Friday, 16 April 2010

Words to live by

I'm just finishing off The Power of the Vote, written by Douglas Schoen of Penn, Schoen & Berland. It charts his life and some of the key lessons he's learned about campaigning. Although I dont propose to review it in full here I wanted to lift his 'campaign principles', as I think these shine through in their clarity and simplicity.

These principles are applicable to a wide variety of eventualities, from crisis communications to a corporate campaign, the comment on each is mine:

1) Start yesterday: Front runners tend to be winners - Being abreast of your issues might seem like a bit of a simplistic thing to say, but its surprisingly common to find that people simply arent ready when something comes out of left field.

2) Define the issues on your own terms - before others define for you - Witness the recent Wikileaks furore and you'll see what this is all about. If the Department of Defence had released the footage on their own terms they could have owned the story, and made sure an unedited version of the tape was everywhere. As it is they've let Wikileaks turn the story into what they want under the emotive heading "Collateral Murder". This is particularly true in the internet generation when material can get out there fast and hard, and the genie is impossible to put back in the bottle.

3) Know the competition and be ready to respond - In my mind 'respond' in this case means be prepared to go to war with them. Find out their weak spots, dig out the dirt. Again, the internet is your friend since pretty much anything of note will have left a footprint somewhere on the world wide web. But reach out, find out everything you can and keep it ready

4) Understand the issues that move people to action and organise the campaign around those issues - There's no point in organising a campaign which people won't commit to beyond clicking 'become a fan' on Facebook. Find issues people will go to the barricades for, those are your core issues, everything else is fluff.

5) Let no attack - overt or implied - go unanswered - I'm not always sure this is entirely true, imagine if the Obama campaign had gone after every attack floating around on the internet. Obama would have spent so much time arguing that he wasnt a Kenyan/Muslim/Terrorist, but you certainly should hit back effectively against any attack you can, even if its by confessing.

6) Take the offensive, play to win, and know what that means - Strategy, strategy, strategy. If you dont know what winning looks like, you'll get lost in the wilderness trying to get there. Set yourself a goal, stick to it, assess activity in light of this goal. "Mission creep" is the bane of any campaign. Stay on target.

7) Stay nimble - Be ready for the environment to change, because it will. Absorb all the information you can, it'll help you in the long term. Remember the OODA loop.

Enjoy these, I think they're pretty integral to understanding how a campaign should be run.

Thats all for now.

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