Hiring Political Consultants: A Quick Guide

Political consultants are lIke a Box of Chocolates

When It Comes to Hiring Political Consultants, Forrest Gump Was Wrong!

Turns out, political consultants are not like a box of chocolates, because when you hire your team, you should have a pretty good sense of what you’re getting.  It may be that your political consultant comes with a little less raspberry filling than you’d expected, but you shouldn’t all of a sudden discover that there’s a coconut filling (or that they’re just plain nuts). Here are a few quick, commonsense tips to hiring political consultants: 

  1. Do your due diligence.

In my book, this is really the most important page when it comes to hiring political consultants. This means not only should you have a thorough conversation with the perspective hire, but you should also do a little legwork. What’s their reputation in the business?  Who do you know who has worked with the political consultant in question? Do a quick clips search, you may be surprised by what you turn up, and it’s better that happens before you hire a consultant. On the flip side, doing your due diligence may also mean that you realize you’ve found a really great political consultant, helping you to feel more confident in your choice and the advice they give you.

  1. Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions.

Political consultants like to talk – make sure you ask them questions about what they’re telling you. This doesn’t mean that you have to interrogate your potential consulting team, but you should be an active and engaged listener. If they’re telling you about all the amazing targeting technology they can bring to your campaign, you should feel free to ask them what things cost, and what’s really a smart, tactical fit for your specific campaign. A good political consultant will likely tell you that not everything is going to work for your particular race.

  1. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Campaigns are a tough business. If you’ve got a political consultant coming to you, telling you that they can win your campaign with a silver bullet, chances are, they’re selling some snake oil. This is where due diligence and questions may save you from hiring a political consultant who's not on the up-and-up.

  1. Beware of flatterers.

There are so many amazing political consultants out there, but a few smarmy characters give the rest of us a bad name.  Sycophants are great for an ego boost now and again, but there better be something more if they’re getting paid with precious campaign resources. My advice: avoid the smarm – it usually is an indication that the consultant in question is not going to get you what you need.

  1. Work within your budget and be wary of percentages.

This last one is important. Money is a very precious resource on a campaign, and while political consultants can be a great help, they should not blow your budget. At least 70% of your dollars should be spent on direct voter contact, so if a consultant’s fees are going to eat into that, rethink your plans. A political consultant (generally speaking, I see this issue crop up with fundraising staff) asking for a percentage should give you pause. Don’t be afraid to try to negotiate a flat fee – you’ll likely prevail and it will keep your campaign budget much more manageable. If you do decide to move forward on a percentage-based payment system, make sure you understand the exact terms. Does the political consultant make a percentage of everything raised?  Only what they raise?

Obviously, this is a quick list to help give you some basic tips about wetting your toes in the pool of hiring political consultants. If you have any questions or additional pointers, please feel free to leave them in the comments section.