Grassroots Tips

Making a difference in politics via the grassroots

revolutionRemember that quote from Edmund Burke, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”?

Well, here it is in political terms:

“Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote.” (George Nathan)

Getting involved is the key.  But conservatives have to remember that the battle for America’s political soul can’t and won’t be won overnight.

Patience, as they say, is a virtue, and that’s even more true when it comes to politics.  In our political system, nothing moves fast.  The country didn’t get in its current shape overnight.  It took decades.  All that time, liberals organized and worked to move the country further to the left, and if we’re to be successful in moving it back to the right, we must be just as diligent.

If making a difference in politics is the goal, grassroots organization is what makes it possible.

Organizing at the grassroots can bring about change because it’s fundamental, yet so simple.  There’s nothing inherently difficult about identifying other conservatives, registering voters, circulating petitions, or passing out voter guides, but these activities can have a tremendous impact on politics and our society – especially when conservatives organize together to do them.

The more organizations (whether precinct, church or online based) that conservatives create, the greater the impact we can have on the nation as a whole when we follow proven techniques.

Remember, the basics of successful grassroots organization are as simple as one, two three:

  1. Identify supporters
  2. Inform them
  3. Mobilize them

That’s the recipe for long-term political success.

Don’t be intimidated.  Here’s a shocker: the political process is full of people who knew far less than you do when they first got involved.  No matter what political party, candidate, campaign or organization you look at, those that succeed do so because they did the basics.

So what’s stopping you from doing the same?

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(Get more tips like these in my “Grassroots 101 Training Series“.  Check it out!)

Laying the Groundwork for Productive Media Relations

media relationsYou have probably noticed that, as a rule, the more successful conservatives are at impacting politics and society, the more attention they will get from the media – and that this attention is almost always biased.

But if you have been involved in politics for any length of time, (or you plan to be), at some point you’ll have to deal with the media. Whether it’s as a candidate, a campaign manager, worker, volunteer or just as an activist, everyone associated with politics is a target of the political media. It’s what they do.

Since they are a fact of political life you may as well make the most of it and be prepared to deal with them as effectively as possible, making sure that the way you go about it actually helps support and advance your goals, rather than set you back.

This means that, in order to be more effective, conservatives need to be prepared to deal with the media. With that in mind, here are some fundamental principles to lay the groundwork for more productive media relations.

Don’t ignore them:

The media is often referred to as the “fourth estate” or the “fourth branch of government”, and with good reason. Whether we like it or not, there is simply no denying that the media has a tremendous impact on politics and society in general by virtue of its ability to help shape public opinion.

Remember, the media goes on without you. And if you choose not to have any input in the conversation, you can’t really complain about the results. Don’t ignore it just because you don’t like it, or it doesn’t like you.

Get to know them:

The better you know the members of the media who cover the topics that you are involved with, the more effective you can be. In fact it’s a two-way street, in that they need sources that are active in the areas they cover in order to do their job. So put together a list of relevant media sources, (TV, radio, newspaper, Internet), and spend some time introducing yourself and letting them know about the issue or group you’re working with.

A big part of media relations is actually knowing them.  In other words, build relationships.

Always be honest:

As the saying goes, honesty is the best policy. Whether you’re dealing with reporters on a story, or writing an op-ed column or a letter-to-the-editor, you’ll always have better success and a greater impact if you shoot straight with people and they come to expect that from you. Remember, conservatives already operate under a “cloud of suspicion” with most of the media because of their liberal bent.

Don’t make things any harder on yourself.

The caveat being that, as Proverbs tells us, only a fool utters his whole mind. In other words, some things just don’t need to be shared. That said, make sure that what you DO share is the truth. This makes it easier to keep a productive relationship after you’ve gone to the trouble of building one.

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Conservatives already have enough trouble getting a fair shake in the media. Following these rules will help you get better results.

How to Create a Campaign Plan

Before you get started on any campaign – whether it’s an election campaign or an issue based campaign – you NEED to have a plan. But just as the plan is important, so is the planning process itself. As former President (and General) Eisenhower once said, “Plans are useless, but planning in indispensable”.

Over 2,000 years ago, Chinese General Sun Tzu described what he called the “Five Elements of the Art of War” as follows:

  • Measurement of space
  • Estimation of quantities
  • Calculations
  • Comparison
  • Chances of victory

He stated that: “Measurement of space is derived from the ground. Quantities derive from measurement, calculations from quantities, comparisons from calculations and victory from comparisons.” To put that in political terms, you need to evaluate the environment, research the numbers, determine what’s needed to win, compare yourself and the opposition and then realistically estimate if you can win.

In other words, YOU NEED TO PLAN.

Planning forces you to think things through, weigh the options and see potential opportunities and problems. Once you’ve got a plan it’s much easier to know “what’s next” on a day to day basis, and you’ll know “why” it’s better to do things a certain way and not just guess or roll with the flow.

This section will give you a good thumbnail guide on how to plan a campaign, and how to do the research and make the evaluations needed in order to decide what kind of strategy and tactics you should use.

The Basics of Campaign Planning are:

    1. Evaluation: Identify all of the factors (current or possible) that can have an impact on being successful.
    2. Research & Targeting: Analyze what’s needed to achieve the results you want – and how you stack up. Do you have what you need? Can you get it?
    3. Strategy: Develop a strategy that maximizes your strengths and the opposition’s weaknesses. How can you make the most of your likely resources and opportunities?
    4. Tactics & Implementation: Determine what tactics you should use to implement your strategy – and when to use them.
    5. Timeline: Start with Election Day (or another critical day, such as a key vote you are lobbying) and work backwards, building in enough time to get the things done that need doing.
    6. Budget and Finance: How much money will it take…and how will you raise it?
    7. Review: Evaluate and review the plan and your progress on a regular basis – then make adjustments.

A good plan is a collection of answers to a series of good questions. Pull all of those answers together and organize them in one place. Then write out a formal plan. And to get the most out of any planning process, make sure that all of the key players who will be involved in carrying out the plan are part of the process. If they don’t “buy in”, they will be less likely to help.

Don’t try to plan in a hurry. If the purpose is to develop a good plan, then you need to respect the process and take the time to do it right. Depending on how much time you have available, or who else may be helping you, (or how big your campaign is), you could spend a few weeks on doing it right. At the same time, you want to avoid “analysis paralysis”. As Patton put it, “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan next week”.

Don’t expect what you do to be perfect. No plan ever survives contact with the enemy. Or as Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. Things change.

Your plan has to be flexible and able to adapt to circumstances – which means the “planning” doesn’t end with the first draft. It’s an ongoing process. So once a plan has been implemented, schedule regular meetings of all the key players and review the situation. Have things changed? Does any element of the plan or the timeline need to be altered to deal with those changes?

Evaluate, research, plan, implement and adjust. Then repeat!

If you do the planning that you need to do on the front end, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache later, not to mention increase your chances of being successful. So take your time and don’t take shortcuts. You’ll be glad you did it right.

Remember, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.