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Political Expert William S. Bike Examines How Candidates Win
Election season is heating up, and longtime political consultant William S. Bike, author of the political campaigning how-to book "Winning Political Campaigns," knows what candidates and their campaign teams ought to do to win.
Bike, Senior Vice President at Central Park Communications, a communications consulting firm in Chicago, IL, USA, literally wrote the book on political campaigning. His classic text, “Winning Political Campaigns,” now is in its third edition. It has been updated for 2012 and is available as an e-book on Amazon Kindle, Reader Store, Shelfari, and Smashwords.
Campaigning is “all about strategy—that’
Campaign teams and candidates should begin with an analysis, Bike said.
“Analyze what the candidate’s strengths and weaknesses are and figure out ways to play off the strengths--and either cover up the weaknesses or make them unimportant,”
Targeting also is important to Bike.
“Targeting is basically making the best use of limited resources,” he noted. “For example, some candidates feel that they want to go out after every vote, but this is really a waste of resources.
“You have to strategize whom you want to target. In an election you have some people who are for you no matter what—your party’s base, for example—and some who are against you—the other party’s base. You are always fighting for that middle ground of undecided and swing voters, and that group is getting smaller all the time. You have to figure out the best way to target these people and what issues they care about at this particular time.”
Campaigns need to strategize their candidate’s positioning—“
Bike explained political marketing.
“You’re packaging the candidate and trying to sell him or her to the voters,” Bike noted. “Richard Nixon in 1968 was the first marketed candidate. His campaign for the first time used marketing tactics like focus groups and calling to see what voters were thinking, just to see how certain positions played—and then tailoring the campaign and its literature accordingly. Everybody has done that since then.”
Although political consultants and marketing tactics have become more important in politics, so have political parties.
“Thirty or 40 years ago, political pundits were saying that with the rise of television and our entertainment-
The pressure on campaigns and candidates is greater than ever, and so is the temptation for campaigns to commit ethical violations.
“In my book ‘Winning Political Campaigns,’ I talk about the ‘just this once rule’—campaigners who wouldn’t normally do a dirty deed, whether it is putting out-and-out lies in a speech or denying a charge when it is true, but who decide to do it ‘just this once,’” Bike noted. “I’m against ‘just this once,’ because it quickly becomes ‘more than once.’ When a charge against your candidate is true, I recommend admitting it and moving on. In fact, I recommend admitting it before the charge is made, to diffuse the issue before it ever becomes a problem.”
Bike looked at some of the biggest changes in political campaigning lately.
“Grassroots campaigning has probably been around since some ancient Pharaoh sent supporters out to talk to people shopping in the marketplaces of Egypt, but the 2008 Obama presidential campaign turned it into an art form with electronic organizing. Take the state of Missouri. The 2008 Obama campaign had 40 offices, 150 organizers, and 2,500 neighborhood leaders. The campaign used the internet, e-mail, and social media to organize these people, yet their old-fashioned face-to-face contacts with their neighbors were way more persuasive than TV ads,” Bike said.
"The campaign must take an active role in voter registration. The 2008 Obama campaign and the 2010 Tea Party campaign actively registered thousands of new voters all over the country. It is an axiom in politics that an overwhelming majority of new voters are going to vote for the candidate or party that registered them,” Bike said.
The internet and social media are where the most innovations are taking place, and more rapidly, Bike asserted.
“The internet makes it easy to get involved, and creates the expectation that of course the viewers/voters will become active. When Obama came to an event in 2008, there was an expectation that the audience would not just sit there or write checks, but would make phone calls, canvass, and become part of a movement encouraged and fueled by and organized on the internet,” Bike said.
Social media can be used to increase awareness, engage supporters, listen to the community, and monitor the competition, Bike added, noting “social media are a two-way street and are not just about getting your message out—they allow you to listen to what your voters want and change your strategy accordingly.”
No matter which of the strategies explained in “Winning Political Campaigns” are used, research is the key, Bike noted.
“Political consultants and campaign staff sit down with the candidates and talk about why they are running and what they want to accomplish,”
“You have to do research in order to be effective,” Bike added.
Part of that is opposition research.
“You look at the other candidate’s strengths and weaknesses from a strategy viewpoint, but also at the most basic level—to figure out why your candidate is running,” Bike explained. “If your candidate holds the same opinions as his or her opponent and they appeal to the same constituencies, what’s the point?”
Once the consultants and campaign staff figure out the differences between the candidate and the opposition, they have to craft the candidate’s message.
“First, you talk to the candidate to find out what his or her views are, and then you try to articulate that,” Bike said. “You come up with a message that is very simple. Say what the candidate’s views are in a nutshell, and if you are lucky you can identify the candidate with that message in voters’ minds.
“In modern campaigns, things move a lot faster than used to, but so long as the campaign worker or consultant is effective, the candidate has a good chance of winning. If the campaign worker or consultant is not effective, he or she won’t be working on campaigns for too long,” Bike concluded.
For more about Bike and the book "Winning Political Campaigns," go to http://www.centralparkcommunications.com. To see Bike on CNN, go to http://www.youtube.com/