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
- 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:
- Evaluation: Identify all of the factors (current or possible) that can have an impact on being successful.
- 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?
- 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?
- Tactics & Implementation: Determine what tactics you should use to implement your strategy – and when to use them.
- 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.
- Budget and Finance: How much money will it take…and how will you raise it?
- 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”.