I’ve been reading the same story over and over in the international news—stories about relatively young, recently elected world and party leaders that get elected by riding high on a movement and then face subsequent slumps in support. They’re the rocket scientists and Brad Pitts of campaigns and branding—they’ve got the brains, the style, and the charm, but once elected, they struggle to back it up (this analogy works best when listening to a certain single by Canadian country queen Shania Twain, which I'd recommend doing anyway).
Ms. Twain released a new album this month, and as the best-selling female country artist in history, there are some lessons to be had in her success for our political neophytes. Her second album was even more successful than the first, and her third became one of the best selling studio albums of all time. You don’t keep that kind of success going and growing by forgetting about the supporters that got you there. She didn’t stop touring and signing autographs after her first album, just like candidates shouldn’t stop their supporter engagement after they get elected.
Don’t get me wrong, getting elected is hard work. Campaigning is 24-7 and demands all of you. I can attest to this—I’ve worked on quite a few campaigns in my day and if Fitbits were around back then, I’d probably be in the highest percentile of annual steps. But the work doesn’t stop at winning an election. Now you need to go deeper with all the humans who voted for you and bring them along as you start to implement your campaign promises (or fail to, at the cost of their support). Read on for some Shania-themed tips to keep your star rising.
Life’s about to get good. There is nothing like the excitement that fills a room when your campaign just won your election. But somehow, it gets better. That day-to-day work in government is life-changing and incredibly rewarding. You suddenly have a million new relationships you need to build with fellow elected officials, stakeholders, and bureaucrats, but remember the people who got you there in the first place. Have you checked in with your supporters since the election? Are they still motivated by the same issues? Will they support you if you can’t follow through on everything you campaigned on? Are you creating ways for them to share in your success?
Up! Up! Up! Now that you’re elected, one of your calls to action—voting—is less of a priority, but you still need to keep your supporters engaged and movin' on up that engagement ladder. Most obviously, it will be helpful in the next election to have an active, motivated group of supporters, but in the interim, you’ll need them to support policies, donate to your party/PAC/constituency association, and recruit new supporters. How have your goals changed since you got elected and what are the next steps on the supporter journey to help you to get to those goals? Find relevant ways for your supporters to participate—through advisory councils, youth councils, policy suggestions and feedback, town halls, block parties, or even as social media ambassadors.
Don’t be stupid. Start early. Beginning to doorknock and fundraise are no-brainers, but few campaigns make the most of this time by identifying their leaders, which leaves them scrambling for competent and trustworthy folks down the road. Wait too long and you end up paying staff for volunteer roles *or* stuck with a smaller team than you need. Investing in leaders now increases retention for the long haul between elections and impact when you need it at election time.
You’re still the one. You probably used NationBuilder to run your campaign… and then paused it as soon as the election was over. NationBuilder is, at the core, software for leaders - of all types. Yes, it’s a great campaign tool, but it’s an equally great, maybe better, tool for your on-going organizing and engagement. You can easily transition your nation into your community building work and our Account Managers can help you put together a strategic plan to seamlessly make the switch.
You don’t need to revamp your whole strategy once you win your election, but you do need to keep going with supporter engagement to ensure you’re not the next surprise win that flames out in 6 months. Campaigning is hard, but governing is even harder as the pool of stakeholders grows and diversifies. Keep engaging your supporters like you did in the campaign and they’ll keep showing up for you and be more amenable to the compromises you’ll inevitably be making in government. They may just be in it with you forever and for always.