One mistake that most political candidates make during their first run for office is waiting too long to get started.  No matter what level office you are running for, or thinking of running for, it is never too soon to get started.  Of course, there are many activities that the candidate can’t perform until the campaign is under way.  There are many things, however, that candidates and potential candidates can do well in advance of Election Day to put them in a better position to win.  Below are eight steps that candidates can take to help them prepare for a run for office, whether that campaign is next year or “some year”:

1.  Prepare Yourself

Every candidate, even veterans of the political process, must take a personal inventory before each election to be sure that private and family issues are taken care of before the campaign starts.  This includes making sure that the candidate does not have any financial, personal, or legal issues which may come up and hurt him or her during the campaign.  The candidate should also make sure that he or she can make the time commitment and family commitment that running for and holding office entails.

2.  Tour the District

Candidates need to know their district.  While your “tour” of the district need not be a formal or announced effort, you should be sure to spend time in every corner of the district, learning about the businesses that affect the local economy, the issues that are important and the demographics of the area.  Possible activities include spending a day in local businesses and factories, visiting schools and nursing homes, and stopping by local churches and events.

3.  Start Your Research

Running a successful campaign requires mound of research, even in the smallest districts.  The candidate should gather all the information he or she can, including past election data, maps of the precincts and polling places, election regulations for your community, voter lists, research on issues important for your race, and information about your possible opponents.

4.  Go to Meetings

One of the best ways to learn about issues and meet community activists at the same time is to the meetings of every local group that you can.  This includes meetings for the local Republican party, as well as community organizations, service groups, town watch committees, town council meetings, and anywhere that issues of import are discussed and local leaders congregate.

5.  Meet with Leaders

Organization meetings aren’t the only place to speak with local leaders.  Take the time to visit with various leaders or speak with them on the phone.  Try to get together with political, business, community, and church leaders to not only lay the foundations for support in the future, but also to learn what issues are important to them and the people they represent.

6.  Meet the Press

Equally important to meeting local leaders is meeting the local press.  Establishing a good report with local editors, producers and reporters will help the campaign garner earned media further down the road.

7.  Scour the News

It is of utmost importance that candidate and potential candidates stay up on current events, both in the world at large and in the local community.  Set aside some time each day to read through the local newspapers, magazines, and watch local news reports.  If the district is large, have volunteers in various parts of the district clip news items of interest and send them to the candidate for review.   Also, be sure to keep up with the latest political campaign trends and tactics.  One great way to do that is by subscribing to the Local Victory Newsletter.

8.  Practice Speaking

The months before the campaign gets started are a great time for the candidate to polish his or her public speaking skills.  Work with a speech coach, family member or friend to perfect your deliver of prepared and impromptu speeches.  Consider videotaping yourself for added analysis and practice.

It’s never too early to start preparing your run for office.  If you haven’t decided whether to run or not, taking these steps will help you make your decision.  If you’ve committed to the campaign, getting a head start will make it easier to implement your campaign strategy and build momentum. In either case, start preparing for your political campaign today.