Topics: Elected Officials, Branding, Strategy, Digital Marketing, Text Messaging, Reporting, Polling, Fundraising, Email Fundraising, Email, Digital Acquisition

Be Prepared to Run for Higher Office

Digital Guide for Elected Officials

Thinking about where we want to go in life and how we will get there is as American as apple pie. It comes prepackaged in one of the most fundamental questions we ask children: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

In the land of opportunity, you can't just sit around and with for the American Dream to strike like lightning. You have to create a road map that leads to your vision for the future. We make plans that may involve tackling challenges, learning, growing, and getting where we want to be. This approach is no different for elected officials.

As an elected official, or someone thinking about running for office, you have to make a plan to help you achieve your goals for advancement. Like the private sector, this requires dedication and a commitment to putting in the extra effort.

Table of Contents


Plan to Get from Here to There

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

You could be on the town council and thinking about running for mayor, or you could be a mayor looking at a future run for U.S. Senate; your fundamental approach is the same. You need to cast a wider net.

It's beneficial for candidates running for higher office to develop relationships and resources to support their run. Winning candidates advance by scaling to create and capitalizing on opportunities. For example, rather than coasting to victory in an easy re-election campaign, you can capitalize on the opportunity to expand your donor base, raise your name ID beyond your district, and build political allies to scale up for your future run.

The biggest mistake elected officials looking to run for higher office make is being complacent and ignoring scaling opportunities.

The good news is, digital empowers you to scale at your own pace. You can take a measured approach or aggressively ramp up activities. As a bonus, you can test your message and personal brand along the way.

The Fire in Your Belly

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

What are you hoping to accomplish by running for higher office? Are you passionate about a particular issue? Is there a problem placating your constituents? What will the world around you look like under your leadership?

Leaders throughout American history have done tremendous good in the world. From Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to Reagan's pressuring the Soviet Union to fold, from FDRs vision for a country-wide infrastructure to President Clinton's welfare reform program — America is always hungry for authentic leadership.

Write down what drives you and what topics you have real-world experience tackling. Use those topics to expand your influence and horizons, and keep your ear to the ground and jump on opportunities as they present themselves.

A methodic and predictable rise to the top isn't always in the cards. Instead, successful politicians have used moments of focus and interest to drive their careers upwards. Take Ben Carson, an accomplished brain surgeon who gave a stirring speech at a prayer breakfast with President Obama. That one act alone launched his career into politics and moved him to eventually become one of President Trump's cabinet members.

Be ready to take advantage of the political world as it unfolds around you. Look for writing and legislative opportunities where you can insert your prowess and expertise. Is there a bill sponsorship where you can make waves? Is there a timely op-ed you can write?

Drinking from the Firehose

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

The higher the office, the more information there is to consume. As an elected official, you have an inside track to understand the system and its inner workings better. This insider's view allows you to see what is working and what isn't.

You are already an elected leader, so start by doing what your constituents elected you to do, make changes and eliminate waste within the scope of your current office. Be an advocate beyond your office, manage up, work through others, and share these issues with the public when appropriate.

Demonstrate your capabilities and why we need you in a higher office with greater influence.

Digital Blocking and Tackling

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

Once you decide on running for higher office, you need to change your digital targeting to cast a larger net. If you're looking to take on a statewide position, move your targeting from in-district to across the state. This adjustment improves your name recognition for voters outside your area.

Create Winning Habits

It's not that hard, but you need to plan! Invest some time and resources into getting yourself, your office, and your campaign ORGANIZED! Start sharing information and plans over shared services like Google Docs and Airtable or even look at quick browser-based team management solutions like Asana or Trello. The upfront organization will pay dividends later on.

Win Hearts and Minds

Review your branding. Everything that has your name on it should have a broader focus to it and be polished. You can frame a local topic on a school board issue relating to a national event. Acronyms known only to constituents in your district might need more explanation. Review emails carefully and consistently — mistakes amplify with every move upward.

Your website should mirror these expanded aspirations. Your bio will need more attention, and your "Issues" should scale to the office to which you aspire. Also — give a once over on that logo — the American eye knows a professional logo from one your nephew made for you.

