Political Endorsements: What’s Your Strategy?

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

Political endorsements

Own a Strategy to Make Your Political Endorsements Count 

Campaign endorsements can still make a big difference in politics. But to make your political endorsements count, you need to have a strategy to collect them and amplify them. Be intentional about what political endorsements matter and how you will use them.

Which endorsements matter? 
Endorsements, when used right, are a great way to build momentum, but when they are used wrong, it can be a huge waste of time, overlooked potential or even charge momentum for your opponent. Good endorsements can come from a local organization, a national organization, a local politician, a party organization, a political club or just average folks.  

What is the theory behind the power of political endorsements?
Endorsers bring credibility and trust to a candidate who may not be known by a community or constituency. Endorsers can introduce a candidate to an audience or constituency that may not be familiar to them. Political endorsements also add to the early viability of a candidate which can be especially important with non-traditional candidates. 

Who are good endorsers? 
Think of the coalition you want, not the coalition you have. Grow your voter base for primary and general elections and use political endorsements to expand your base and outreach. 

Newspaper endorsements still matter in some places
In many markets, newspapers still matter and are the gold standard for political endorsements but in other markets, the credibility has waned or creates a negative effect. Make sure you know your market and reach out to local papers.

Unions and association endorsements
Member organizations have large constituencies, and many do significant outreach to their members. Under many laws, this outreach to members can be coordinated with the campaign and can use the campaign’s message, different from an independent expenditure campaign which cannot coordinate with the campaign. 

Party organization and political club endorsements
Some political parties endorse in primaries as well as general elections. Local party endorsements can make a big difference; however, sometimes they can also backfire (consider reform candidates running against a political machine). In municipal races, clubs and local political organizations can make a significant difference by having a clear group of people who will support an endorsed slate. In many places, running against the party slate can also be a source of pride for outsiders and can help more progressive candidates who don’t toe the party line. 

Celebrity endorsements  
Unless you are running for President of the United States or a U.S. Senate seat that’s getting a lot of attention, a celebrity is not likely to endorse your candidacy. If you have a relationship with a celebrity and they are endorsing your campaign, make sure you manage your time and don’t let that one endorsement be a distraction from the rest of your campaign. 

How can political endorsements help me?
Political endorsements can provide many benefits to your campaign, especially if you plan and strategize ahead of time.

Political endorsements can help momentum 
You can use endorsements to create press, buzz and early fundraising in a community. You can also have the endorsers make a video or ad with a testimonial. This takes some organization but can be very powerful.

Political endorsements can raise money  
The seal of approval from a candidate or group can allow for direct contributions and for you to go to their donors (with permission) and collect even more monetary support to help build your campaign.  In primaries and general elections, this can make a big difference.

Political endorsements can ramp up your field program 
An endorsement can mean more than money, volunteers who are part of an organization can give their time and build a greater field presence for your campaign. This means making calls and knocking on doors. 

What should I do to make the most of my political endorsements?
Political endorsements aren’t (usually) just handed out. You have to work for them! Here are our top tips to secure and make the most of your endorsements.

Practice your endorsement pitch 
Being clear on your campaign message and why an endorsement matters to your campaign is critical. Give them Reason Ask and Time (what is the reason you should be endorsed, what is your specific ask, when do you need the endorsement by).

Have a clear ask  
Know what you want from your endorsers (knocking on doors, giving money, raising money, doing press, giving testimonials, etc.), and be persistent and polite when making your ask.

Don’t lose your endorsements 
Bad campaign behavior can cause you to lose your endorsements. It is rare, but when it happens, it can help implode a campaign.

Gather individual endorsements from voters 
In many smaller races, doing a collection of endorsements through a signup on a landing page or even handwritten cards can be a great way to engage voters and get them to buy into your campaign.

Be aware of dual endorsements and non-endorsements
Sometimes an organization cannot give an endorsement to one candidate or needs to give a non-endorsement to all candidates. Understanding the politics around each and why you may want to organize, block and get particular endorsements will be a core part of your endorsement strategy. 

Understand the process 
Political endorsements are done through a process with clear deadlines and decision-makers.  Many of these organizations have built processes over years and have clear ways to measure the questionnaire and interview. Ask about the process. 

Do outreach 
Endorsements don’t happen without a plan and follow-up. Don’t think that you can just fill out a questionnaire and get an endorsement; it usually takes more than that. Make sure you are calling groups, organizations and newspapers to understand their process. 

Don’t make assumptions
Don’t assume you will or won’t get an endorsement. Do your homework and focus your time on the endorsements that you really want. Make sure you keep track of potential endorsements, follow up with them and their decision dates in a spreadsheet. 

Be ready for political endorsement questionnaires  
Decide which endorsements are actually worth your effort. Don’t waste time on endorsements you do not want or are meaningless in your race. The process of filling out questionnaires can take a surprisingly large amount of time. Make sure you are keeping track of your answers and stances and that you are clear about what you agree with and what you don’t. 

Understand the assets you can use 
Once you are endorsed there may be logos, videos, images and member testimonials you are allowed to use. Ask what you can and cannot use and make sure you correctly identify the name of the endorsing entity. 

Don’t forget to promote your endorsements
Campaign endorsements don’t promote themselves. The only way to get voters to know about endorsements is for you to tell them. Do not assume organizations, politicians or newspapers will get the endorsements out.  You need your own strategy to promote endorsements. Your endorsement promotion strategy can include paid digital ads including static and video. You can use testimonials in digital and television ads as well. You can create direct mail with quotes and photos from endorsers. Radio testimonials and using endorsements in field lit and specific event appearances can also be powerful. 

Decide which endorsements to promote and feature 
All of these promotion tactics can work but make sure you choose which endorsements to promote and what tactics work for your campaign. If you have a large amount, you cannot promote every endorsement and you will not have the budget to use all the promotion tactics, be strategic with your decisions

Stay with your plan 
Having a plan for endorsements and sticking with it is important. Create a content and promotion calendar and make the endorsements part of it. This will allow you to plan out the ways you will promote your endorsements.

Endorsement strategy checklist: 

●    Know which endorsements are meaningful politically
●    Find endorsements that could switch to you from an incumbent 
●    Know which endorsing groups and individuals have real resources 
●    Manage the time you spend on endorsements
●    Practice your endorsement pitch 
●    Harness the power of endorsements for fundraising
●    Understand which endorsement could potentially backfire 
●    Use the timing of endorsements to build momentum
●    Have an easy process to collect individual endorsements
●    Know what assets you can and can’t use
●    Promote key endorsements

Political endorsements can play a huge role in your overall campaign strategy, but in order to make the most of them, you need a strategy. Get more from newspaper endorsements, union recommendations and elected official support by having your own plan and strategy to receive and promote campaign endorsements.  

Have questions about political endorsements? Drop us a note.