Project Wonderful

Monday, September 21, 2015

Guest Post: Starting A Relationship With Your Consultants

Ben Holse is a Junior Account Manager at The Campaign Workshop. The Campaign Workshop has recently released its latest e-book, Ready Set, Go: Jump Start Your Next Campaign. Which you can get here for free.

Any experienced campaign manager or campaign operative can recall a bad experience working with a consultant. Perhaps the consultant couldn’t deliver what they promised, they were unresponsive or didn’t hit deadlines. Undoubtedly, a lot of what goes into a successful relationship depends on the campaigns and the consultants themselves. How you start the relationship is important. As a former political organizer turned consultant, here are my tips on how to jumpstart a successful relationship your campaign consultants.

Start Early
For campaigns, it’s never too early to begin a dialogue with your campaign consultant. Depending on the service you’re hiring the consultant for and the payment structure that is in place, there often aren’t any additional costs associated with beginning the process early. Early on, consultants can be helpful in recruiting campaign staff, putting together budgets and developing campaign plans. Beginning early is also in the best interest of the consultant, as it gives them a better chance of gauging their workload and can help to avoid learning curves.

Work Hard
In order for your relationship to be a success, there needs to be hard work and dedication on both sides of the table. Campaigns will rightfully expect their consultants to work on tight deadlines with quick turnaround. However this is a two way street. Campaigns will get out of your campaign-consultant relationship what they put into it. In order for consultants to hit deadlines, they will often need campaigns to be able to work hard and be able to get materials quickly.

Be Responsive
Without a doubt, campaigns can be hectic and chaotic. While being responsive can seem like a given in any professional relationship, in the crazy world of campaigns it can actually be tougher than you think. Emails from your consultant tend to get put on the backburner when you’re putting out fires elsewhere. While your consultants will largely drive the train on setting deadlines and timelines, it’s critical that campaigns are responsive. Even if you don’t have the time to shoot your consultant an email, a quick phone call or text message will often suffice.

Set Deadlines
In order for your relationship to be a success, there needs to be accountability. One of the best ways to set this accountability is by setting very clear deadlines. Most good consultants will ask for clear deadlines on when they need approval and feedback, and will follow up if they don’t hear back by the agreed time. But the campaign should also feel empowered to set these deadlines and ask for first drafts and feedback.

Push back when you need to
It’s important that your relationship is strong enough that you aren’t afraid to step on a few toes. In order for a consultant to do their job, they need to push the campaign to think in ways that they may otherwise not. And anytime you are asking someone to step outside of their comfort zone, there presents the opportunity for confrontation. If a campaign doesn’t think that a given tactic will be effective or if there are on-the-ground considerations that the consultant doesn’t know about, the campaign needs to feel empowered to speak up and push back. The campaign-consultant relationship needs to be collaborative and that includes not being afraid to be open and honest with each other.

Don’t overpromise
Campaigns are almost always built on short timelines. Within the context of these finite time constraints, there can sometimes exist the tendency to overpromise. But it’s important to remember that the campaign-consultant relationship is built on trust and there is no advantage to overpromising what you cannot deliver. This goes for both the campaign and the consultant. Overpromising will only serve to throw off timelines and deadlines and leave everyone frustrated in the process.

Don’t be a dick
While this one should also seem like a given, in the crazy world of campaigns, anyone can be a little on edge on any given day. Campaigns should of course feel empowered to push their consultants and expect high quality work. That said, for campaigns, there is little advantage to being a dick to your consultant. It won’t help move things along faster and it will only damage the relationship between you and your team.

Be up front
The relationship should, in some ways, be like the client-lawyer relationship. In order for your consultant to do their job, the campaign needs to be totally open and up front. You can’t hold back on things like not hitting field or fundraising goals just because they are embarrassing. Your consultant can’t help you fix a problem they don’t know exists. Not being upfront about any of the campaign’s potential negatives will only leave the team unprepared if and when these issues do come out.

Keep the lines of communication open.
Keeping the lines of communication open with your consultant is key. The best client-consultant relationships are communicative with a continual back and forth via email, text messages and weekly check in calls. You never know what connection your campaign consultant may have or when a second take on an issue can help bring a different perspective.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Campaign Fellowships for Experienced Staff Are Complete Bullshit

Here is an article about Hillary Clinton making experienced organizers who want to work for her work for free. And here is me saying it's bullshit.

