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CAMPAIGN STRATEGY FOR POLITICAL SUCCESS

The Art of Winning

Political Election in Nigeria and Around the World

A political campaign can be an exciting experience. A great deal will happen between the campaign set-up and Election Day and with a little forethought and planning, you can be prepared for all the twists and turns and, in many cases, controlling the situation .

While the given political landscape is an important factor in any campaign, in many cases the most important factor would be the difference between winning and losing, which is what, goes on inside the campaign. There are three types of political campaigns that have nearly no chance to achieve victory on Election Day due to their own internal failures.

The first is the campaign that does not have a persuasive message to deliver to voters and does not have a clear idea of which voters it wants to persuade. This type of campaign lacks direction from the beginning and the situation will only get worse. 

The second is the campaign that has a concise, persuasive message with a clear idea of which voters it can persuade but lacks a reasonable plan of what to do between the campaign period and the election day too.This type of campaign wastes time, money and people as it wanders aimlessly toward Election Day. It is often distracted by the days’ events, by things the opponent’s campaign does or by things the press says, spending more time reacting to outside factors than promoting its own agenda.

 Finally, the third kind of campaign is one that has a clear message, a clear idea of its voters and a plan to get to Election Day but fails to follow through on the plan, not doing the hard work day after day to get elected. This is a lazy campaign that makes excuses as to why it cannot do what it knows must be done and in the end makes excuses as to why it lost.

A winning political campaign is most often the one that takes the time to target voters, develops a persuasive message and follows through on a reasonable plan to contact those voters directly. A  good campaign plan are written months and even years prior to elections so that the party-building and good governance work required to be elected or to be re-elected into office are put in place with a clear, strategic goal in mind. The written definition of that goal –goal – and the map of how to get there – is the essence of any campaign plan.

Before looking at the six steps of a victorious campaign plan and election, there is need to understand the meaning of a ‘Campaign Strategy’ which is key to any form of political campaign plan, thus in doing this, it is important to equally define the meaning of a “Campaign” and a “Strategy” as separate elements.

What is a Campaign? A campaign can be defined as an act of working in an organised and active way toward a particular goal, typically a political or social one.

What is a Strategy? A strategy is a plan of action designed to achieve Specific goal; it could also be seen as a management game plan for strengthening the organization’s position, satisfying customer expectations and achieving performance set- target.

WHAT IS CAMPAIGN STRATEGY?

A campaign  strategy can be defined as the “Science  or Art of political command as applied to the overall planning and conduct of political campaign; the Manoeuvring designed to frustrate, surprise or overcome an opponent in order to secure a victory in an election.

The development of a political campaign strategy is probably the most difficult and the most essential aspect of any campaign processes, of which there are less numerous alternatives, responses or possible solutions. A political campaign is a communication process that should find the right message, target that message to the right group of voters, and as such repeating that message again and again until it registers in the mind of the voters.

Here are the step-by-step processes to develop a campaign plan. These steps include:

  1. Doing the research necessary to prepare for the campaign.
  2. Setting a strategic campaign goal of how many votes are needed to win.
  3. Analysing and targeting voters.
  4. Developing a campaign message.
  5. Developing a voter contact plan.
  6. Implementing that plan.

RESEARCHING: it is important to have a complete understanding of the particular situation and the conditions in which your campaign will be waged. Research” is where you start and where you take into account the differences and peculiarities of each campaign. It is here that you have the chance to demonstrate just how different your situation really is by using your time wisely and setting clear priorities, you will be able to compile the kind of information you need to develop a good strategy and be prepared for most events in the coming campaign.

Here are various factors for consideration while preparing for a campaign plan:

  1. What is the type of election and what are the rules?
  2. What are the characteristics of the district?
  3. What are the characteristics of the voters?
  4. What has happened in past elections?
  5. What are the main factors affecting this election?
  6. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your candidate?
  7. What are the strengths and weaknesses of all the viable opponents?

