Campaign mistakes that winners will avoid
Sunday, March 23, 2014 10:00 PM
Once again, we're into the election season. Like the other councilman who are not campaigning for this election cycle, I'm apprehensive over outcomes that might tamper with the county's advantageous cooperation with Crawfordsville, or our continuing fiscal efficiency which has weathered the economic roller coaster ride of the past few years.
Tom Utley is a Montgomery County Councilman. His column appears this week in The Paper's monday space allocated for public officials.
As a devout optimist, I'm always confident come election time that voters will tap the most clear-thinking and capable to represent their interests. But, admittedly, all too often my confidence has been foiled by good candidates with failed campaign strategies. So this year, I predict that victorious Montgomery County candidates will not make these five campaign strategy gaffes:
1. Confusing Campaign Marketing (strategy) with Campaign Advertising (tactic)
Advertising is only a small part of marketing. Both are certainly important, but while buying yard signs is obviously an expensive part of campaigning it may not be the most cost effective. Why? Because strategy also includes campaign research, relationship building, voter satisfaction polls and media planning. Predictably, Montgomery County front yards will sprout hundreds of colorful campaign signs, but the political marketing leaders will win the day.
2. Not differentiating a political position.
Don't just say "it's conservative values that make me different". Unpack that. Around here, even Democrats have "conservative values." Prove the point with testimonials. Remember, competition validates candidates by creating philosophical categories. Categories encourage voters to opt for this or that, which reaches beyond just yes or no. This year, county categories offer challenging choices about party affiliation. Candidates will have to justify (or explain) national party platforms while appealing to local conservative voters who can't easily connect Washington D.C.'s nonsense to here.
3. Failing to Accurately Identify what Voters Really Want
Candidates must acknowledge polarized camps and offer a value that feeds or counters that attraction. Local voters are pragmatic and won't be duped by grandiose platitudes and conspiracy theory. Everyone's tired of polarized politics and nobody wants that mess in our own back yard. Democrats will continue to struggle because of their historically low numbers. Successful Republicans will build a big ideologically conservative tent and stake it down with middle-of-the road sensibility. I predict the winners of county races will demonstrate how ". . . the primary difference between a 'vision' and a 'hallucination' is that voters can see vision."
4. Failing to Capture Party Loyalty
Sure, candidates must resonate with their party's base. But, there's a new twist: I think millennials may be the big game changers because they understand how the economy has been inordinately tough on them. I predict they'll be more receptive to logical economic debate than most. Party loyalty may well hang on candidates' positioning on local job creation efforts.
5. Improper Focus and Positioning
Please candidates, don't campaign simply to build name recognition. Name recognition is great, but resumes and references are far more telling elements of leadership. Give the voter some credit-we're a small community, and everybody probably already knows who you are. Instead, focus campaigns by including the politically disenfranchised and acknowledging that government bloat is endemic. Most of all, encourage being frugal with the taxpayer's dollar. This kind of focus and positioning will win the day.