Running for city council is a lot like running for any other office…and yet different. If you know nothing about political campaigning and this city council run is your first foray into the election process, keep on reading – I’ll walk you through the steps of designing a successful campaign over the course of the next few days/weeks.
Get A Grip On Your Mindset
There are a few different approaches to framing a political campaign and it’s very important that you choose the right one in order to create a winning ‘tone’ for your campaign communications. Keep in mind, this isn’t about why or how you’re trying running. You may seriously hate the guy currently representing your city council district, and want nothing more than to beat the pants off him in an election, but you can’t write a great, winning campaign plan with in that state of mind.
You need to approach this city council race in a way the voters can relate to it. Every elected office has its own flavor. You have to identify the flavor of yours, and go with it, at least on the surface. This will be a key piece of putting together your campaign message. Think about it this way: If you were running for mayor or governor or some other executive branch office, you would basically be auditioning to be the star in a one-man show. Think about the presidential nomination process. On both sides, candidates are selling their own life/personality/résumé, and making campaign promises like they can just wave their hand and make all your dreams come true (some of them really believe it, too).
Running for a state or congressional representative seat is a different story. In these campaigns we see more of an “us” verses “them” mentality, and candidates running at this level tend to plan their campaigns like they’re running to be Team Captain for “Our Team.” Imagine campaign slogans like “Joe Smith Will Fight for You” and “Jane Johnson Leads Us to Prosperity.” These are the types of campaign messages that play well for representative elections.
Running for city council is a different animal all together. In this scenario, you’re simply a freshman at tryouts, hoping you make JV and not even dreaming about varsity. You just want to play the game. No one expects their city councilperson to be argumentative, pushy or divisive. They envision a city council full of ‘team players’ working together in very droll, drawn-out meetings to determine if this building or that one should be re-zoned. Using a campaign message that suggests you’re a ‘fighter’ or ‘the leader’ is not going to fit with that picture in the voters’ heads (whether the picture is accurate or not is irrelevant).
Does that mean you have to run your campaign like you’re simply a follower? No! Pick some important city issues and promise to give them a voice (and keep that promise) – but do it in a manner that tells the voter you’re running to do your part so the whole team to win, not just you. Now go brainstorm some campaign slogans for your city council race!