You’re going to Michigan. Would you attempt the trip without a map? Would you attempt, without instructions, to make repairs to your car that you’ve never attempted before?
[amazon_enhanced asin="031338343X" container="div" container_class="right" price="All" background_color="FFFFFF" link_color="000000" text_color="0000FF" /]So why would you try to run your campaign, which could conceivably change your life, without a well written and thought out plan?
So, what is the purpose of a campaign plan? A campaign plan serves two primary functions. One: to keep you focused on your race. Two: to a lesser degree, to say to potential donors and important supporters that you have a solid, coherent plan in place to win the office you seek.
On the first point, a campaign plan is a map, of sorts, that lays out in a coherent, logical fashion the guide to a successful or, at least, a competitive campaign. A good campaign plan is fluid, to allow for changes in response to unforeseen circumstances in a campaign; yet is solid in that it gives you a reference point and to remind you that you are on track. It defines what is to be done, when something should be done, who should be doing it, and what is needed to follow up to make that thing successful.
Should you be attacked by your opponent, and you will be, your plan will (or should) have a response and counterattack already laid out so you don’t flounder about a few days, lose your focus, and get off issue. For example, your opponent says you’re soft on crime (for a Democrat to make this charge, it is laughable). In response, as opposed to “umm” and “uhhh”-ing because you’re caught off guard, you trot out an endorsement by a third-party, preferably a law enforcement group or victims’ advocacy group. Even better, try to have an arrangement in place with such groups so that within minutes or hours of an attack, they respond as well with an endorsement. This is because voters obviously expect you to deny the charge; the third party lends your defense credibility.
The counterattack comes after the response. “My opponents says I’m soft on crime. On his watch, the law enforcement budget was cut and time served by violent felons was reduced.” Obviously, it should be more detailed and humanized (statistics are good, but a human face with a detailed story drives home a point more than numbers ever will); but you get the point.
This is a mere example of what a campaign plan should entail and explore. It should look at your district, voting history, your background, your opponent’s background, the media, fundraising, schedule, public relations, budget, volunteers, grassroots, grasstops, —this just scratches the surface. It should enable you to look five or six moves ahead of where you currently are and where your opponents is and where he might go. There will always be unforeseen things that hit you and come up. Don’t fret it, but minimize it by thinking through most bad scenarios. And be realistic. If you have a skeleton in your closet, be prepared for a worst case scenario.
Secondly, the campaign plan says to potential large donors and important supporters that you are serious enough to spend possibly dozens or more hours on a written plan. They see not only that you want to win, but how you plan on winning. This could give them faith in you they might not have had otherwise and cast a vote or give you $500, or preferably both. Let him look at it, though not closely and by no means let a copy get out.
You may think, “We don’t need a plan because (insert reason).” Again, take a look at the carnage on a local level where some good Republicans were ravaged because of, I feel, inadequate planning.
There are countless cases where candidates say, “well, we’ll do this” or “we’ll do that in response.” It’s almost as if everything is an afterthought. But in the fog of war these things get lost, forgotten, overlooked. Worse, a committee could be convened to deal with surprise issues.
Have the plan in writing, within easy reach, so it can be executed quickly, effectively.
Remember, the plan is to keep you on track, focused, and five moves ahead of where you are now and where your opponent is. It is to also instill confidence in your supporters and donors.