According to Elmer, Langlois and McKelvey, “contemporary political campaigning is typified by its non-stop character.” This undeniably chimes with the tactics used in most major elections of the past few years, and is one of the reasons why permanent campaigning has recently become so popular.
Permanent campaigning is the act of electioneering not just ahead of a major election date, but also in the periods between election campaigns. It’s about keeping momentum going and continuing to work towards gaining supporters, even if it’s not in the interest of securing votes on D Day. In this article, we’ll be exploring the issue of permanent campaigning further and examining different ways that you can use this technique to strengthen your support network, even after you’ve won or lost an election. Read on to find out more!
What is Permanent Campaigning?
The term ‘permanent campaigning’ first emerged in 1980, when it was coined by the political scientist Sidney Blumenthal. It refers to the act of continuing to build support for your candidacy and strengthening your public reputation even after the election date has passed and the outcome has been determined. The practice involves using tactics typically reserved for the campaign setting during the periods in between elections, such as growing your database of supporters, fundraising, and continuing to reach out to different voter demographics. While this technique has not been seen as much in the European political context, it has long been a feature of the American political landscape, particularly throughout most American presidential elections of the past forty years.
Why is Permanent Campaigning so Beneficial?
Permanent campaigning is beneficial for a number of reasons: firstly, it allows you to stay connected to your voters, donors and followers even after election day has passed. By continuing to host fundraising events, regular meetings, and digital communications with your supporters, you can maintain and even strengthen the strong relationships you built with those who helped you throughout your time campaigning. This will boost your chances of having support for any initiatives you may want to introduce in these periods in between elections.
Secondly, permanent campaigning is particularly beneficial for building a strong foundation of support ahead of future elections. Whether you won or lost the last election, it won’t be long before there’s a new one around the corner- so why not take the time in between to increase your chances of succeeding, even if the election date is years away? By continuing to connect with those who voted for you in the previous election, and making new efforts to convince those who didn’t, you’ll stay fresh in the minds of your community, thereby increasing your chances of succeeding in future elections to come.
The benefits posed by permanent campaigning have increasingly made it a key staple of the modern campaigner’s election strategy. So how exactly can it be done? The number of ways you can begin your permanent campaign journey are endless, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the key methods below:
The Key Ways to Campaign Permanently
- Maintain Strong Social Media Accounts: increasingly, social media is becoming a vital tool throughout the campaigning process. Within the permanent campaign context, it’s even more essential. As more traditional forms of media such as television and print are less likely to cover your efforts during non-election periods, it’s important to maintain a channel of communication that allows your community to see the work you're doing in these less politically active periods. Social media is perfect for doing just that, while also providing you with a means of connecting with a wider audience of people that you may not normally have access to.
- Build a Strong Online Personal Brand: another key way to maintain a permanent campaign is to build a strong online presence through posting regular blog and website updates reflecting on the work you’ve completed in recent months. This ensures that a consistent stream of content is available to your community, thereby guaranteeing that you stay fresh in the public consciousness while also making your locality aware of the recent work you’ve contributed to the community.
- Continue to Reach Out to Supporters: even after the election results have been announced, your supporters need to know you’re still present to them and continue to care about their concerns and needs. By maintaining contact through hosting regular meetings, fundraising events and information sessions between election periods, you can ensure that your supporters will continue to back you ahead of the next election. This will also increase the chances of them spreading your message to their own networks of contacts too, further improving your chances of future election success!
Election results are not the product of a few weeks’ worth of canvassing; they are the product of months, even years, of interactions, fundraising events and organized actions that you have engaged in ahead of election day. The connections you make with your community, and the effort you put into maintaining these, can determine who turns out to polling stations on D Day. That’s why permanent campaigning is so important: ensuring that your community knows you are there for them both before, throughout and after campaigning periods is a surefire way to guarantee their continued support, and to spread your messaging even further. So before you call it a day on campaigning without an election in sight, think about the effects permanent campaigning could have on your long term appeal and reputation. It could serve you well in a future election!