A good campaign strategy includes a combination of the basics, an assessment of the tactics to choose, an understanding of the context the campaign takes place in and an analysis of the positioning of the party or candidate.
Campaigns are sustained efforts toward a specific outcome. For political campaigns, this specific outcome is usually seen as getting elected. But that would be too narrow a view of what political campaigning can be about.
It’s important to define what success will look like for your campaign, so you know when/if you achieve it. It could be something as broad as getting more potential voters to sign up to a mailing list or as specific as getting your preferred candidate moved up a slot on a local list for an election. It could even be as difficult as securing enough members’ votes to approve a programme for government as your party attempts to approve a deal to enter into a coalition. Even if your goals are less concrete, like “changing minds”, it’s good to think of ways to measure or track it, like through responses to surveys for example.
No matter the endpoint, what is common to all campaigns is a sustained, collective effort over time, working towards clear goals. In order to be effective and meet these goals, you have to develop and agree on a good campaign strategy.
Strategy is a collection of information tactics, ideas, questions and plans to make change happen. In politics, that means all of the resources we have at our disposal combined in a way that brings about what we want to achieve.
“Strategy is a verb - something you do, not something you have.” - Marshall Ganz
Strategy is like a map that charts the territory between your current position and the achievement of your campaign objective. Like a map, a campaign strategy can help us achieve our goals on time and avoid the sense of being overwhelmed.
In order to create a winning strategy, first we need to get the basics right.
It is important to have an overall view of your strategy. But political parties often fail to pull elements of their campaign together into one place, and the strategising stage is where you do that.
Some of this might be obvious, some of it might be new - and you might have your own ideas to add here as well - but below is an overview of key elements you should consider including in a campaign strategy document.
You can find out more on the Campaign Basics page where we cover the following core concepts.
A campaign tactic is any action your campaign takes towards the goal of winning - like getting more votes, recruiting more volunteers, raising awareness about your campaign, gaining more followers, etc. You should think about which combination of tactics will make for the most optimised campaign.
Examples of campaign tactics:
These are the things you do to achieve your laid out objectives as part of your larger strategy - these can be online or offline and can be done by your campaign staff, volunteers or the candidate themselves. Find more on the Campaign Tactics page.
Context is everything. What are your party’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, who are your political friends and foes, which issues are voters are concerned about and what are their emotions about them?
By assessing the social and political context in which a campaign takes place, strategies and tactics can become clearer and messaging a lot better. You can find more on the page on Campaign Context.
Political positioning is the process of political communication that defines a party or candidate’s position compared to the competition. It is often regarded as the most difficult part of campaigning. Get it right, and your job gets a whole lot easier. Get it wrong, and you’ll pay the price at the polls.
Positioning allows the party or candidate to compare their image with the electorate’s desires; to compare their image with the image of an opponent; to explore the pros and cons of alternative positions, and to choose the most advantageous position to take in the campaign. Here is the page on Campaign Positioning.
Last updated: June 2022