Performing Your Civic Duties

Running For Local Elected Office? Do You Need A Campaign Consultant?

If you've always dreamed of making a difference by engaging in public service -- or if you're simply tired of the existing leadership strategies in your community and want to help make a change -- you may be interested in running for a local elected position. However, even the world of local politics can be rife with misinformation, "smear campaigns," and other tactics designed to help tilt the outcome in favor of one candidate or issue. What can you do to ensure that your campaign message is clear and conveyed in a manner that will allow it to reach (and resonate with) the largest number of potential voters without stooping to low levels? Read on to learn more about the role of a campaign consultant, as well as some factors that can help you determine whether you need a consultant for your political campaign.

What does a campaign consultant do?

A campaign consultant is essentially a public relations representative with specific campaign experience. A consultant works closely with a candidate and his or her campaign committee to craft the campaign message and talking points, review (or assist in writing) campaign speeches, and manage any media exposure (both positive and negative) surrounding a campaign. For example, if a newspaper article misquotes you or wrongly attributes a position, your campaign consultant may work with the paper to rectify this mistake while simultaneously working on a press release that will help negate any negative effect of this publicity. 

Do you need a campaign consultant for a local elected position?

If you're running for city council or the school board, you may feel that hiring a campaign consultant is "overkill" for a relatively small position. However, even if you opt not to use a consultant for the duration of your campaign, nearly all candidates can benefit from at least an initial consultation. 

Because voters as a group tend to have relatively short attention spans, it's important to craft your message in a way that will allow voters to hear and react. While you may have a solid plan for improving your school system's performance or your city's budget, if this plan is buried in a dense wall of text on your campaign website or on promotional flyers or brochures, it's unlikely to be very effective in garnering votes. By running your ideas past a campaign consultant, you'll get some actionable tips and tricks on distilling this information into more easily digestible "sound bytes." 

A campaign consultant can also be key if you're planning to enter a hotly-contested race. Your primary job as candidate should be to focus on getting your message out to as many people as possible -- and if you spend your time responding to unfounded attacks or criticism by other candidates, you'll be unable to put on a good offense. A campaign consultant can help manage bad press, emphasize the good you're planning to do, and take some of this burden off your shoulders.