Author Archives: Douglas Kaplan

Campaign Plan

Do You Need A Campaign Plan?

Before you ask yourself whether you need a political campaign plan, you should ask yourself if you are serious about winning your election. If you are serious about winning your campaign, whether it is running for local office or President, you need a winning political campaign strategy.

Your campaign plan is more than just a blueprint on how to run a political campaign or to describe what the role of a political campaign manager is.  Your campaign plan details every aspect of your path to electoral victory – from your budget and timeline to your target audience and message.

Planning is essential to winning.  You cannot get a business loan without a business plan.  You cannot build a bridge without an architect and engineer.  Winning campaigns require strategies that are developed by campaign managers and consultants

here are many facets to consider when developing a plan to run a successful campaign.  They include (but are not limited to):

  • Campaign budget
  • Campaign timeline
  • Opposition research
  • Assessment of each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses
  • Evaluation of issues that matter in a political campaign
  • Voter identification and targeting
  • Grassroots organization and tactics
  • Media relations
  • Social media
  • Broadcast media
  • Digital media
  • Direct mail

Before you start planning your political campaign, or learn how to run for local office, your first question to answer is “why am I running for office?”

Answering this question is central to building a winning political strategy.  The answer may change or evolve over time, but a candidate for office should always understand the reason for seeking election.

Most candidates for elected office begin by searching for answers to questions in the Internet such as “how to run a political campaign,” or “how to win a campaign.”  The first search should be for a county elections office, board of elections, election clerk, Secretary of State, or other election official.  Contacting the local election office is the first step in determining what actions must be taken to appear on the ballot.

Running for office is more than figuring out how to become a candidate or putting up yard signs. The way to win a campaign is to plan every step of the way before you even begin.  Once this has been accomplished, the campaign manager can develop the campaign organizational chart and determine what campaign staff jobs are required. Also, you may be asking yourself questions such as “What is a political consultant,” or “What are the duties of a campaign manager?”

Experienced consultants can guide you along the way when you decide to seek elected office.  Campaign consultants, and campaign managers, can develop a budget that maximizes the effect of every dollar spent.  Consultants are also skilled at developing target audiences and using data to help win your race.  Consultants also must stay on the cutting edge of campaign and election technology so that you have every opportunity to reach voters in whatever medium makes the most sense according to the plan.

A plan is not developed overnight.  Creating your campaign plan requires careful preparation and examination of your resources, issues, effective tactics, and identifying likely voters.

Gravis marketing has many years of experience in helping candidates win votes and successfully win on election night.  The Gravis team can develop robust campaign plans for your race at any level from city council and school board to state legislature, countywide, statewide and federal campaigns.  Gravis marketing can take your campaign to the next level and help you achieve victory.

Inoculation is worth a pound of cure


The old adage starts out “an ounce of prevention…”  The wisdom is thainoculation theory t a pound of cure, after exposure to a harmful element, is far more expensive and painful than the cost of dealing with the issue before it becomes harmful.

When Ben Franklin first imparted his advice, he did not limit it to medicine.  Far from it.  His statement is an analogy that is relevant in nearly every facet of life – including politics.

When deciding to run for office, candidates must be honest with themselves.  They must take stock of their shortcomings and their “youthful indiscretions.”  Candidates must take full account of their controversial decisions and votes.  They must inventory their own “derogatories” because any opponent with a scintilla of common sense will have their own catalog of your shortcomings with which they might attack.

Once a candidate knows his own points of weakness, he can evaluate which ones might be the most damaging in a campaign.  Of those damaging issues, a candidate can narrow down the ones that the opponent most likely knows.  Of those, which ones are best documented?  Of the issues left, which ones does the opponent have the moral high ground, meaning she does not have the same shortcomings?  Finally, a candidate must evaluate how much money the opponent likely has and how much of that budget they might be willing to spend on an attack.

A campaign should be able to identify the one or two issues most likely to be used in an attack.  Once this is known, creating a plan to mitigate or even prevent an attack is imperative.

In politics, this process is referred to as “inoculation”.  Inoculation can come in many forms, but the idea is that a campaign take control of an issue, and tell its own story, before the opponent decides to go on the attack.

