I recently attended a workshop on “How to Run for Office” hosted by The League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area. I participated in a panel on preliminary steps and logistics for starting a campaign, along with Rep. Fred Keller and Linda Sosniak, a member of the Picture Rocks Borough Council and the 2018 Democratic candidate for Pennsylvania’s 84th Legislative District.
I teach at Penn State’s College of Information Sciences and Technology, so I decided to focus my remarks on some of the technology tools that my campaign ended up using in the campaign. I didn’t have much time to describe these during the panel, and I promised I would write them up and share them:
One of the first things I recommend is to create an account with a mailing list tool. We used MailChimp, which is extremely popular. Start creating a list now with your contacts, and create a signup form where people can add themselves to the list.
For your campaign Web site, I recommend using WordPress. We used the free self-hosted version, which requires a little bit more technical know-how. If you want to avoid that, check out the paid options where they handle it for you.
I recommend creating a G Suite account, which will give you:
- Custom email accounts (ex: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com)
- A shared Google Calendar
- 30GB of Google Drive cloud storage
- 24/7 support from Google, which you don’t get with free Gmail accounts
Accounts cost $5/user/month, which in my opinion is a steal. Start filling in key dates on your Google Calendar now, working backwards from Election Day.
We used Slack for internal team communication/chat. Slack is pitched as being an alternative to email, and has a few other benefits for organizing team communication. Not everybody loved using it, but it definitely had its niches.
On Election Day, we used MoboMix for text messages. It was a simple, affordable way to send folks a reminder to vote.
I love Adobe Spark Post, a free tool for creating social media images. If you’re like me and you’re not very artistic, Spark will give you some inspiration and some tools for creating attractive pictures you can include in social media posts.
It’s better to get a world-class graphic designer if you can (I did; his name is Benjamin Andrew), but if you don’t have one yet or just need to make something quickly, this is perfect.
There are lots of tools available for getting information about voters. You can get voter lists from the state, and various commercial providers offer access to a database that pairs those data with other variables that might be of interest to you. One that really impressed me is L2 VoterMapping.
It probably goes without saying, but social media can be a big part of your campaign. In my experience, Facebook has at least 10x the reach of the other social networks, and so I put most of my energy and money there.
Social media marketing is a world unto itself, and I’m not an expert in it, but I noticed that posts which had nice pictures included with them tended to get more engagement.
On that note, take some time now and learn the basics of taking good photos and video with your phone. This won’t take long, and you’d be amazed how much better your pictures will be if you start paying attention to things like lighting.