Why Local Campaigns Often Fail
Local campaigns often fail to realize that they need both a message and a marketing plan. The message needs to be developed first. Candidates need to be able to express in one or two sentences why they are seeking office. They need to hone the message so that it can be summed up in one short paragraph. The message needs to be the same at the beginning of the campaign as it is at the end of the campaign. Gary Hart once said that Ronald Reagan was the last president who could sum up his political program in 12 seconds: "Government is too big, make it smaller; defense is too weak, make it stronger; and taxes are too high, make them lower." Although Hart may have meant his observation as a joke, think about this: in our media saturated world, the candidate who can sum up his/her message in 12 seconds has a distinct advantage over the candidate who takes 12 minutes. Local candidates often get into races with no clear idea of why they are running or what message they want to communicate to voters. Such candidates shouldn't be surprised when they lose.
After the message has been developed, then a local candidate needs to develop a marketing plan. How is the campaign going to get its message out to the voters? What advertising vehicles is it going to use? Who are the voters it is trying to reach? No business would spend thousands of dollars on promotion without some sort of plan. Yet, local candidates often do just that. They spend literally thousands of dollars on advertising without a plan. Such expenditures may result in victory, but it is not likely, especially if they are running against a candidate who has both a message and a plan.
Local campaigns need to work on the 2MS: message and marketing. Local government is too important to approach a campaign for local office like a high-school student election.