Winning the Political Game: Seven Components of a Full-Scale Political Operation

Some businesses, associations and government entities are highly dependent on success in the political realm for their survival. 

Many examples exist. I recall when a non-profit hospital chain suddenly found itself the target of legislation that would have imposed major taxes or even dismantled the corporation. Taxes and regulations can be helpful or devastating to a particular business or association of businesses.

So organizations often are forced to quickly pull together a political operation to defend themselves. Large businesses and utility companies already know how to navigate the political world, but here’s a quick primer for smaller organizations that are perhaps not so knowledgeable about how to win the political game.

Here are seven components needed in a full-scale political brawl. Not all of them are necessary for every political fight, but if the battle is big enough most of these components will need to be addressed in some way.

1.     Ability to obtain and accurately analyze political intelligence, information and research. Early warning political radar. This involves monitoring news media, think tanks, and engaging in lots of networking and issues discussions among policymakers to watch for issues, trends and topics. It also entails formal survey research, both qualitative and quantitative. This formal research is used in a variety of very important ways.

2.     Ability to develop excellent relationships with key political players. Nothing is more important in winning political battles than having the right relationships with the right political leaders and opinion leaders.

3.     Ability to provide excellent candidate support and campaign capability. Includes ability to mobilize employees and association members, create coalitions, create powerful legislative support campaigns to pass or kill legislation. It involves grassroots mobilization and sophisticated employee involvement programs. It also involves the ability to leverage campaign contributions and to recruit candidates.

4.     Ability to obtain and expertly use a variety of political data, including the state voter file. This involves the ability to target political activists like convention delegates and frequent voters. It entails being able to accurately analyze vulnerability of incumbents and candidates; to be able to analyze the political makeup of legislative districts, and counties.

5.     Effective lobbying. Full-time, on-the-ground, capable lobbying presence in the corridors of the Legislature.

6.     Effective communications and media relations. The capability to reach the right audiences at the right time with the right messages through social media and advertising and public relations, including television, newspaper, radio, newsletters and direct mail. This should also include using direct channels to key audiences that are not filtered by the news media.

7.     Fundraising. The ability to self-fund or raise enough money to pay the costs of an appropriate level of political activities.

Most businesses, associations and other entities are consumed with the daily pressures of fulfilling their primary missions and don’t have the time or expertise to develop all seven components in-house. That’s when it makes sense to consider hiring political consulting, campaign management, public relations and advertising firms to assist where needed.