Monday, August 15, 2011

Lessons From Losing

I read a lot of article and advice from experts in the biz, and I can't tell you the last time I read one about losing. In my experience I have learned a great deal from my losses. In some ways I've learned more from them. With every great victory has come a loss equally as great. It is never fun to lose a campaign...your own or someone else's. It's an even greater loss if you fail to learn from it.

Campaigns fail for any number of reasons. Some are doomed from the word go, and others look great on paper all the way through the announcement of those devastating results. Here are a few ways to avoid failure. Look at them as lessons learned in the trenches

Work with the press, not against them - Realizing that most reporters are not out to "get you" is a good first step in achieving this goal. When you begin to see the news from their perspective and not just the campaigns you set yourself apart, and usually firmly in the good graces of any press you're interacting with. Keeping the press happy usually keeps them off your back. An angry beast is usually much more hostile when you come around for feedings.

Stop telling a candidate or campaign what they want to hear - this is never a good idea. You end up feeling like less of a person at the end of the day and you're really not offering your expertise when you start down this road. It's easy to be a YES man or woman, and you can usually earn a lot of money being one. You don't win campaigns that way. Your job or role is to be honest and give your best advice. In some cases you're paid for it, so don't be a fraud. If a campaign isn't comfortable with your honest interpretation of the situation, then it's best for both of you that you part ways. Don't sugar coat the truth. You're not helping yourself or the campaign.

Research, research, research - Whether you're running a major campaign or a small local one, you better have done your homework! In today's day and age, anything can be found with a simple Google search. If you're not researching the issues, your opponents, your donors, and your own candidate, you're in for a bumpy ride. In some cases, for larger campaigns, it's even necessary to hire a professional research firm. Just like other experts your campaign should solicit, these firms do research and they do it well. If you're not able to do it for your campaign, find someone who can.

Message, message, message - Don't fall into the trap of relying on your candidates networking skills and overall appeal to get elected. Your campaign MUST have a message. Your message is not the bumper sticker slogan, or the line on the back of your t-shirts. It must be more than that. As an incumbent don't fall prey to the idea that "the people already know me". Indeed they might, but your campaign still needs a message to stay relevant. Find a message, communicate it effectively, and stick with it.

There are any number of mistakes I could continue discussing. The bottom line is to not take your failures for granted. Use them. Learn from them. Don't repeat them! Many factors play into campaigns, both good and bad.

Don't just brag about your successes, take time to examine your mistakes. It may surprise you what can be learned...


  1. Excellent insight... often, people don't take time to consider the lessons that they learn after an unsuccessful campaign, but those lessons can often lead to changes that make the next campaign a huge success!

  2. You're right Brian Mistakes are hard to swallow, but learning from them makes the road a lot smoother. Thanks for reading!