Direct mail is an excellent venue to deliver an inoculation.  A campaign should be able to target the audience deemed most important in order to win a campaign.  A campaign can pinpoint, with amazing accuracy, the precise households that will be most receptive and impacted by an inoculation message.

As with television and the Internet, direct mail is a visual medium.  A campaign must be able to tell a story with powerful images, while using as few words as possible, to achieve its goals in direct mail.  If a candidate wishes to inoculate against a youthful indiscretion, for instance, using a photo of a youthful candidate while describing the “offense” is an effective way to contrast with a more mature candidate now.  Another critical element in an inoculation effort is to explain how the recovery from the youthful indiscretion makes the candidate a stronger, better choice than if the incident never occurred.

Another reason direct mail is an excellent medium to use is the fact that it is more difficult for an opponent to track.  When a campaign purchases television or radio, a public record exists that is available to the opposition.  The opponent will know the exact audience that the campaign is trying to reach, and that allows the opposition to mount a counterstrike.  With direct mail, the mailing list that a campaign uses is proprietary.  Unless the opponent is engaging in some level of unlawful espionage, the mail list is known only to the campaign manager and the mail house – both of whom have professional obligations of confidentiality and nondisclosure.

In some cases a campaign may want to increase the effectiveness of its inoculation message.  A corresponding digital campaign can be targeted to IP addresses associated with the mail list used for the inoculation direct mail piece.  This tactic ensures that the same households targeted for direct mail will also be targeted for the digital ad.  The digital ad can link to the candidate’s web site, social media, or another location that is designed to tell the same story in the direct mail.

The nature of inoculation means that a campaign is choosing to be proactive before the opposition wages an attack.  There is never a guarantee that an opponent will go on the attack.  However, a compelling case can be made to create an inoculation when the issue in question is one that will move voters.  The motivation towards inoculation becomes stronger if the issue is one that is available in public records.  Another factor to assist in the decision to create an inoculation message is the resources of the opposition.  By studying publicly available finance reports, a campaign can evaluate if the opponent has enough resources to issue a negative message.

Whether or not to issue an inoculation is a decision that a candidate should not make on his or her own.  Objective, experienced, and skilled consultants can help guide a campaign in tough situations such as these.  The professionals at Gravis Marketing are experienced and trained to handle the most difficult campaigns.  No matter what situation you are facing, Gravis has been there.  Gravis can help you tell your story, and Gravis can help you identify the exact audience for each story.


Why Spin It When You Can Own It?

Gravis Marketing

            Conventional political wisdom when a candidate is faced with a scandal, controversy, or caught in a generally difficult situation is to either spin the situation or to pivot and redirect.  Neither of these responses directly addresses the issue, and both allow for the possibility for the issue to rear its head in the future.

            On the other hand, it may be advantageous for a candidate to openly address an issue, own the issue, and control the issue.

            In the history of American politics, every candidate for office has been, presumably, a human being.  Not a single human being breathes on earth who has not made mistakes.  Mistakes, how we handle them, atone for them, and learn from them shape who we are.

            We do not place our mistakes on our resumes, and candidates do not typically run for office by putting their worst foot forward.  So how do we effectively deal with our mistakes, or our candidates’ mistakes, when we are reasonably certain that they will become issues on the campaign trail?

            Just as no candidate in the history of politics is without sin, no voter is devoid of making mistakes.  The difference is that the voter is not wearing the same target that the candidate is.

            Before explaining why owning an issue may be the correct path for a candidate, we should explore why spin and pivot techniques may be the incorrect path.

            “Spin” is generally considered a biased method of retelling history or explaining an event or decision.  The problem with spin is that it requires the candidate or campaign team that is responding to tacitly concede that the situation to which they are responding is a negative situation.  Another problem with spin is that most voters may not be able to define what “spin” means, but they know it when they see or hear it.  Spin usually works only with the devoted following of the candidate delivering the biased message.  Spin only addresses a small audience and generally serves to restore confidence in a candidate’s base rather than speak to undecided voters.

            In essence, spin is a form of triage in the political battlefield that is designed to stop the hemorrhaging of a candidate’s support.  Spin should never be used as a long term solution.  In fact the use of spin may not be advisable in any situation because it is often viewed as dishonest.

