Political consultants are a fact of life in today’s campaign landscape. Consultants are normally seasoned professionals whose advice and support in running your political campaign (or organization) is extremely valuable. With the recent explosion in the number of campaign operatives who offer their services as consultants, it’s important that your campaign finds an advisor you can trust. Before hiring your next consultant, be sure to ask yourself these four questions:
1. Do I Really Need a Consultant?
Many campaigns think that they need help from political consultants “because everyone else uses them too.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Not every campaign needs professional political help. The smallest of campaigns can get by with just the candidate, his or her family, and a few volunteers. Similarly, if your campaign only plans to spend a few thousand dollars on the race, consultants are probably not the best use of your money.
On the other hand, if you are running for a state legislative position or above, or if you plan to spend tens of thousands of dollars on your campaign, you certainly could use the help of a seasoned campaign pro. Likewise, most political organizations and committees would benefit from the help and knowledge that a consultant would bring.
2. What Type of Help Do I Need?
Today’s political consultant generally focuses on one or two areas of a political campaign. So before you hire professional help, ask yourself what type of advice or technical knowledge your campaign needs. Some of the most common types of political consultants are:
- General Consultants: Handle overall campaign strategy, message, and organization, and may also help with fundraising, media, press and campaign management
- Media Consultants: Handle message, as well as television and radio advertising, may advise on overall campaign strategy
- Fundraising Consultants: Handle political fundraising, may advise on campaign finance reporting and donor list management
- Direct Mail Consultants: Handle direct mail message and strategy
- Internet Consultants: Handle political Internet and e-mail message and strategy, website development and online advertising
- Pollsters: Handle campaign polling, may also advise on message, strategy and issues development
3. Will I Get Along with my Consultant?
While you and your political consultant don’t need to be best friends, it doesn’t hurt to find a consultant your candidate and campaign staff gets along with. You’ll be spending lots of time together, so be sure that you feel comfortable working with and taking advice from your consultant. The best way to find out if you “click” is to interview your consultant before hiring him or her. For large campaigns that will be spending lots of campaign cash, this interview should be in person. For smaller campaigns that will be working with the consultant primarily over the phone / e-mail / fax machine, a phone interview will suffice.
4. Is my Consultant Qualified?
It’s important to find out whether or not your consultant is qualified before you hire him or her. There is no professional licensing of political consultants, so anyone can hang out a shingle and call themselves a consultant. During the interview process, find out what clients your consultant has worked with in the past, what his or her educational and professional background are, and whether or not they are a member of any national or local consulting organizations.
Hiring a political consultant needn’t be an overwhelming task. A political consultant can add the knowledge and skills your campaign or organization needs to win. Use the questions above, along with recommendations from fellow campaigns, candidates, and party groups, as well as an interview with a number of potential consultants to help you find the best for your campaign.