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Political Consulting As a Career

published February 16, 2013

By Harrison Barnes, CEO and Founder - BCG Attorney Search left
( 54 votes, average: 4 out of 5)
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Political consulting is a career that has recently come of age, alongside web-based businesses and mediation. They comprise an extremely specialized niche of marketing and advertising professionals in the limited field of government and politics. One of the most rewarding aspects of political consulting is to get deserving candidates elected, and having an influence on society.

The Right Stuff


Political consultants should have interests in marketing and government. They should stay abreast of political issues and the effects of legislation on different groups. Relevant government issues and their effect on segments of society should be automatic knowledge.

Critical to campaigning is the incumbent s voting record. Political consultants should utilize a legislator's voting record to the campaign’s benefit. This means that if the campaign is on behalf of an incumbent, the public should be told how the incumbent benefited them. If the campaign is on behalf of a challenger, the public should know about the incumbents unpopular votes. Political consultants use a variety of research techniques to determine what issues are of public importance and will sway voter opinions. The collection and analysis of this research is critical to the success of any campaign. Political consultants should be able to research particular constituencies and design a political plan of issues that will cater to their needs and the desires of their client.

Excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to earn trust are critical characteristics of a political consultant. Political consultants should quickly win the trust of their clients and maintain it.

According to Rick Carpenter, political consultant, "To clients, political consultants are often perceived as rented strangers. It is difficult for candidates to turn their lives over to a political consultant or anyone else they have just met." A political consultant must inspire trust and confidence and have excellent communication skills and political knowledge. Political consultants should be creative and able to see issues and opportunities from every perspective. They should anticipate the opposition. Much like a chess game they have to plan actions far ahead of time and consider the long-term ramification of every move. They should know the key players in an electoral race and the legal issues and constituents in order to develop appropriate campaign strategy.

What Political Consultants Do

There are many types of consultants used in a modern campaign. General consultants handle the big picture and supervise other specialized consultants who may handle direct mail, fund-raising, telemarketing, television, public speaking, and dress. Computer specialists are increasingly necessary for layout and design and information management. The number and variety of specialists that may be retained is directly related to successful fund-raising efforts.
 
  • Political consultants develop, manage, and execute campaign plans. They spend most of their time researching political issues and constituency demographics. Then they counsel their candidates, issue interest groups, or political parties on the appropriate image to convey and issues to address. During campaign season, their lives are hectic as they continue to counsel candidates, and oversee, manage, and operate campaigns. When not in election season, they continue to counsel candidates on issues before the legislature, issue press releases, and organize fund raisers and town hall meetings.
  • Political consultants deal with the logistics of getting work product pre pared and delivered to the public. For example, they develop an idea, draft it, deliver it to the graphics designer, have the product approved for printing, have it printed, and see to it that it gets mailed.
  • Political consultants should have a constituent or fund-raiser database ready to go as well. At some point during this process, the candidate reviews and approves the product. These are the logistics of moving a product, and political consultants should be able to develop a system to ensure that the product is completed and delivered on time or their candidates will become disgruntled.
  • Political consultants get involved in print advertising, which is a necessary medium to reach constituents. In every campaign, a logo must be designed to convey a candidate's image. The logo should be used in all advertising and look impressive on yard signs. Part of the campaign plan involves getting enough yard signs in place through constituent permission and volunteer efforts. The logo may also appear on buses, bill boards, or newspapers.
  • Political consultants conduct polls and research to determine what constituents think and want. Telemarketers are employed with an arsenal of questions to ask a particular constituency. This polling also allows candidates to know whether their campaigning efforts are being successfully implemented. There are many different ways to conduct "attitude" research of constituencies; a careful and detailed approach to drafting questions for telemarketers to ask is an integral part of any successful poll.
  • Radio and television advertising may be used in certain markets if a constituency base is large enough. Political consultants should help identify appropriate messages in radio and television advertising and assist with the production and editing of these messages. Advertising spots are designed to help voters form a positive, memorable, and lasting impression of a candidate with the proper image conveyed.
  • Political consultants should review the newspapers and editorial sections daily to keep abreast of what opponents are doing, public opinion, and whether press releases have been favorably covered. They should identify issues for release to the press and draft these releases with candidate approval.
  • Depending on the demographics of a constituency, political consultants may recommend political web sites and on-line fund-raising. If such a recommendation is made, they will have to create the content of these sites and coordinate, direct, and approve all layout and designs. Campaign sites can include key issue information, a volunteer sign-up sheet, a candidate schedule; an issues survey and feedback form, and even receive contributions on-line.

Fund-Raising

Fund-raising is one of the most critical aspects of a political campaign and consultants should be able to assist or direct fund-raising efforts. Specialists who earn a percentage of fees may be employed for this purpose. They should know who the key contributors are in a particular location and target those people for contributions. Without raising funds, a campaign cannot function to increase voter recognition of a candidate, and the campaign will be lost. Fund-raising efforts may be through direct mail and special fund-raising events. Direct-mail pieces and event announcements should be carefully drafted and events should be carefully planned with guest speakers present in support of a candidate.

Persuasion Mail

Persuasion mail is different from fund-raising mail. Fund-raising mail directly promotes campaign contributions, but persuasion mail is directed toward changing attitudes and influencing actions. Political consultants should draft text and include photographs that convey the right image. They may even oversee the photography shoot, so that the proper image is captured on film.

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Alternative Summary

Harrison is the founder of BCG Attorney Search and several companies in the legal employment space that collectively gets thousands of attorneys jobs each year. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. Harrison is widely considered the most successful recruiter in the United States and personally places multiple attorneys most weeks. His articles on legal search and placement are read by attorneys, law students and others millions of times per year.

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