There’s no better way to encourage positive change in your community than to become the kind of politician you would like to vote for. Of course, that’s easier said than done. If you’re considering running for a political seat, you probably already know how intimidating the whole process can be. But taking things one step at a time is the best way to ensure your political success and to make sure you don’t get too overwhelmed in the process.
We will use city council as an example from here on out. Whether you are adamant about seeing change in your community or you really want to put that political science degree to work, running for city council is a great way to get started in a political career at the local level and to start to contribute to the kind of change you want to see enacted. In getting started, make sure you are addressing all of these basic points of a campaign.
Start with the Issues that Matter
Chances are, if you’re considering running for your city council, there are some particular hot button issues, such as education, that have motivated you to seek office. Alternatively, maybe you’ve noticed some problem in your community and you don’t think it’s getting the kind of public attention it deserves.
Starting out with these important issues makes a great launching point into your campaign, but make sure you are not betting everything on single-issue voters. You will need to be aware of every issue that is going on in city politics and you will want to have a clear and thought-out opinion on each of those matters. Once you’ve done your homework in researching issues in your city, sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and scribble down some platform ideas for every city issue. You may want to get a binder and make some labels to help you remain organized – organization is crucial.
Get the Support of Your Network
Before you start to worry about collecting votes and campaigning, you need to make sure that everyone in your immediate support network is on-board with your idea to run. Talk with your friends, family, and coworkers about the issues that move you and about how this career change will affect your home and professional life. If you’re married, don’t spend lots of money running a campaign only to find out that your partner doesn’t want to accept the obligations of being a politician’s spouse.
Be a Professional
No one could successfully run a political campaign alone. You will want to hire a team to manage your campaign. Try to hire professionals who have run other successful campaigns. Come to those leaders with a clear vision for your campaign platform and present yourself as a professional and electable individual. If you don’t have a huge budget, consider seeking out a mentor in the field to learn from.
The Important Campaign Steps
When it comes time to start getting serious with your campaign, there are a few things you will want to be sure you do:
- Prepare campaign signage. Make sure you have attractive, professional-looking campaign signs to give to supporters to post on roadsides and in their front yards. Hire a designer to come up with a good logo and layout for your posters. Print up stickers and buttons to hand out to voters as well.
- Be prepared to engage with your opponents and with the media. Make sure your team keeps you well-versed on public events and current issues. You will want to have smart, well considered answers to anything that an opponent or journalist could ask you.
- Run polls to gauge local interest, send campaigners door to door, all the stuff you’ve seen other politicians do in past years!
- Take web presence seriously. Be sure that your team has built you an attractive and functional campaign website and that they are managing your social media profiles effectively and professionally.
- Hold fundraisers. People love a party, and you are going to need lots of financial support when running a campaign. Holding fun events is a great way for you to raise funds while also gaining some goods public image.
On Election Day
Don’t forget to vote for yourself! A few years ago, a woman running for the school board lost the election because she didn’t vote for herself! A single vote would have won her the seat. So even if you are running unopposed or with little competition, take nothing for granted! Don’t forget to vote for yourself!
And as election day gets closer, keep behavior civil and maintain a calm and poised public image. Even if you are unopposed, it’s much better if your image is perceived as confident rather than cocky.
Try to keep the experience pleasant for everyone. Elections are extremely stressful for politicians, so make sure you find ways to relax when you can. Whether or not you win, you should end the experience feeling like you did your best and that it was overall a positive experience. The first step to making a positive change in your community is actually doing something about it, so you’re on the right track!