Scheduling is one of the last things most campaigns think about.  It’s not as glamorous as making TV ads or as exciting as grassroots campaigning.  Yet, campaign scheduling is one of the most important processes in a modern political campaign.

Time is scarce, no matter what the campaign.  Scheduling is the process whereby the candidate’s (and sometimes key campaign staff’s) time is allocated to various events, fundraising activities, and other demands.  Because there are so many demands placed on the candidate’s time, scheduling can make or break a campaign.

Why You Need a Scheduler

Every campaign needs one person to be in charge of scheduling.  Scheduling cannot be done by committee, by different staff members on different days, or by the candidate himself.  The person responsible for scheduling the candidate’s time can wear other hats in addition to that of scheduler.  This person can be a volunteer or a member of the staff.  But no matter what, only one person can be responsible for scheduling.

When more then one person plays the role of scheduler, things get confused, and the candidate gets double-booked or under-booked.  There is no one who can give definitive answers on time, and no one person people can call in a crisis to ask, “Where is the candidate?  Why is she there?”  In order to have an effective scheduling operation, you need to appoint one, and only one, campaign scheduler.

The scheduler is responsible for keeping the official campaign calendar, which lists the events the candidate has committed to attending, as well as all of the other blocks of time that have been set aside for the candidate to perform specific tasks.  All requests for the candidate’s time, including invitations as well as internal requests for time, should be directed to the scheduler, who is the only person in the campaign that should be responsible for accepting or declining invitations and requests.

Set Goals and Schedule to Them

Campaigns set goals.  The campaign strategy and tactics are geared to achieving those goals.  The scheduler’s job is to make sure that the candidate uses her time to further the goals that the campaign plan lays out.  The scheduler is an important member of the campaign team, and should be well versed on the campaign’s strategy, district, and the candidate herself.  Invitations and requests for time should not be accepted haphazardly – each block of time should be scheduled so that it furthers the campaign’s strategy and goals.

You Can Never Know Too Much

The person that you choose to be your campaign scheduler should be details oriented and very well organized.  In the scheduling world, information rules.  The scheduler should try and ascertain every detail about the events that the candidate is invited to.  Not just the basics, like who is holding the event and when the event is, but other important information such as who the other speakers are and what the event format is.  All of this information needs to be filed and organized so that the candidate knows exactly what is expected of her at each event.

Pro-Active Scheduling

In addition to responding to event invitations and time requests from the campaign staff, supporters and the press, most campaigns want a scheduler to be “pro-active” – that is, to help seek out opportunities for the candidate to use her time effectively to further the campaign’s goals.  Depending on the campaign and the number of other staff and volunteers, pro-active scheduling can mean as little as scheduling time for the candidate’s personal activities and keeping an eye on the community calendar for possible speaking events, or as much as actively seeking out press interviews, community leaders to meet with the candidate and other positive uses of the candidate’s available (and other-wise unused) time.  It all depends on the candidate and the campaign.

Process is King

Before the campaign begins in earnest, the scheduler should have a process in place to make sure that the scheduling operation is organized.  This process should include procedures for scheduling time with the candidate, making decisions on invitations, declining invitations, and handling accidental double-bookings.  The entire staff should be made aware of these procedures.

In addition, the scheduler should have a mechanism in place to provide drivers for the candidate to get from event to event, familiarize himself with a map of the district, and be knowledgeable about local political customs. Generally, it will be the scheduler who will be responsible for drawing up the candidate’s daily itinerary and arranging for her transportation.

Scheduling is a difficult job. Everyone wants some of the candidate’s time, and it is the scheduler who must not only keep track of all of the requests but also play the “bad guy” when an invitation must be declined.  By choosing an organized, “people” person to be responsible for all of the campaign’s scheduling, you will go a long way to ensuring that your campaign will run smoothly and efficiently.