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How to run a successful presidential campaign

The ultimate goal for some, is to become or watch their children become the president of the country. For many however, this is either unfathomable or simply beyond their scope. Is this a position only reserved for a few exceptional individuals? Can anyone become the president? This article will outline the various roles of the modern president as well key attributes, strategies and factors that contribute towards a successful presidential run.

What is a president?

Loosely defined, the president is the title of the highest political office in a country. In most cases, this individual is also the leader of government.

What does a president do?

The president of a country performs 6 fundamental roles and these are:

  1. Symbolic leadership
  2. Priority setting and program design
  3. Crisis management
  4. Legislative and political coalition building
  5. Program implementation and evaluation
  6. Oversight of government routines

Each of these roles are performed within three distinct frameworks and a successful president is one who can balance these. Each presidential decision has a bearing on the aggregate economics of the country , has implications on domestic policy and problems within that country and lastly, has a bearing on foreign policy and national security. This therefore calls for one to think broadly and anticipate the bearing of their actions well in advance of any decision made.

Mandatory requirements for one to become president

These will vary from one country to the next, but some of the common requirements are:
• Citizenship
• Minimum age limits

The Game Plan

Part 1. Laying the groundwork

You will need to build an organisation, devise a strategy and raise money well in advance of your presidential bid to run a successful campaign. This requires time and therefore patience is mandatory. Build upon the following tips to create your own plan and start working on your presidential goal.

Decide early

In his book, The Secret Kingdom, Pat Robertson outlines a number of laws that determine our success on earth. One of these laws is known as the law of Unity. This law simply states that “mankind in unity becomes absolutely overwhelming.” So if you are going to experience the power that will change the world, you must be unified within yourself. What do you want? What do you stand for? Why are you even contemplating a presidential run. If you are unified and fully believe in yourself, then it becomes easier for others to believe in you as well.


“First say to yourself what you would be; and then do what you have to do.”

EPICTETUS

Ever wondered why the Kennedys managed to feature constantly and prominently in American politics? Out of 9 siblings, three held prominent government positions including John F. Kennedy who became president. This was not just some random mishap but Joseph P. Kennedy, the patriarch of that family served in the US government and had presidential ambitions of his own. When his dream was not realised after falling out with Roosevelt, he then purposed that one of his children would be. So from an early age, he groomed them for leadership, authority and responsibility. Initially, he wanted Joe Jr. to be president, but after Joe’s death, he became determined to make his second son the president. So the sooner you start preparing yourself, the better. This also means conducting yourself in a manner that will not hurt or compromise your presidential ambitions, such as engaging in illegal or questionable activities. It also means being proactive about building up your personal profile and network to position you for success.

2. Raising your profile and gaining visibility

once you have made that decision, the next step is to work on three key aspects of your life

A.) Character

This starts by understanding yourself as an individual and taking deliberate measures to improve any of the essential qualities required for you to lead or hold a position of authority. Who are you and what do you stand for as a person? What drives you? What are your values? These questions provide the starting point for discovering your core. This core is what determines and guides the decisions that you make as well as your conduct. Needless to say, being the president involves dealing with people and solving common problems that they face. This comes with its own challenges and therefore calls for a genuine love for people and humanity in general. “if any man should say they want to do good for humanity, ask them how well they get along with their family.” It also calls for you to be able to see the bigger picture, as this will help you make better strategic decisions. Avoid pettiness. How do you manage stress? Do you crack under pressure? Are you confident enough to take criticism? What bad habits do you need to get rid of? Are you knowledgeable enough and do you have the capacity to make meaningful decisions? This will call for deliberate action to work on each of these areas to build yourself up into a pleasant personality and capable leader. Can you speak eloquently in front of a huge crowd? It might be wise to join a public speaking club or the Toastmasters. Can you negotiate? Do you need some grooming? If so, what can you do now to start cultivating, nurturing and building up those qualities within yourself? This will require extensive reading, training as well as exposure to get you familiarized with the level at which you intend to play.

B.) Career

because of the challenging nature of the position of President, you Will need to distinguish yourself in your chosen field. This means achieving exceptionally and demonstrating your capabilities as a leader. The younger you are, the more time you have to do this, and hence why you should start early. This also involves building enough wealth to support your presidential run. Your resources will determine the strength of your campaign, and people generally believe that if politicians are independently wealthy, then there is at least some assurance that they will not be beholden to other nefarious interests. You can also consider running for smaller government positions to help you get an appreciation of how the system works before you run for the ultimate office.

