a particular point in time, although those snapshots are important. Done well, polling provides critical insights on the types of messages that move voters and how those messages affect different voter demographic segments (including age, gender, education, income and other factors). Also, good polling – along with research and insight into the likely overall turnout for the particular election – will help determine whether your campaign efforts are built around A) educating voters, the most likely scenario in a high turnout election, usually a general election; or B) compelling voters, also known as getting out the vote (GOTV), the most likely scenario in a lower turnout primary, off-year or special election.
Tactics and Approach
In-between your initial polling and the actual election day, there is a smorgasbord of activities, tactics and outreach that must be done. The particular issues or circumstances of your measure will drive the tactics and approach. Will this be an election requiring heavy advertising? Will it be an election driven by earned media? Will it be won door-to-door or through neighbor-to-neighbor conversations over the backyard fence? While there are many best practices, campaigns are always unique.
Stick to Your Plan
Finally, whatever you do, you want to make sure you stick to your plan. Time after time we see that successful campaigns are the ones that put a great plan in place, then consistently execute against that plan. Where we’ve seen others have problems is when plans are not executed, or are revised or abandoned based on the push and pull of heated campaign politics. Campaigns can be emotional. The other side is trying to win, too. They will do things to disrupt your plan. They will do things and say things to distract you, so you take your campaign’s eye off the prize. Our advice is don’t get distracted. Don’t get offended. Don’t get scared or panicked by the opposition’s tactics. Instead, focus on victory and the plan, timeline and steps that will bring that victory.