Running any campaign is tough work. There are seemingly hundreds of balls in the air at any one time and a team full of people counting on your leadership to guide them and the candidate through the election (and to victory,) in one piece. Campaigning is all about people and relationships, and remembering this will serve you well, as you continue on through your career. But there are many more things any successful campaign manager must learn, to remain at the top of their field in elections in the United States.

Put people first.

This primary rule of campaigning will always be essential to creating and running successful political campaigns, and is as important the first time, as it is the last. Understanding what the people of a particular district or neighborhood in the United States want and need, is the first step to creating slogans, messaging, and a platform that resonates with voters. Capturing voter data, email addresses, and personal information is crucial to devising a viable strategy. Every community in the United States is different, even neighboring towns may require totally different approaches and accessories, so conducting research and listening to the pulse of the community is the first step to building your campaigning credentials. Listen to the forum of the people, and let that translate into a gut instinct which carries you and your strategy forward through the election cycle, to victory.

Always put on a professional face.

Dresses, suits, ties, and professional shoes are stapled accessories of politicking, and casual dress should be left behind. You and your candidate must always look polished and well prepared for any media coverage that comes your way. Your high standards of dress, and detailed wardrobe choice during television appearances is the first thing that most people will notice. It only takes one misstep in imaging to torpedo a campaign. Many presidential historians attribute Richard Nixon’s sweaty and unkempt appearance during the 1960 debate (which was the first time they were televised,) to his campaign loss to the still relatively unknown John F. Kennedy for the White House.

Fundraising is your lifeblood.

Every campaign needs funds, from U.S. national politics to the local community council. Creating a robust, grassroots, peer-to-peer network of fundraising events and channels for donations, that is both easy to access and get involved in, is crucial. By building a sizeable war chest that can be leveraged for television or billboard ads, Facebook campaigns, online forums, polling, and focus groups, you can evolve your strategy for victory all the more. Money makes politics work, for better or worse, so energizing your base to donate to your campaign fund is critical to seizing victory in United States elections.

Always prepare for the worst.

Anything can happen on the campaign trail, so planning for the worst possible scenarios is important in order to keep your candidate focused, and able to field any bizarre twists and turns that may emerge through the course of the race. The media is always looking for an angle that no one else has reported, so being mindful of your candidate’s personal history, including any less-than-impressive moments is important to devising an effective counter-strategy for dealing with damaging revelations or sensitive information leaks. Likewise, with things taking place in our nation that exist outside of our local field of control; anything can happen that changes the course of a campaign in the blink of an eye. From the coronavirus to a natural disaster or to the outbreak of conflict halfway across the world, you need to be ready for anything.

But make sure you have fun.

Campaigning can be rough but it’s one of the most rewarding jobs out there. You have a unique opportunity to shape a message and candidate that will create real change for the community in which you are working. Don’t forget to take a step back and relish in the great times you are sure to have on the trail. After all, you should always do what you love. The rewards in this business are extreme, don’t forget to enjoy the ride.