How to get elected to… anything

By Bruce Firestone | Business Coaching

Jun 24

A friend of mine is thinking of running for city council. He asked me what the steps are to launching and running a great campaign. Here is my answer; see below.

What you need to do to organize a run for city council:

1. Get a campaign chair/campaign manager
2. Get a publicist to manage your PR and image
3. Get a great policy person and be flexible–as the campaign moves on new issues/hot buttons will emerge, you should be prepared to adapt–ride the wave! ry not to antagonize voters—a few angry (well-organized) voters have much more (negative) influence on campaigns than a much larger number of supporters, in part because bad news travels fast and is picked up over and over again by the media who (mostly) hew to this core tenet: AFFLICT THE COMFORTABLE AND COMFORT THE AFFLICTED or IF IT BLEEDS, IT LEADS
4. But on your core values and issues, be inflexible
5. Get a media trainer
6. Get a lawnsign maker
7. Organize some folks to help you get your lawnsigns out there
8. Print thousands of doorhangers
9. Get some people to go door to door and hang those doorhangers
10. Build an engaging website where people can volunteer and donate (as well as sign up for a free newsletter and read your blog)
11. Get a campaign HQ
12. Do a bunch of videos and get some terrific headshots/group shots professionally done of you, and you and your family… make sure your family is totally onside with this (and with you running)
13. Run an active social media campaign
14. Get a campaign finance chair
15. Get a volunteer coordinator and at least 20 if not 30 or 40 volunteers, some of which should be young—you’ll need their energy, enthusiasm and know-how; also, give them all campaign t-shirts (so they feel appreciated and part of your team) and feed them!
16. Campaign door to door (at least twice)
17. Always ask people for their support and ask them what their main concerns is… listen to people (this is called 1st person research) and thank them
18. Ask if they are ok with a lawnsign
19. Give everyone a premium (like I do—you know with my real estate books or one of my wristbands)
20. Get sponsors and donations
21. Organize at least two of your own events (everyone loves BBQs in good weather) as well as a breakfast launch and get invited/volunteer to speak at other events/places as often as possible… retirement residences, service club meetings, parent school events, nursery schools, playgroups etc
22. Get some individuals and companies to endorse you but be selective
23. Get some charities and non-profits and community associations and BIAs and chambers of congress and service clubs to endorse you
24. Build an email list and email tree (like the old phone tree used by, for example, amateur coaches to spread the word about soccer or hockey practice times in the age before the internet)

25. Email people more and more the closer you get to election, especially to get out your votes
26. Get on radio and TV
27. Practice your debating skills and your elevator pitch where you introduce yourself, tell people more about yourself and your family and then why they should trust you with their vote/why you are running (please refer to,
28. Find two, three or at most four or five hot button issues you can talk to over and over again
29. Name your movement!!! (like “Walk with me into the future”)
30. Have a great slogan/tagline (Not: Make ………….. Great Again!!! How about: ……………, forget the rest, we’re the best)
31. Select a great theme song (like we did with the Bring Back the Senators campaign of 1990—Tom Petty’s I Won’t Back Down)
32. Pick a campaign color–for signs, buttons & banners; try to be unique, without shouting out in fluorescents; then stick with that color, as well as what you wear! Sounds trivial but looks organized!
33. Keep campaign literature easy to read, short and to the point. If there is too much information on a flyer, it’s going straight into the recycle–guaranteed! Same with the website. Got to be catchy and easy to read and remember!
34. Write a stump speech (short) you can give at the door or at community gatherings or in debates
35. Get hold of voter lists as soon as possible to identify your friends and foes, so you know who you have to get to the polls on election day and who has your lawnsigns, so that you can correct your geographic coverage if necessary
36. Do not put too many signs on non-voter spots like the side of the road, until election day of course–people are not fooled by a row of signs that are not on someone’s front lawn
37. Build your brand based on your CV plus trust, hope, confidence, as an agent for positive change and common-sense…
38. Have a critical path schedule and stick to it
39. Start early, start soon, work hard!
40. Believe in yourself and your team and never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up

See it’s simple! Easy! No sweat!

Bruce M Firestone, B Eng (civil), M Eng-Sci, PhD

ROYAL LePAGE Performance Realty broker

Ottawa Senators founder

Real Estate Investment and Business coach



postscript: how not to make enemies during a campaign (or for that matter ever) is hard. In an age where everybody is connected, where everyone has access to a 1-800-rat-line where they can snitch (anonymously on a neighbor), and where everyone is minding your business and protesting everything in a worldwide contagion of NIMBYism (Not-In- My-Backyard complaints to city councils) and BANANAs (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything (or Anyone)), it’s easier than ever to (inadvertently) create a zillion foes.

Here’s why that is a bad idea and how you can workaround much of it,

A simple example–say a voter calls up her candidate and says, “My neighbor Harry’s hedge is over 13 feet tall!”

You might be inclined to respond, “So what!”


Instead, you say, “How can I help?”

“Well,” she says, “it’s so tall it’s blocking the sun on my veggie patch.”

“Ah ha,” you answer. “Why don’t I come over and talk to you and Harry. Let’s see what we can work out.”

Then, here’s what you suggest, Harry trims his hedge but she pays for it.


ps ever heard this one? “Snitches get stitches!”

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.