C.) Community

start participating in community initiatives and standing up for causes that resonate with you. Not only will this bring fulfilment, but it will also help you build relationships with the people in the community. You will get to understand their anger, frustrations, hopes and aspirations. The deeper your sacrifice and the broader the scope of service, the greater the individual becomes. Proactively reach out to potential mentors and other political players as well as influential people in your society. Build mutual relationships and glean as much as you can from them to build up your own character as well as to build up your reputation and record of service.

THE CAMPAIGN

A number of factors will determine the success or failure of your campaign. It is therefore important to understand the strategic environment and build an organisation that can exploit it to your benefit. The goal of any campaign is to get enough votes to secure a majority as stipulated by the constitution of the country. In some countries this is 50% plus one vote or a specific number of delegates. So your campaign should be primarily structured to help you achieve this objective. This also means that you will have to focus your efforts on finding potential voters and persuading them to vote for you. In other words, you will need to “go hunting where the ducks are.” Finding voters begins with understanding the strategic factors that determine success.

Strategic Factors

The strategic environment comprises of a number of factors. These are:

i. Geography

how is your country’s electoral map structured and how can you exploit this to your advantage? What needs to be done to reach enough potential voters to ensurr a formidable run?

ii. Partisanship

In today’s polarized world, running as an independent might be an option, but it will call for a great deal of resources and personal sacrifice to match the strength of the established machine that drives national party campaigns. Once you are a legitimate candidate, what follows is the more gruesome battle with the other political candidates and the parties that they represent. This will call for you to rise above partisan politics and appeal to players on all fronts of the political debate.

iii. Turnout

having people that support you and attend your rallies is great, but whats more important is getting those people to actually vote for you. This might require an intense voter mobilization and education drive or providing potential voters with enough reasons to compel them to vote.

iv. Finance

your campaign will need to create campaign posters, banners, lapel pins, t’shirts and other campaign materials. You will also need to provide technical support to your volunteers and resources to enable them to push your agenda. More importantly, you will need to buy ad space in the various media outlets to familiarize the electorate with you and what you stand for. This will require financing and should be dealt with tactfully.

v. Incumbency

the office of president comes with great responsibility and this calls for any presidential aspirant to have an understanding of the political system. In most cases, you should have served at a senior level in government or have a track record of demonstrable and well documented leadership. As stated earlier in this article, it might be wise to start with lesser seats such as your local council and work your way up the ranks. Having a great record helps generate an image of leadership.

vi. Foreign Policy

is a secondary aspect of the strategic environment and depending on local situation can have a bearing on your campaign. What is your stance on foreign policy? Are you a bringer of peace?

vii. Security

as president, you are the ultimate custodian of the security of your nation’s people by virtue of your position as commander in chief. What are the imminent threats to your country and are you well positioned to ensure the well being of every citizen?

Once you have understood the strategic factors, you will then need to leverage on this understanding to guild an organisation to run your campaign. Please note that this does not refer to your party mechanism but an organisation to push your agenda as an individual.

Build an organisation

running a successful campaign involves building a strong organisation to provide support as you pursue your vision. Building and running a successful organisation is also a key test of your organizing and leadership skills. Your campaign organisation will perform a variety of functions and these will include:

• Prospecting and Advance work
• Scheduling
• Press arrangements
• Issue research
• Speech writing
• Polling
• Media advertising
• Finances
• Party interest group activities

This organisation will work in partnership with your political party if you are running on a party ticket and the key players will be your campaign director and campaign manager.
Campaign director- this individual will orchestrate the effort and act as a liaison between the party and yourself as the candidate.

Campaign Manager

the campaign manager will be responsible for overseeing the operations of the campaign headquarters as well as the various departments and divisions.

Choose individuals that will help boost your credibility, widen your support base and that will not compromise your presidential run. Avoid aligning and associating with dodgy characters that might be linked to criminal or immoral activities. You might also be required to make certain concessions and compromises to get certain people on board. Remember, you are not the only one who has their eye on the prize. So pick your political battles wisely and get as many allies as possible. You also need to earn the trust of the electorate, so it is of paramount importance your organisation should function with transparency and integrity. Avoid careless leaks, high staff turnover and campaign blunders.

