Candidate Checklist Pt. 1: What To Do Before Running For Office

So you’re thinking of running for office? What do you do you next? While there is a lot of varying information online and plenty of advice handed out freely, it is crucial to your campaign’s success that you have the pre-filing strategy. Before running for office, consider the following outline and checklist. These strategies and tactics were developed to help guide potential candidates down an organized, collaborative, thorough and fruitful path.

Prospective candidates require a “ready, aim, fire” approach. Oftentimes, those interested in running for office are ready to dive head first into their campaign objectives and fight for the causes they represent, armed with social media hashtags and a list of supporters in hand. This is also known as the, “fire, ready, aim” approach. It’s backwards and creates holes in your campaign strategy. Candidates cannot afford to miss crucial research, planning and foundation building details before they file for their position.

  1. Create a Strategy Plan
    Take a step back to assess the big picture. Craft a plan from start to finish including your ideas and the steps required to reach campaign milestones. Enlist a trusted advocate, seasoned campaign professional or consulting firm to review your strategy and to bounce ideas off of one another along the way. 

    Next, utilize the following checklist before you file for office to consider the necessary research and preparation required before launching your campaign; it is crucial to your campaign’s success rate and your overall campaign management.
  2. Research and Organization
    The most critical step and frequently overlooked or incomplete. Research and planning is an in-depth procedure that requires strategy and insight from those already familiar with running for office. Before you file consider the following checklist:

    - Develop a personal content list including friends, family and community leaders. This is the list of people you need to tell before you run or after you file.
    - Manage your reputation by searching for your name on Google. Take note of any records or issues.
    - Review any online biographies or personal information such as business, public office, boards, etc. and make sure they are up to date.
    - Review social media accounts for photos or controversial posts. Be sure to check Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.
    - Ensure your government filings are in order including your taxes, liens, business licenses, home or rental records, voter registration and history.
    - Create a list of prior places you have lived, jobs, or personal details.
    - Clear any lawsuits, legal issues, divorces, or issues with ex-spouses and partners.
    - Secure person URLs. Do you own your domain name or name of the campaign? If you know who your opponent will be see if you can buy their domain name too.
    - Account for any previous campaign donations. Make sure you review who you contributed to in other campaigns, especially partisan or losing ones.
    - Join community groups, partisan or activism groups you want to put on your resume well in advance of running so you have a membership history.
  3. Background
    - Next prospective candidates will want to secure, develop and manage their image online and in public. Consider the following checklist as you proceed into this step:
    - Have professional headshots and photos taken.
    - Gather old family photos, pictures from your youth and those that share your stories, especially ones where you are active or in the community.
    - Develop your biography and finesse your resume. Keep it lively by also creating fun and interesting stories about your life experiences that you can share during interviews or in press announcements.
    - Detail the issues you will support during your candidacy. Making a list and then developing complete messaging for each cause will serve as the cornerstone to many of you campaign materials and debates.
    - Perfect your social media accounts. First develop accounts to solely to represent you during your campaign. Pay attention to the details of imagery, video content, hashtags and most importantly what you post.
    - Gather your business contacts, friends and holiday lists to organize a potential donors, opinion leaders and supporters you will go after. Be sure to organize their name, email and mailing addresses.
    - Compile a list of the awards and honors you have received.
    - Decide if you will disclose religious affiliations and organize lists of contacts you may have.
    - Organize memberships and organizations you belong to and want to put on your candidate bio. Reach out to your local and national affiliations and start the conversation with them about your campaign early.
    - Obtain records of your education background including degrees and certificates.

With this comprehensive checklist of key research and background considerations, candidates can begin to embark properly on the journey of filing for office, and be more efficient during the early stressful days after the launch. For those already in office and the campaign staffs involved, it is a good idea to double check the list above to ensure these items are in place and ready for the next election.

Stay tuned for part two of the Candidate Starter Checklist where we will cover what candidates should do after filing including a complete checklist to further develop your campaign, inspire introspective questions and ensure your always compliant.

Rick Asnani is the founder and President of Cornerstone Solutions, a non-partisan political and public affairs firm and has 25 years of campaign and ballot issues experience. He was also selected as a Campaigns and Elections “Rising Star” of Politics in 2000.