            For example, a candidate for the United States Senate may have had a very successful fundraiser.  Many dignitaries attended, the open bar was flowing, and everyone had a good time.  The candidate has a lapse of judgment and decides to drive home.  On the way home, the candidate is pulled over for suspected intoxication.  The resulting video is embarrassing as the candidate used the feeble “do you know who I am” line that was clearly recorded on the officer’s camera.  The candidate also refuses any tests to indicate inebriation.

            The following day, that campaign team chooses to spin the story and claims that the Senate candidate was not inebriated but merely tired from a very long day of campaigning.  The campaign attempts to explain the use of the thinly veiled “do you know who I am” threat as the candidate’s effort to merely help the police officer understand what kind of day she had.  The candidate’s devoted followers quickly accept the story, but voters who were previously leaning towards voting for that candidate are now in the “undecided” category.  Stalwarts of the opposition, however, are able to take pot shots at the cover story and use the situation to increase mistrust.

            The “pivot and redirect” method is also a less than optimum choice because the essence of redirecting requires that the candidate does not answer to the negative issue or situation.  Instead, the idea is to distract voters with another issue.  This method may be successful if the issue upon which the candidate can pivot is egregious enough to divert voters.  However, an unanswered situation may revisit the candidate’s campaign at an inopportune time.

            In the situation described above, the same Senate candidate’s campaign chooses the pivot method instead of spin.  In responding to the situation, the campaign creates an elaborate story in which they blame the opposition for falsely tipping the police to their candidate’s whereabouts on the way home from the fundraiser.  In a double-down effort, the campaign points out that there is no evidence of driving while intoxicated since the candidate refused a breathalyzer and invoked the Constitutional right to an attorney.

            In doing this, the candidate provides an opportunity for the opponent to take control of the media.  The question still remains whether or not the candidate did something wrong.  The issue is not closed and can return.  Also, the only audience that will buy into the pivot response are the devotees of that candidate.  Voters who were not solidly in that candidate’s corner are now shaky.

            By owning the issue, however, a campaign takes full control of the media.  The campaign does not hint at the opposition.  The embattled campaign addresses all voters and not just the dedicated followers.

            In the same situation, the Senate campaign holds a press conference the following day to address the traffic stop.  The candidate begins by telling the story of a young person in their state who was recently killed by a distracted driver.  The candidate talks about statistics involving intoxicated drivers, distracted driving, and driving while fatigued or sleepy.  The press conference discusses safe driving and the need for all drivers to be responsible and how to be responsible and respectful when dealing with law enforcement.  The candidate apologizes for the embarrassing use of the “do you know who I am” phrase and to the officer specifically.  Finally, the candidate announces an initiative to address distracted driving while in Washington.

            By taking full ownership of the event, exhibiting contrition, and proposing a solution to a larger problem (remember that the candidate talked about statistics of distracted driving during the press conference), the candidate controlled the issue and possibly turned it into a positive situation.  Not only are the devoted followers still on board, but all voters are listening to the message of the senate candidate.

            The decisions on how to handle difficult scenarios are serious and can impact not only the outcome of the current campaign but the long term political viability of a candidate.  No candidate should address these dire situations without objective, skilled assistance.  The professionals at Gravis Marketing are experienced and trained to handle the most difficult situations.  No matter what situation you are facing, Gravis has been there.  No candidate should go it alone.  Let Gravis stand with you.


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Current Alabama Polling Republican Primary

Executive Summary
Gravis Marketing, a nonpartisan research firm, conducted a random survey of 1,616 registered voters, who will participate in the Republican Primary in Alabama, regarding the Republican presidential candidates. The poll has a margin of error of ± 2% and was conducted from August 29 through September 1, 2015. The total may not round to 100% because of rounding. The polls were conducted using automated telephone calls (automated phone surveys) (80%) and internet polling of cell phone users (20%). The results were weighted by anticipated voting demographics.

When Thinking Of Donald Trump, what is the first thing that comes to mind?


When Thinking of Hillary Clinton, what is the first thing that comes to mind?


Assuming you had to vote today, which 2016 GOP Candidate would you vote for?

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The following questions are for demographic purposes:

What is your party affiliation?

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How old are you?

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What is your gender?

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