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The creation of a staffing plan to fit your campaign is never an easy task, but it’s one that’s critical to a candidate’s success.
An early acquisition of a talented team can be the investment that pays dividends in the months to come, or the mistake that leaves your effort struggling for donations in the heat of a hotly contested race.
Many campaigns will take a formulaic approach to hiring staff while others are now looking to rewrite the staffing paradigm. For instance, some managers are foregoing or delaying hiring such staffing mainstays as a political director. They looked at the position’s job description and opted to save those critical campaign dollars by taking on the tasks themselves or offloading them onto the field or finance directors. Still, other candidates swear the position is a vital component to connecting with local organizations and leaders, and a key to victory.
No matter your approach, the tenets that have dictated a staffing plan remain simple. It boils down to whether you can you justify the position in relation to the budget. There’s no right or wrong answer, but here are a few of the key items to look for when considering hiring a political director for your campaign.
Don’t pay for on-the-job training
It’s true that campaigns are often the learning ground for young talent looking to sharpen their skill set. But you will find yourself underserved, and out of campaign cash, if you hire a political director who is either too inexperienced or from outside your market. Do yourself a favor and hire someone that’s already plugged into the local system.
Here’s what to look for: Do you know of a young leader in the local Chamber of Commerce or party apparatus who’s willing to take a leave of absence to join your campaign team? If so, make an offer. This is the ideal candidate to fill your political director vacancy. They’re plugged into the political networks you’re seeking to leverage for support and, better yet, they’re familiar with the history of the local area.
Find a Fixer
The primary role of your political director will be to fix problems as they arise leading up to Election Day. Are you having an issue with an elected official in your district that needs resolving? Send in the political director. Do you have a deep-pocketed donor who disagrees with your position on an issue? Send in the political director. Are you having an issue with a union local that’s not driving out members as promised? Send in the political director. You get my point.
Your manager is busy making sure your campaign is within budget and on message, the finance director is managing multiple donors and developing new revenue streams, and the field director is desperately trying to fill the campaign phone bank. The political director is there to save the day. Use your political director to fix whatever challenging situations that may arise, which don’t require the candidate’s direct intervention. Granted, that’s easier said than done so make sure you’re hiring someone who’s not easily intimidated in these types of situations.
Can your political director facilitate growth in your campaign?
Every position within a campaign staff plan should have to answer this question, but especially the political director. Too often a political director is underutilized or ineffective and this translates to dollars being wasted in your budget. Don’t be afraid to give your political director a finance goal or a field goal.
Have your political director take a leading role in your coordinating your contributions from labor or leading industry with a stake in your election. Have your political director take charge of coordinating field activities that utilize organizations within your district.
Offloading these responsibilities from your finance and field director, respectively, will lead to more efficient work from your other departments and a synergy within your campaign operation.
JR Starrett is the national advocacy director for Common Sense Media, and a veteran campaign operative. Follow JR on twitter @JustinRyanS