Replace an office-focused domain with something more general. Remove "ForHouse" from Make it super easy to find your campaign online and immediately know what you're aspiring to. Take the same tact with social handles trying to keep similar namings. Warm up your email list with the new domain so you won't have delays when you announce.

Data-Informed Campaigns

Your contact forms might need an overhaul. Your email list should avail itself of the advanced segmentation — make sure you are "tagging" contacts as they come in: constituent vs. "out-of-district." Consider tagging contacts on specific issue-driven topics based on the issues that drive them to sign-up. Do you have an embedded form on healthcare issues with a relevant call-to-action? Tag that person with that topic! It's time to get organized.

Political Marketing Funnel

For outbound emails, consider advanced segmentation for communication. Non-district contacts probably don't need the email blast about a local chamber of commerce event, but perhaps you can spin an email from that event to a statewide angle. Is there an issue-driven news item you can address to the entire list or target just people interested in those issues? Make that happen.

Set up text messaging and sign-up subscribers. Texting allows you to reach more individuals easily. Campaigns are moving in this direction, and you should not wait.

We're in This Together

Now turn your eye to acquisition. What ads can you run on prominent hot topics to bring in a more expansive set of contacts? Build, build, build your house file. Test out list rentals and list swaps with other politicians or state parties. This approach expands the reach beyond your existing house file and increases your potential to reach new donors.

The math can be pretty powerful if you have the eye to see it. It could cost a pretty penny to obtain a good contact via online ads, but the average return on a house file can be 3 to 10 times that cost in the same cycle if you do it right.

What Gets Measured Gets Done

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

We've already discussed the importance of being able to scale to run for higher office. Measurement is integral to understanding where you have been, where you are today, and where you need to go.

Internal Reporting

Incorporate regular reports with Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) into your campaign organization. Work with your inner circle, as defined by you, to collect information and share progress in executing your plan to run for higher office.

Traffic across all of your channels should increase—gauge who has started to follow you on Twitter. Measure the pace of growth on your Facebook page. Keep an eye on your email list growth. All of these should match your aspirations for higher office.

Your KPIs may vary based on your plan and goals, but make sure to track the following at least monthly:

  • House File: Email subscribers and text subscribers
  • Fundraising: Donors, donations, and total raised
  • Social: Impressions and engagement
  • Email: Sent, opens, and clicks
  • Ads: Spend and goal conversions

Internal Polling

As an elected official, it's one thing to take office, but are you heading in the right direction? What are the key indicators that you're on the right track?

Understanding name recognition will be helpful to size up the work you have ahead of you. As you look to move up, consider hiring a pollster to benchmark name recognition, assess your "brand" with voters, and test messaging.

Cash on Hand

The measure of your success won't just be how MUCH you raise and how much FASTER you raise the money; it will be how many people are raising money FOR you. Individuals, PACs, 501(c)(4)s might all lend a hand to help fill your coffers and get you jump-started for higher office. Pursue these opportunities with vigor. Have your friends and family join in the fundraising fun!

Fundraising success

There are three rules to powerful fundraising:

  1. People give according to their means;
  2. People give to help other people; and
  3. Those closest to the cause MUST set the pace.

Ready for Launch

Digital Startup Guide for Political Campaigns and Advocacy

So many opportunities in life happen from being in the right place at the right time. We see political landscapes change instantly. Those who lay the groundwork by starting to scale their organization in advance will move up easier. So, as you think about your future office aspirations, begin taking the steps to success today.

Our experts at The Prosper Group are here to help with your questions.

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The Prosper Group is an internationally-recognized, award-winning digital marketing agency headquartered in Indianapolis. The firm specializes in online media, strategy, and fundraising for Republican political candidates, advocacy organizations, associations, and non-profits. The Prosper Group's best-in-industry work has been recognized for awards dozens of times by prestigious organizations such as the American Association of Political Consultants and Campaigns & Elections.

The firm has worked in tandem with Trump for President 2016, Vice President Mike Pence, Senator Ted Cruz, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, Congressman John Katko, the National Association of Manufacturers, Fox News, and many other candidates and organizations.

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