I wasn't super thrilled at the Obama Fellowship program either (mostly because let's call an internship an internship) but at least that was geared toward individuals who had not been paid campaign staff before and wanted to break into "the movement." Even unpaid Capitol Hill interns are ostensibly learning a skill and theoretically have time for a second job. What are these volunteer second and third time organizers learning that could possibly justify not paying them? Don't even try to tell me it's your unique brand of organizing. Neither Barack Obama, nor Hillary Clinton, nor Bernie Sanders invented the wheel. Besides no other profession (except grad school) asks workers to go through months upon months of unpaid eighty-hour-a-week training.

Not to mention that it is antithetical to Democratic party values. I can't tell you how insulting and undermining it is to build a career out of something and have the biggest name in the business value that work at 0. I don't care how passionate you are, no reasonable person should be expected to want to work for free for the privilege of doing a job where you get crapped on all day. Field organizers have enough trouble getting respect when they are paid. They have enough trouble making ends meet when they are paid. The Democratic party has enough trouble recruiting diverse staffs when we pay them. And we wonder why we have a diversity problem. The Clinton campaign wonders why Bernie Sanders is gaining ground.

My friend (and ironically former intern) Kate Kight put it perfectly:
We all know what this means for racial and socioeconomic diversity and that is shameful enough, but I've been a part of too many campaigns that try and foster an environment of working hard for the cause instead of for a paycheck...which is noble, but there isn't anything wrong with wanting to get paid. And if you start your career thinking that working 7 days a week for less than minimum wage is the only way to be successful, it teaches you to not ask for more in later life- and it teaches you to turn around and take advantage of youngsters in turn.
I make no secret of being a Clinton supporter. When I post articles that are critical of Bernie Sanders' campaign they are met with skepticism (or often vitriol) because I'm voting for someone else. I have no illusions that either my blog or my Facebook wall is the New York Times editorial opinion page. Most of the people who read what I write are firmly in one camp or the other and I can count the number of undecided early primary state voters I'm friends with on one hand. I'm not trying to convince a Bernie Sanders supporter to support Hillary Clinton; I'm trying to advocate that we demand better of our candidates and of ourselves.

It isn't Hillary making these staffing decisions just like I doubt that it was Bernie Sanders' idea for his supporters to shout "We Stand Together" over Black Lives Matter activists. Any staffer will tell you that the only way to be sure you can control your candidate is to run for office, but we are the ones who decide how campaigns are run. Let's make better decisions.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Deez Nuts Polling at 9%

Continuing the theme of reposting when I don't have much to add but couldn't help but share, Deez Nuts is not only running for President, but got 9% in a PPP recent poll in North Carolina.

Normally, I am not in favor of showcasing novelty candidates since they mock the very process to which I have dedicated my life. However, since Donald Trump has already turned the 2016 season into a reality TV show, why not a 15 year old boy who carries less of an expectation to, I don't know...know better? His website appropriately looks like a 15 year old in Iowa made it, although one wonders why he didn't ask a parent to proofread (a service provided unsolicited and free of charge to this blog by my own relatives) or what religion Hebrew is.

I think the real "punking" here is not by Deez Nuts, but by PPP who decided to include him in the poll in the first place, thus proving what all operatives already know: early polls don't mean anything. Lest you come to believe that Deez Nuts is some sort of child political prodigy, I will point out that he is a self-described both Libertarian and Bernie Sanders supporter which at once makes him a walking contradiction and my worst nightmare of people to be trapped in an elevator with.

You can read his whole interview at Rolling Stone.

A District With Only One Voter

I wanted to quickly share this story that's been circulating the elections community about gerrymandering gone awry and a case where one vote absolutely will make a difference.
On Feb. 28, Jen Henderson, 23, became the sole registered voter living within the community improvement district, or CID, meaning she is the only person who would vote on a half-cent sales tax increase for the district.

The Columbia City Council established the district on a 5-2 vote in April in response to a petition from a group of property owners in the CID boundaries. The “qualified voters” in a CID are capable of levying various taxes or assessments within the boundaries of the district to fund improvement projects. Under state law, decisions to impose sales taxes in a CID are to be made by registered voters living in the district boundaries. If no such registered voters are present, property owners vote.

Many homes surrounding the university-owned property where Henderson resides were not included in the district when it was drawn because district organizers wanted a district free of residents.

Read more here.