I’ve been in politics virtually my entire life. Let’s just say, it’s sort of a family legacy. As a consultant, I’ve seen any number of ways people in my business take advantage of people running for office, and scam others into thinking they know what they’re doing. Here are five things to watch out for.
1. Consultants Who Are “Undefeated”
More than any other indicator, this one should send you running for the hills. There is not one political strategist on the planet worth his/her salt who hasn’t lost elections. In fact, most of us lose more than we win. Some very famous political strategists spend decades never winning at all. If any consultant ever tells you that they are either undefeated or hardly ever lose, one of two things is true – either they are lying, or they only work for sure-things. Either way, their “record” is more of an indicator of a lack of skill than of any perceived successes they may claim.
- Key Question To Ask: “Tell me about some recent elections you’ve lost. What happened?”
- Most consultants have a number of losses they are very proud of. These may be elections where their client wasn’t given a chance, but got close to winning.
2. Consultants Who Name Names
Don’t get me wrong here, we all throw around names of candidates we’ve worked for. In fact, that’s public information anyway. What we don’t do, however, is divulge confidential projects we’ve worked on. We aren’t generally chatty about our work. Any consultant that gives you unsolicited inside information on participants in a confidential project, is clearly untrustworthy. They’ll talk about you too.
- Key Question: “Would you be ok with me asking (the person being named) about this project?”
3. Ensuring All Check’s Go Through Them
This is a big one to watch out for. Your campaign checks should all go through a CPA on staff with the campaign. No political consultant should ever control the checkbook. Normally, there are only two areas in which consultants make money – a retainer fee and a percentage of media buys. If your consultant is paying for things like signs, t-shirts and office furniture, you can be sure they are marking up their invoices to the campaign for their trouble. Unless you contractually agreed to let them do that, your campaign is getting milked.
- Key Question: “What specific campaign expenses will you be invoice us for?”
4. Claiming Expertise In Whatever You Need
Political consultants come in a lot of different flavors. There are media strategists, polling and data experts, grassroots experts, and so on. Just because a person has worked on campaigns in the past, does not make them an expert in anything. It’s like a businessman claiming to be a marketing expert, when he’s really an accountant. Check their work, demand references. I’ve seen more than my fair share of supposed “media strategists” who couldn’t tell you a thing about shooting a commercial or making a media buy. Would you hire someone off the street to shoot a commercial for your company without checking out their work? You’d be amazed how many political candidates do exactly that.
- Key Question: “What specific experience and education do you have in ______? Can I see examples?”
5. Those who wear suits
Political consultants don’t wear suits. Seriously. I don’t know why, we just don’t. Political operatives do. What’s the difference? Political operatives go from campaign to campaign in hopes of landing a job with an eventual administration. There’s nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Operatives are important. Consultants aren’t looking for a job, not usually. We don’t wear suits.
- Key Question: “Are you hoping for a job if I win?”
|About The Author:
Robert J. Munson is a marketing and public relations strategist based in Baton Rouge, LA. His firm, RobertJMunson, specializes in modern marketing strategies including social media marketing, content marketing and corporate social strategy. Follow Robert J Munson on Twitter.