Tips from the Trail

Getting Started

Getting Started

Set the right tone.

Make an excellent first impression on voters when you announce your candidacy. Your look, theme, setting, and staging must mirror the level of professionalism, preparation, clarity, and organization that the voters can expect of your administration. Videotape this event. It can provide excellent footage for closing TV ads.

Know why you can do it.

Identify the three or four reasons you will be an excellent leader and keep them in the forefront of your mind. Knowing at all times why you should be in office can help you perform confidently under adverse circumstances. Being sure of these reasons also helps you communicate them to voters.

Take good care of yourself.

Campaigns are notoriously unpredictable. Unexpected events and delays happen. Demand enough time in your schedule to ensure you are prepared, rested, professional, and presentable.

Hire a gender-balanced, experienced staff.

Don’t pinch pennies, and don’t be seduced by youthful enthusiasm. You are undertaking a multi-million dollar enterprise with enormous implications for the future of your state. Hire the most seasoned, experienced people you can, particularly those who have won a campaign for other women running for the same level of office. Gender balance is also important. The most effective and disciplined campaign teams are gender-balanced, according to candidates and staff.

Meet the professionals.

Everybody needs somebody: a voice coach, a personal shopper, a stylist, a media trainer, a make-up artist. Don’t wait until midway through the campaign. Months before your announcement, do a personal inventory, and get the help you need.

Set a standard of openness.

Your website is a great place to list your public schedule, post video of speeches and debates, release position papers, and feature press interviews.

Conduct opposition research on yourself.

Develop a strategy to deal with anything that could be harmful with the most seasoned, trusted, and experienced person on your team. Prepare opposition research on your family members and business partners, as well.

Be thoughtful.

Anticipate what character attacks might be made against you or your family instead of giving that advantage to your opponent. Pre-emptively prepare a thoughtful, clear response to any potential attacks, and be sure to have clarity with your team about a rapid response.

Introducing Yourself

Try a discovery exercise.

Write your obituary. This exercise can help you identify and integrate personal and professional successes and clarify the values at the base of your reasons for running.

Spin your experience.

Think through what’s in your background that’s potentially awkward for you and how you can turn it into an asset.

Use everything.

That waitressing job you had in college may be the gateway to connecting with women who don’t yet see you as “like them.” Present your full range of experience—personal, professional, and in the community.

Tap networks.

Explore your own biography to find the overlapping networks of school friends, elected allies, professional colleagues, neighbors, and fellow sports fans in your electoral base.

Reference family.

Even if you choose to keep your family far from the campaign trail, you can and should let people hear your point of view as parent, daughter, spouse, or partner. That’s the thing about family—everyone has one.