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Ask the Campaign Doc


Q: Nobody, and I mean nobody, is covering our press releases. We’re only sending out one a week, so it’s not excessive. What should we do differently?

A: Just like campaign staffers, reporters get hundreds of emails and often, despite the best intentions, don’t have the time to read them. That’s why the traditional news release (two pages with attachments) is going the way of the ptero- dactyl. (Dead dinosaurs don’t fly.) It’s also why you need to use social media to promote your stories. As an associate tweeted in four separate messages capturing reporters’ advice at a recent PR conference: “Getting message to media: email (no attachments), phone call, texts, DM, relationships…small papers, they need photos; don’t want to link to external web- site…TV reporter, watches Facebook and Twitter for experts on issues related to breaking news…twitter is the new police scanner for news desks.”

Q: I have a bachelor’s degree and was considering law school, but I’d prefer to pursue politics. What’s your best advice?

A: Volunteer on a campaign and do whatever you’re asked as long as it’s reasonable (and legal). Learn about the day- to-day of the campaign. Meet as many people as possible. Ask for advice. Work long hours. And identify the next big campaign, determine which new associates are working on it and try to get a paying gig in that operation.

Q: Do blogs have much influence on insiders in races for mayor and city council?

A: Blogs are becoming more influential everywhere, espe- cially with the “end days” of daily newspapers looming. Min- imally, blogs speed distribution of gossip and news, thereby affecting the overall pace of a race. Ignore them at your peril. But also remember that players in municipal races, who range from developers to architects, engineers, unions and civic clubs, are well informed with or without blogs. This is especially true since cities are, by definition, one-media- market jurisdictions. Translation: communicate directly with both local bloggers and longtime institutional players.

Q: We got a proposal from our pollster recommending that we pay more to purchase cell phone matches for the survey call list. Is this a scam or a legitimate recommendation?

A: Many voters are getting rid of landline phones and, instead, relying exclusively on cell phones for telephone service. The Pew Research Center for the People & the Press has called this trend “a challenge to public opinion polling” because cell-only voters tend to be “younger, less affluent, less likely to be married or to own their home, and more liberal on many political questions.” As just one example, John McCain’s support in the 2008

presidential race was overstated by up to 3 percent in public polls that excluded “cell phone onlys” (CPOs). So yeah, your pollster is making a legitimate recommendation.

March 2010 | Politics 59

Q: The candidate I’m working for doesn’t like making fundraising calls. He says events are more fun and therefore a better use of time. What should we tell him?

A: Tell the candidate to get over it. Events are great, but even the best parties require phone time to get donors to pony up. Nevermind that a fundraising operation that meets or exceeds goals will, by definition, multi-task and use every available resource, like events, call time, direct mail and online appeals, as opposed to removing candidate phone time (a major campaign tool) from the finance shop.

Q: I would love to get involved with consulting at the campaign lev- el, but I’m also interested in anything related to political commu- nication like lobbying or public relations. How did you get started in the business?

A: It was a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, but I walked in to a state party convention uninvited to vol- unteer at a lit table for my preferred candidate. I ended up helping run the convention’s straw poll. My candidate ended up winning this very unscientific survey and then shazam! I was hooked. I saw newspapers the next day declare that this “unexpected victory” was helping to build momentum for the underdog. A few months later I got my first paid job in a campaign from some folks I had met that first day at the state convention. It’s why I always counsel— just show up, volunteer, do the best you can, enjoy yourself, make lots of friends and contacts, and offer to do anything, especially the grunt work.

Craig Varoga is partner at Independent Strategies (www.Indepen- E-mail questions to cvaroga@IndependentStrat- Page 1  |  Page 2  |  Page 3  |  Page 4  |  Page 5  |  Page 6  |  Page 7  |  Page 8  |  Page 9  |  Page 10  |  Page 11  |  Page 12  |  Page 13  |  Page 14  |  Page 15  |  Page 16  |  Page 17  |  Page 18  |  Page 19  |  Page 20  |  Page 21  |  Page 22  |  Page 23  |  Page 24  |  Page 25  |  Page 26  |  Page 27  |  Page 28  |  Page 29  |  Page 30  |  Page 31  |  Page 32  |  Page 33  |  Page 34  |  Page 35  |  Page 36  |  Page 37  |  Page 38  |  Page 39  |  Page 40  |  Page 41  |  Page 42  |  Page 43  |  Page 44  |  Page 45  |  Page 46  |  Page 47  |  Page 48  |  Page 49  |  Page 50  |  Page 51  |  Page 52  |  Page 53  |  Page 54  |  Page 55  |  Page 56  |  Page 57  |  Page 58  |  Page 59  |  Page 60  |  Page 61  |  Page 62  |  Page 63  |  Page 64  |  Page 65  |  Page 66  |  Page 67  |  Page 68  |  Page 69
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