10 Political Consultant Problems

by Joe Fuld (He/Him)

political consultant

Political Consultants and Your Campaign: Problems and Solutions

Do you hate or love your political consultant? As the world of political consulting has grown, so have issues that organizations and candidates face with their political consultants.

To be clear, some political consultant problems are easily solved, and some are not. Picking the right campaign consultants with the right approach and being clear on goals or roles can help a lot. Here is our list of political consulting problems and some basic solutions for them: 

Problem: National View

Many political consultants may seem to have an overly national focus; they can appear to be just focused on the national politics and not understand the impact of local issues on local communities. This can be a blind spot. 

Solution: Round your team and look for diversity in opinion and solutions. Make sure your national consultants are plugged into your campaign, understand, and incorporate the local flavor into their work.

Problem: Myopic Local View

Some campaign consultants see themselves only as local experts. They are so focused on what the local issues are and what local campaigns have done in the past, that they forget to have a broader view of a messaging strategy.

Solution: Talk to the consultants ask how diverse the firm is.  Make sure your team reflects a broad perspective.

Problem: Too Focused on Polling

Some consultants look like they focus only on poll and modeling numbers instead of listening to outside information.

Solution: Don't get me wrong; polling can play a major roll in your campaign depending on the size of the race. But your consultants need to be able to draft, understand, read, and interpret polling. This seems like it should be a given, but sometimes it is not.

Problem: Inside Game and Outside Game

Some consultants are very focused on the inside politics that voters never see.  Inside politics such as, who has the party endorsement? Who is backing? What political consultant are campaigns using? Or, they can be occupied by outside politics and how voters perceive your campaign.

Solution: All of this inside and outside jockey can be a full-time job. Depending on the race you are running in it may not be necessary at all, so talk with your team and figure out how much effort you want to put into inside and outside games. 

Problem: Political Consultants Are Not Loyal to You

Loyalty in politics is a critical thing. Know where your team stands, know where your consultants stand. 

Solution: Do some homework before hiring your political consultants. Who are their biggest clients? What issues do they care about? Who have they worked for in the past?

Problem: Political Consultants Think They Know Everything

Campaigns are not all the same, but there is an idea that all consultants have the same approach; bullying their clients to rubber stamp a cookie cutter formulaic program. 

Solution: Ask about their approach. Do they work collaboratively?  Do they want any input? Check references with a winning and a losing candidate to see what the experiences have been.

Problem: Political Consultants Only care About Fundraising

Political consultants have a reputation for pushing candidates to raise money. Fundraising and knocking on doors is one of the most important and time-consuming parts of a campaign. As a consultant, I am incredibly focused on how the campaign uses its resources, people, time, and money. So yes, I care about how the campaign uses their time, and I want to make sure they use resources as efficiently as possible. 

Solution: Understand your consultant's approach and philosophy from the start. If you don't want to raise money or knock on doors, I can tell you that I won't be a good fit for you.

Problem: Political Consultants Only Care About Making Money

Many folks see  consultants as having their hand out to get money from campaigns, but there are a lot of consultants to choose from and you can find ones with the approach that fits your campaign. 

Solution: Hiring consultants costs money, but having a written contract to define the terms of the relationship and understanding how your political consultant makes money will give you a better understanding of the services you are paying for. I am always surprised and sometimes sad for campaigns and consultants who don't define their relationship.  Campaigns by nature are stressful, not knowing the terms of the campaign-consultant relationship can make it even more stressful.

Problem: Political Consultants Cost Too Much

Many campaigns are concerned about the cost of political consultants. If you could run a campaign without consultants, you would save a lot of money, but you also need the political experience consultants offer to navigate the hurdles of running for office.   

Solution: have an RFP process where you pick a few consultants and ask them the same questions to compare their prices and services.

Bottom Line:

Like with any business there are good and bad political consultants. And like most things in life, it can be tricky to avoid problems, but here are a few rules to follow to avoid as many political problems with political consultants:

  • Check references

  • Have an RFP

  • Compare prices

  • Ask  questions

  • Explore their approach

  • Look at diversity

  • Define roles

  • Understand how your consultant makes money

  • Have a written contract

  • Set a process for communication

Campaigns are tough to pull together, so making sure you pick the right team is really important. The best way to prevent political consulting problems is to work through the above steps and keep an open line of communication.

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