ELECTION RULES

It is important to first determine the type of election in which you will be running and what will be the rules of the election, with the case of Nigeria there is need to conform to the principles and regulations of the Electoral Act 2010, as (amended) in the Nigerian constitution, by following the INEC election information and procedures which revolves around at election periods. Much of the basic strategy depends on this information.

Is it a legislative office you are seeking or an executive office?

Do you need a majority of the votes to win or a plurality? Will there be a Will there be a runoff election?

You should definitely research the laws and, if they are complicated, you may want to ask your political party or a lawyer to draft a memo outlining the most important points. Missing a deadline or violating some part of the law could end your campaign before it has even begun.

THE SENATORAL DISTRICT/CONSTITUENCY

Once we have determined the basic election rules, then we should start to gather as much information on the district/region, constituency/locality and the voters as possible. How large is the district in which you will be running and the population?

What type of terrain will you have to cover as you campaign? What type of transportation will you and the voters need to use? How has the population of the district changed recently in terms of registered voters? You need to understand the political landscape in which you will be operating. Who are the important political players in the area? How strong are the various political parties in the area? Who are the civic and business leaders that can influence the campaign?

Winning the support of a particularly influential leader in the community can often make the campaign much easier. You also must understand how voters get their information.

THE VOTERS

There would be the need to break the voters in the district or constituency into manageable groups. This basis would later be used to develop a strategy for targeting particular voters. For example: Voters with similar characteristics may have similar interests and may tend to vote the same way. Older people would be less interested in schools and more interested in pensions and medical care, while young mothers will be more interested in schools, jobs and less interested in pensions. By determining how many older citizens there are and how many young mothers there are, there would be tendency to target message to groups that matter most to the campaign success.

Total populationNumber of MenNumber of WomenChildren 1-15YearsOlder Citizens Over 65Years
167m47m46.5m75m5.5m

TABLE 1: Population Divide 2011.

THE ELECTION

Next is to look at the factors that will affect the election, namely the various issues which concern voters and other political campaigns that are being waged in the area. What local, regional or national issues are important to voters? What will motivate voters to go to the polls? How would you describe the voter mood?

What other personalities will be on the same ballot paper? Will candidates in other ethnic group help or hurt the candidate campaign? Is there the opportunity to work with other campaigns in a coordinated manner? What effect will other campaigns have on the election?

The campaign’s message should complement, or at least not contradict, the other messages.

THE CANDIDATE

The most important factor in any election would be the candidate. During the strategic planning session, there should be an honest and candid judgement of the strengths and weaknesses of   the candidate. While doing this exercise, there is need to also look at the candidate from the point of view of the opponent. What one may view as a fresh new face with new ideas, the opponent may view as a lack of experience.

There would be need to organize the candidates assessment into various sections, such as the candidate’s childhood, education, work history, immediate/extended family background, personal relationships, self-confidence/integrity and past political positions.

It is important to look for both strengths and weaknesses in all of these areas. By finding weaknesses early, the campaign will be better prepared to deal with them and respond to charges that may come up later in the campaign. Too many candidates have lost because they refused to deal with past mistakes and were caught off guard when their opponents painted the picture of their mistakes in a very unflattering light. Key here is the use of S.W.O.T. analysis of Strength, Weaknesses, Opportunity and Threat in making an informed decision.

VIABLE OPPONENTS

Once there has been a determination of the campaign candidate’s strengths and weaknesses, the next step is to repeat the process for the opposing candidate’.

If the campaign is facing several opponents, then it should determine which ones are the strongest competitors in view of the loyalty of voters the campaign is hoping to attract.

Again, the campaign can organize it’s assessment into various sections and look for both strengths and weaknesses. The opponents will not be forthcoming with information about themselves. The campaign will probably need to do some digging to find reasons for voters to vote against them and for its candidate. Too often candidates and campaigns view opposition research as looking for the one scandal that will finish off their opponent’s campaign. This may happen, but more often what they find is patterns of behaviour that can be used to persuade voters to either vote against the opponent or for the campaign candidate. One can always use this to create a contrast between the candidate and campaign and the opponents’ campaign when developing campaign message, but this process is the basis for finding that contrast.

