They may not get much attention—or much credit—but a good advance team is a necessity to pull off seamless campaign events.
Advance is tasked with overseeing all logistics surrounding events like town hall meetings and rallies. That includes travel arrangements, game day schedule, and sometimes connecting the candidate or surrogate with the media, and ensuring an appropriate level of security. A campaign’s scheduling and advance department has an eye for detail, can foresee the unforeseen, and can move heaven and earth to make things happen.
While there are no average days at the office for the advance team, there are certain principles and skills that make appearances and events run smoothly for the candidate and present a winning image to voters.
Early is on time: Checking out locations, talking to volunteers and field staff on the ground, meeting with local leaders, and making a host of other logistical arrangements a couple weeks before game day is ideal. The advance team might work at the speed of the light, but unfortunately, not everyone else does. Early work pays off big time in the end.
Move the world: Joseph Canzeri, advance man for Governor Rockefeller and President Reagan, once said “I can move the world in 48 hours.” To his credit, Canzeri had Mount Rushmore lit so that Rockefeller could see it from a plane, arranged a 3,000 person dinner to honor the crew of Apollo 9, and organized the funerals of Rockefeller, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King including arranging for a mule-drawn cart to carry King’s casket through the streets of Atlanta.
To make a long story short, advance has the wherewithal and the tenacity to make things happen. The best advance teams are scrappy and can make do with little resources. True to this principle, Canzeri once convinced local police to break into a convenience store to recover a lost waterpik and broke into a hotel himself to prepare breakfast for thirty after an all-night negotiation.
For a behind the scenes look at advance work on the governmental side, check out this video from the White House doing presidential advance:
The reconnaissance mission: Professional advance staff know how to distill all of the information that they have gathered into actionable intelligence. Along with staff that might be travelling with the candidate, advance needs to be able to deliver critical information to the candidate concisely and anticipate the candidate’s needs throughout the appearance or event.
Ultimately, the most skilled advance teams anticipate problems and prevent them from happening whether it’s hecklers or a hard to find stop. But they’re also equally as good at putting out fires and delegating duties to volunteers on game day.
Ben Donahower is a contributing editor to the free guide, Get Out The Vote To Win, and a campaign veteran. You can connect with Ben on Twitter at @iapprovethismsg.