Ten Pieces Of Advice For Candidates

Ten Pieces Of Advice For Candidates

In my usual helpful way I thought I’d run through some tips I’ve picked up over many years of volunteering in and running election campaigns.  These are just my anecdotes and are targeted at nobody and nothing specific.

(1)  It’s a good idea if you live in the area you are standing for
You can stand somewhere you don’t live, for sure, but you will have to do extra work to cover the natural disadvantage this brings.  If you are well-known, popular, or live very close by, you may be okay.  If you have very strong ties to the area, you may be okay.  But if you are an unpopular character with an uncertain history – you are going to find it an uphill struggle.

(2)  Stop whining
People hate whiny candidates.  It makes for a terrible campaign.  If all you do is whine and whine some more, your campaign will never gain steam.

(3)  Don’t get stuck in your bubble
If you have a small group of friends who all keeping telling you that you are definitely going to win, its easy to believe them.  If they tell you they are going to vote for you, this is only of use if they do actually live in the area you want to be elected in.  Otherwise, their promises of support will simply end in an embarrassing trip to a polling station they can’t vote at.  in politics, we call this a “bubble.”  It is a self-sustaining miniature community of the like-minded.  It may feel comforting, but it’s false comfort.  If you just keep losing and losing, over and over again, it may be because you think your bubble is representative of the real world, when it really isn’t.

(4)  Stop attacking your opponents
You may think that spending most of your time running down your opponents is a powerful tactic because you heard once that “negative campaign works.”  But the people giving you that advice were only telling you half the story.  First of all, for negative campaigning to work, it helps if it is actually true.  You also need to be very clean yourself to pull it off or you’ll just look like a hypocrite or worse.  Just making up some negative attack lines will play well to the audience in your bubble (see (3) above) but will fall flat outside that.  You are much better to talk about the positive things you would like to achieve – be somebody with ideas and energy, not just a skinful of bile and regret.

(5)  Saying “I wont attack my opponents” and then going on to attack your opponents is a disastrous strategy.
People aren’t stupid.  If you treat them like they are stupid, they will not thank you for it.

(6)  Beware the Guru
Running an election campaign is like managing a football team – everybody has an opinion on it, and everybody thinks they can do it.  There are no prizes for second place (usually) and listening to bad advice is often worse than not taking any advice at all.

(7)  Stop blaming everybody else
When you lose, you lose.  It’s not the fault of the other candidates.  They ran their campaigns, you ran yours, you lost.  It’s certainly not the fault of the electorate – and moaning endlessly about them is a sure way to make sure you lose next time too.  Voters get irritated by you telling them how they “should have” voted.

(8)  Beware your endorsements
If you are going to be endorsed by somebody, make it somebody with some standing in the community.  Not somebody who has failed the community.

(9)  Don’t underestimate your opponents
You may think you are the big fish in the pond but election night is a harsh reality check and  you may find yourself gaping in surprise and horror as the votes stack up against you.

(10)  Have fun!
If your team are a miserable, moody, sullen, resentful bunch that will rub off on your campaign.  And you’ll probably lose.

I hope this is helpful.  But remember, it’s just one opinion.  There are almost certainly others.