Whether you love it, hate it or love to hate it, one thing is clear, politicians and elections are not going anywhere, anytime soon, even if political and electoral fatigue looms across global democracies.
Being an elected representative who can make a positive difference to a society is one of the most satisfying achievements.
Whilst many sectors and industries such as banking, law and engineering are being disrupted through technological advancements, the process of electing a politician and the traditional methods of campaigning remain largely unchanged. Any politician will confirm that even in the age of social media, there is no substitute to pounding the streets and knocking on doors when trying to convince someone to vote for you. Similarly, voters will be all too familiar with lining up in long queues to then be given a blunt pencil used to mark a box on a ballot paper to communicate their preference of next leader.
Many people appear fed up of our politicians and democratic processes, however, I continue to be a huge advocate of the power of liberal democracy to provide effective governance. Consequently, I am keen to see more people take a proactive interest in public service representation, in particular, groups of individuals who may not be as well represented in their legislature or decision-making body such as young people, ethnic minority groups and women.
Over the past two years, I have felt the bitterness of losing an election and the sweet victory having won an election which led me to write a book called “Get Me Elected. Tips, Tactics and Strategies for Election Success.” The aim of the book is to encourage more people to take an interest in public leadership through campaigning and winning elections. Many argue that the quality of our politicians and leaders is starting the deteriorate. To those who argue such a view point, I challenge you to do something about this and consider throwing your hat in the ring next time your school, university, work place, local council or parliament are looking for candidates. Whilst, this may seem like a daunting process, I seek to briefly share 5 secrets on how to win an election.
- Why are you running for election? If I got £1 for every time I was asked this question during my campaigning, I could probably retire a wealthy man. It is amazing, how many people want to run in elections without having a satisfactory answer to why they wish to run in the election in the first instance. It is important to remember that running for office is not an end in itself but a means to an end. The end should be the change or difference you wish to make and the role of elected office is the vehicle to achieve that end. The question originally posed will require a succinct and simple response. As a candidate, no one will be able to answer this question with conviction better than you can and you will be expected to communicate a strong message. If you are a new candidate, it is likely that you will be advocating change from the status quo. In answering this question, try and think about what the status quo currently is? What is lacking with the current status quo? How you intend to fix it? And Why you should be the candidate of choice to create this change? When answering the last question, you may wish to draw on your background, principles or personal story to supplement an explanation for being the ideal change makers.
- What issues matter to your voters? One of the biggest mistakes campaign teams often make is that they fail to identify the important issues that actually matter to their voters and instead focus on issues which they assume are important. Politicians are required to serve their constituents, therefore, to stand a chance in being successfully elected, it is important that candidates understand the needs and demands of voters. This process requires time and energy to be devoted in surveying and interviewing a cross section of your electorate to assess what issues exist and whether there are any proposed ideas to remedying such issues. This information can form the basis of your campaign manifesto.
- How will you standout? Whether you look at Prime Minister Modi in India, President Trump in the United States or Prime Minister Johnson in the United Kingdom, each of these leaders have spent significant time analysing and refining how they will communicate their messages in a way which is different and can resonate with the maximum number of voters. Whether this is through innovative campaign tactics, distinguishing a different narrative to your competitors or simply using more attractive campaign literature think about how you can be distinct. It is important to understand that the average voter has a short attention span and it is your job to capture attention effectively, communicate the message efficiently and eventually engage your voter to support you. Therefore, it is worth giving some serious thought about how you can uniquely position yourself from your competition.
- Good quality voter data translates to a good quality campaign – A common mistake made by campaign teams is to underestimate the importance of capturing voter data. Early in your campaign it is important that you have identified exactly who your potential voters are and work out a method in which you can share your message to the maximum number of voters in minimum time as often as possible prior to the election. For example, explore which data you can legally obtain about your potential voters such as email or postal addresses or telephone numbers. You should adopt a methodical way to reach out to each of your potential voters with the aim of having at least one conversation with each of them prior to polling day. When you engage in a conversation, you should use the time to not only sell yourself as the candidate of choice but also try to ascertain whether the voter will support you or your competitor. This process of finding out how the potential voter will vote is known as ascertaining the “Voting Intention”. Once you have got a Voting Intention, you should carefully record this data. As polling day draws closer, you should focus your efforts on communicating and consolidating support from those who have indicated an interest in voting for you or on those who are undecided. Generally speaking, it would not be effective use time for you to try and persuade someone who has pledged their support for your competitor. Your efforts could be better spent on converting someone who is undecided to vote for you instead.
- Get Out The Vote – Good campaigning before the polling day does not guarantee election success. To win an election, you need to score more votes than your competitors. Therefore, the most crucial part of an election campaign is the polling day itself when it will be your job to get your supporters to actually go out to vote for you. After all, a supporter saying they will vote for you is nothing more than a theoretical nicety until this actually translates into a reality. Try and empower a team of volunteers to assist you on polling day to contact your supporters to ensure that they have voted. Once you have reminded your supporters to go out to vote, if time permits, you could focus some energy on a final persuasive push to encourage those who have not decided their ideal candidate to consider you. It has been said that elections have been won and lost on the final few hours of a polling day, therefore, this final stretch requires a great deal of effort and energy to try and secure the maximum number of votes.
I hope the above provides some guidance when navigating the murky waters of standing in an election. Being an elected representative who can make a positive difference to a society is one of the most satisfying achievements. I recommend that everyone attempts standing in an election once in their life. More tips, tactics or strategies for election success can be found in my book available on Amazon called: Get Me Elected. Tips, Tactics and Strategies for Election Success.