Setting the Agenda

Once you have built the organisation and done your research, the next step is to define the race. This means putting aside all thought alliances, marketing strategy and make up artists and figure out what your campaign is all about. What is the premise on which you run for office? The key is to find those issues that resonate with the public and those areas where the public agrees with your side. You must remember however, that the competition is also doing the same thing, so the secret is to make sure that your issues are the important issues. These issues will include:

• Foreign policy and your relationships with key trading partners
• Bringing unity a and peace
• Creating a healthcare system that works
• Fighting poverty
• Safeguarding and protecting the environment
• Energy
• Improving education
• Protecting the homeland
• Immigration and border control
• Protecting specific rights
• Honouring veterans
• Changing the culture of corruption
• Strengthening families and communities
• Reconciling faith and politics
• Taking care of the elderly and disadvantaged

Consult broadly on each of these issues and have a policy on each of them. Engage experts in the various fields to fine-tune your ideas, and be willing to adapt your view as more knowledge becomes available to you.

THE EXTERNAL CAMPAIGN

Once you have built an organisation, secured nomination and set an agenda, the next step is to win over the electorate. Let the answers to the following questions guide your campaign:

  1. Where will you campaign?
  2. How much time will you and your organisation allocate to the various regions, provinces or states?
  3. What appeals will you make and to which specific voter demographics?
  4. How specific will you be in the policy proposals that will be presented to voters?
  5. What kind of personal impression do you seek to create or reinforce?
  6. How far will you go in castigating your opposition?

Using your answers to the above questions, carefully craft an action plan to help you run your campaign accordingly.

The strength of your campaign will depend on the following key factors:

I. Distribution of resources

The amount of resources at the disposal of your campaign will determine the number of voters that you can reach as well as the ease with which you will receive them. It will also determine the intensity of your campaign. As stated earlier, you will need to go hunting where the ducks are, and this will call for you and your organisation to focus your resources where it matters most. Dedicate more resources to where you will get more bang for your buck.

II. Money

You will need to raise enough money to run and sustain your campaign. Money will also determine what other resources are available to you. It is therefore important for your campaign to spend wisely and make the most use of any available funding. It is also important to account for every unit of money spent so as to maintain the transparency.

III. Control of information

we live in the information age and this has a great bearing on the success or failure of your organisation. You will need to control the narrative and outline the agenda through well placed ads and your campaign messaging.

IV. Television and social media

You will need to appear incessantly before your audience to present your agenda and get them to know you. This means creating beautiful and catchy campaign ads and then making them available on all the television and radio channels. You will also need to have social media campaign profiles on all the various social media platforms that apply. Your media strategy should be tailored to build momentum for your campaign as well as to get people excited and fired up enough to vote.

V. Convertibility of resources.

You as a candidate

Name recognition

As a challenger you must have a substantial level of name recognition or work on getting it quickly. Do people already know who you are? If not, what can you do to make them know you? Giving a great speech at a convention or mobilizing a great crowd for the rollout of your campaign might be a great starting point to getting good press.

Presentation

A great candidate is one that people generally find trustworthy, reliable, mature , kind but firm, a devoted family man or woman, and someone who is in every way presentable and normal. You want to be seen as someone who understands and shares in the plight and aspirations of the average person.

Debates

How you present yourself during televised debates will also determine how voters perceive you. So practice well in advance. Work on getting your facts straight as well as your gestures and body language. The idea is to look presidential by projecting an image of competence and sober mindedness. This will inspire confidence in the electorate and assure them of their security should they vote you into office.

Bonus Tips:

The following are typical bits of advice to consider for your campaign:

  • Separate the other candidate from his or her party. Focus on their individual weaknesses whilst working to tap into their support base.
  • Go on the offensive. Carry the attack to your opponent.
  • If there is anything that is potentially harmful to your campaign, be proactive and deal with it before your opponents raise it. This allows you to tell your own story in the manner that you would want it to be told.
  • Avoid being petty or personal attacks that could result in voters sympathizing with your opponents.
  • Strive for excellence and do what is right at all times. You are human and will not always have the answers to everything. When unsure, let your values guide you and do what is morally right.

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