The other mistake campaigns often make, is saying that they do not want to wage a negative campaign. Researching the opponent and waging a negative campaign are two entirely different things. By not taking the time and doing the hard work of opposition research, the candidate and the campaign team  forfeit the ability to be prepared for what the  opponent would  say and do and to build the contrast between the candidate  and the  opponent. The table below shows candidates profiling.

INDEXPersonalityEducationEmploymentMoral Values
StrengthHighHighHighLow
WeaknessLowLowLowHigh
OpportunityHighHighHighLow
ThreatHighHighLowHigh

SETTING CAMPAIGN GOALS

The ultimate goal of almost every political campaign is to win election into political office. What is needed to be done here is to determine what must be done to achieve this victory. Too often campaigns forget to calculate how many votes will be needed to guarantee victory and determining where these votes will come from. They then spend their precious resources of time, money and people trying to talk to the whole population instead of the much fewer voters they will actually need to win. Here in doing these they will reduce the number of voters with whom they need to communicate too at a much more manageable size.

Using  the  best judgment and the information collated  from past elections records that campaign  should  be  able  to  determine:

1.WHAT IS THE TOTAL POPULATION OF THE STATE/COUNTRY? “Total population” is all the people who live in the set constituency or district/state or country.

2. WHAT IS THE TOTAL NUMBER OF VOTERS? “Total number of voters” is all the voters in the constituency, district, or state who are registered eligible voters and who can possibly vote on the Election Day. There are many legitimate voters in every society but not all are eligible to vote, because they are not registered on the voters register for the electoral station.

3. HOW MANY VOTES ARE NEEDED TO WIN?

This is a very speculative number. What we would be looking out for here is the total number of votes needed to guarantee victory at the election procedure.

4. HOW MANY HOUSEHOLDS DO THESE VOTERS LIVE IN?

On average, let us say that there are two voters per household. Some families may have three or four voters living in the same house. Some voters may be single and live alone. Now, if we think that a husband and wife are likely to vote the same way (although they don’t always), we can sometimes assume that if we talk to one member of the family, then there could be an expectation of getting the second vote.

Then you bring it all together

CREATING A WINNING

POLITICAL IMAGE

1.Pick a Scheme – And Stay With It!

2.Create  a compelling slogan

 Tie it to Your Message
Tap into Core Human values
 Make it Memorable
Get the Word Out

POLITICAL DEBATE AND SPEECHES

Political debates are exciting and challenging. It provides candidates with a rare opportunity to present their message unfiltered and to a wide audience.  Your supporters will be counting on a good performance, and your detractors looking for serious blunders.  Debates can energize a campaign, stimulate volunteers, and excite donors.  For these reasons, serious preparation and planning should be undertaken before the day of the debate.

There are two main components to pre-debate preparation.  These are research and writing.  Your candidate should be prepared for every question he or she may be asked, and for every answer his or her opponent(s) may give.  Because of this, the campaign staff should prepare research on you opponents(s), on all the issues facing the district, as well as on your own candidate.

The second major part of preparation is writing.  Your candidate should have stories, one-liners and arguments prepared (as much as possible) before the debate.  Rehearse what your candidate is going to say.  Having memorized material available will make the candidate feel more comfortable and enable him or her to keep driving home the key points your campaign wants to raise.

Your Strategy

The key to successful political debating is the candidate’s ability to get the message out that your campaign wants to project.  Before the debate, the campaign should decide two or three points that it wants to stress during the debate.  These points should coincide with your campaign message and strategy

Practice

Whether this is the candidate’s first debate or their tenth, practice is integral to debating success.  Hold practice debates. 

No Matter What, You Won

There are no official scorekeepers at a political debate.  Instead, the question of who “won” or “lost” the debate is subjective.  No matter what happens, your campaign should always declare victory.

Using these steps will make your campaign much more effective at persuading voters to vote for you. Working with these six steps-by- steps will set you well on the road to electoral victory. With these six steps by step principles of campaign strategy planning process, it has been possible to address the possibility of a successful election through a well-coordinated effort either by a political party campaign team or an individual candidate’s campaign organisation.

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