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Campaign Boot Camp 14: Your First Hire

(Thinking about running for office? RightVoter presents “Campaign Boot Camp,” a series of essential “how to run for office” rules for your campaign. For the full series, click here.)

Let’s talk about your first full-time, on-the-ground hire. What type of person are you looking for? What will be his roles and responsibilities?

Think back to junior high. You could basically classify people into two different personality types. The first carried a single spiral-bound notebook that was bursting with random papers, notes, and assignments. He may have gotten good grades, but those grades came more from quick wits and raw intelligence than diligent preparation. Don’t hire that guy (not first, at least).

The other personality carried multiple Trapper Keepers, and his Trapper Keepers had specific color-coded pockets and tabs for schedules, assignments, notes, and test prep materials. He turned in assignments on time, started long-term projects early, and made his own 3”x5” note cards to memorize the periodic table. Hire the Trapper Keeper guy first.

Your first hire needs to be the most organized person you can find. Sure, some political experience is helpful, but not at the expense of meticulous organization skills. Take a look at some of what your first hire will be doing, and it makes sense.

First and foremost, your first hire is going to need to take control of your contact management system and schedule. (And you’re going to have to let them.) Who are you calling today? What list did they come from? What are you asking for? Where are you tracking that contact? What is the follow-up? If someone says they “want to help,” what happens next? Are thank you notes going out? Remember that this is a sales cycle. So your contact management system should be similar to a corporate sales team’s CRM (customer relationship management) system.

The next task for your first hire is to build on your existing lists. In any race, there is a distinct and definable group of people who have the ability to truly help you win the election. Your first hire will need to research that list, prioritize it, add in contact information, and incorporate it into the flow of calls and follow-up. Building out from your own “friends and family” list, the larger list will include additional donors, elected officials, activists, group leaders, party officials, past candidates, and opinion shapers. (A good rule of thumb is, “Anyone who thinks they’re important enough to be on the list should be on the list.”)

So as you’re burning through the phone calls, your first hire is putting new names in front of you, tracking responses, and performing follow-up. The follow-up is where the job begins to expand exponentially. You’ll ask someone for a meeting; your first hire will get it onto your schedule. At the meeting, you’ll ask that person to host an event for you; your first hire will follow up with the host, get the event onto the schedule, and work with the host on format, guest list, and invitations. At the event, you’ll make a great impression and collect a dozen business cards from people who also want to help the campaign, introduce you to their friends, or host events. As I said, now the job is expanding exponentially.

At this point, you’re not the only one making phone calls. Your first hire will be making phone calls. Obviously, there will be a lot of phone calls for follow-up: scheduling, confirming endorsements, reminding people of their financial commitments. But it’s also time for the first hire to be making his own calls. He’ll be calling every Republican group in the district to secure speaking opportunities. He’ll be calling through lists of volunteers to get them to join the campaign.

Eventually you and your first hire will get to the bottom of the call list. You’ll have secured donations and support, sent out follow-up emails and letters, set up meetings, and put events on the calendar. The next step? Go back to the top of the list and start again.

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your first hire.