Your candidate announcement is the official start of your campaign.  It’s when you announce to the press, to your opponent, and to the world that you are running for office.  Of course, your campaign will have been operating for some time before the kick-off doing fundraising, gathering a team, and planning your strategy – but the announcement is the public start of your campaign.

The campaign announcement is important for several reasons.  First and foremost, it is the one time you are guaranteed to get press coverage of your campaign.  Nine times out of ten, the local press will cover your announcement because they see it as “real” news.  In addition, your kick-off is important because it provides your campaign with momentum, adds credibility to your fundraising and grassroots efforts, and provides a great opportunity to get your supporters all together in one place for support and encouragement.  Here are five tips you can use to make sure your campaign’s kick-off event is a resounding success:

1.  Pack the Room

The press will be there.  Potential donors will be there.  Your family will be there.  Make sure your announcement feels like a “winner” by packing the room full of supporters.  Having a full room makes everyone, including the press, think that your campaign is growing, gaining momentum, and on the right track.  Having a room that is only half full shows that your campaign is stagnant.

How can you make sure your announcement is standing room only? Hold it in a room that’s too small for your crowd.  For example, if you expect 50 people, have your event in a room that only holds 25 people.  Then invite everyone you know and continually follow up with them.  If the press sees people packed into the room, flowing out the door, they’ll report that your event was a success.

2.  Be Upbeat

This is a kick-off rally, not a policy speech.  Don’t bore the crowd with details.  Instead, give them a motivational talk, like a coach to his or her players before the biggest game of the year.  Tell the crowd why you are running, and why you know you are going to win.  Get the crowd excited about your campaign.

3.  Provide Opportunities to Contribute and Volunteer

For most campaigns, the announcement is the first time that your volunteers and supporters will all be together in the same room, meeting the candidate and staff face to face.  Be sure to provide contribution envelopes and volunteer sign-up forms at the event and encourage anyone who wants to help out to fill them out and return them to a designated person.

4.  Invite the Press

Don’t forget to invite the press to your kick-off rally!  Press coverage is one of the major reasons for holding your event, so be sure to send out several media advisories or press releases to get the press to your event, and make follow-up calls if necessary.

5.  Use a Gimmick

Many campaigns have found that using some sort of gimmick to draw attention to their campaign is well worth the effort.  A word of warning, however:  don’t do anything that will make your campaign look foolish, immature, or make it seem like you are making light of serious issues. 

Some gimmicks that can work include holding your event somewhere symbolic (e.g. outside the IRS office for an anti-tax candidate), having a symbolic prop (e.g. a National Guard tank for a candidate who wants to spend more on national defense) or having some sort of local celebrity at your event.

Remember, your campaign announcement is your first opportunity to present your candidate and your message to the world.  Stay focused, be prepared, and most of all, enjoy the day!

 If you’re just starting your campaign, be sure to check out Finding the Money to Start Your Political Campaign.