Political consultants, and consultants in general, often exist behind the scenes; but make no mistake, they have as great an impact on the success of campaigns as anything else. If not more.
Political consultants are to campaigns what producers are to movies. They’re not the star power nor the directors managing the day-to-day, but the final product has their fingerprints all over it. Consultants often influence fundraising campaigns (with money being the primary resource for all campaign operations), election strategy, campaign management, lobbying, and all the auxiliary elements that produce a winning campaign.
Lobbyists, special interest groups, and political consultants influence the success or failure of campaigns, making the collective a powerful harbinger and arbiter of our elected officials. These political producers are so influential; it wouldn’t be hyperbolic to dub them our ‘4th branch of government’.
In this article, we will look at why political consulting is important and the most relevant questions that come with it.
What is political consulting?
Political consulting provides advice, guidance, and support to political campaigns, candidates, and other organizations with political agendas. Political consultants offer services such as campaign planning and execution, voter targeting, data analysis, fundraising, campaign finance management, public relations and media management and strategic planning.
The consultants also advise on ethics, legal considerations, and other important issues facing political campaigns and organizations.
What are some of consultants’ typical jobs and roles in political campaigns?
Consultants can take many forms and often serve as utility players, jumping in and helping where needed. But what a campaign ‘needs’ is largely predictable, which means political consultants can specialize and provide specific expertise, while others may be more general consultants.
The same way you see a doctor who is a general practitioner for annual checkups but may seek out a cardiologist to check out that pain in your chest (which typically flares up every two years, oddly enough). Political consultants work the same way. Some are better for general and broad political consulting topics, while others can be called to work on specific elements that political campaigns deal with.
Here’s a look at some specialized areas consultants support through their work.
Fundraising consultants would be at the top if we had to rank political consultants in importance to the campaign. Without money, nothing else functions. Having the most money doesn’t guarantee political victory, but no campaign has ever functioned without it, let alone won. Political consultants specializing in fundraising can advise on everything from major gifts to grassroots organizing and fundraising.
Political consultants specializing in voter targeting can advise your campaign on the political climate you’re campaigning into. Consider this consultant for your research team. This person is part of the advanced team, the scouts that assess voter targeting tactics based on data analysis.
Like voter targeting, vote engagement consultants advise the campaign on persuading and mobilizing the voters you’re targeting. More than just running the numbers is required; you must engage these voters and drive action and votes. Voter engagement consultants assist with everything from political advertising to messaging, speechwriting and debate prep, public relations, and media management. Anything that can engage voters, any public expression made by the campaign, is tasked to the voter engagement consultant.
While there is certainly overlap in some of these roles (again, much like doctors with specializations), public relations consultants often work hand in hand with voter engagement efforts. Voter engagement often focuses on micro-messaging tactics like grassroots fundraising and political canvassing, while public relations deals with macro events with large audiences. Things like commercials, interviews, in-person events, and any political marketing aimed at an audience larger than one; are all handled by public relations consultants.
These consultants help with the above by garnering support from committees, businesses, and political action groups. Lobbying consultants are power brokers and matchmakers. Their job is to advocate for your campaign, seek out those with shared values and influence decision-makers to align their support behind your candidate. Support can take many forms, from direct cash infusion (fundraising) to providing manpower for field operations (voter engagement). Lobbying consultants can address general and specific issues by fostering relationships between appropriate parties.
What is the impact of political consultants on elections and our government?
Political consultants (including lobbyists) are effectively the 4th branch of government. First, they influence who gets elected, which dictates what policies comprise the Overton window.
Then they can influence decisions on specific policies even after someone is elected. This is because elected officials only stay elected by continuing to win elections. At every level, elected officials are forced to run for reelection every 2 to 4 and sometimes 6 years.
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So if your job depended on the support of consultants every few years, you’d be incentivized to stay in their favor and in favor of the organizations and companies they may represent. Specifically, when it comes to fundraising to support campaigns, political consultants and lobbyists can be in control of the purse.
And while the pen may be mightier than the sword, the purse buys the pen in the first place!
What are the ethical considerations and controversies surrounding political consulting?
What are ethics, and do the ends justify the means? Those are the real questions being considered here. Because ethics are in the eye of the beholder, and while the ends may justify the means, what if I don’t agree with the ends?
Political consultants can help elect good people through honest political messaging, legal campaign tactics, and honest money. At some point, every person you’ve ever voted for was helped by political consultants. But the opposite is also true. Political consultants have helped the candidate you didn’t vote for the win. They’re also often behind dark money, smear campaigns and attack ads.
Since political consultants are just assistants to the campaign, your view of them depends entirely on your view of the campaign and the candidates themselves. Those who help the candidate you support are the good guys, and those who haven’t made a deal with the devil. All’s fair in love and war, so I support any means necessary to elect the candidate I like. But if the other side uses similar tactics, that’s crossing the line, and they should be disqualified!
Our own bias influences this question more than anything else, so I’ll defer to you, the reader, on what is or is not ethical about political consulting.
Who are the top players in the field?
As HubDialer is proudly and unapologetically Democratic and progressive, here’s a list of the best Democratic and progressive political consultants:
Precision Strategies in Washington D.C. and New York
Precision Strategies is one of the most successful political consulting firms for federal democratic campaigns. Precision Strategies is the firm behind the campaign success of former President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Global Strategy Group | NYC, D.C., Chicago, Denver, Seattle, And Hertford
Global Strategy Group (GSG) is a powerful and effective consulting firm with six offices across the United States. It works with politicians, political campaigns, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Fortune 100 companies, and nonprofit groups.
GMMB | Washington D.C. And Seattle
GMMB specializes in creating an impact that is impossible to ignore. The firm holds one of the highest regard in Washington for successful work with activist groups, politicians, corporations, and nonprofits. GMMB stands out for its expertise in building grassroots movements.
The Politics Company Inc | Washington DC
The Politics Company Inc is located in Washington, DC. The firm specializes in political fundraising, consultation, and strategizing for Democratic candidates. The firm has a proven track record of success with PAC fundraising, voter modelling, and target analysis.
McGruder Harris | Washington DC
McGruder Harris is a full-service political firm in Washington DC that works on Democratic campaigns for office. The firm offers a turn-key campaign managing service, specializing in communication strategy, data analysis, digital marketing, advertising, and coalition building.
Bouchard Gold Communications | Alexandria, VA
Located in Alexandria, Virginia, Bouchard Gold Communications is one of the best political persuasion mail services for Democratic campaigns. The firm has won awards for its commitment to customers, design expertise, and strategy.
The influence of political consultants on campaign tools
Political consultants greatly impact which tools campaigns choose to use throughout a campaign. After all, you’ve paid them to consult, so you’ll likely go with the tool they recommend.
Depending on the nature of the task and the scope of the consulting agreement (general or specific), some consultants will advise the campaign on which tools to choose, while others will come prepared with a toolbox in hand (a preferred vendors list).
For instance, when it comes to calling campaigns, consultants of all sizes and types often choose HubDialer because of its versatility (ability to customize campaign permissions and parent/child account relationships) and ease of use.
When selecting which tool to use for calling campaigns, consultants have to consider the campaign volunteers that will be using said tool every day. HubDialer is well established as the most user-friendly tool in the market, with ample tutorial videos and best-in-class support. You can read more about why consultants recommend HubDialer to their clients.
What does the future of political consulting look like?
Political consultants aren’t going anywhere. The consulting industry is powerful and will keep influencing political races on all levels indefinitely. So long as there are elections, there will be political consultants.
What will change is the areas in which they specialize. Just 20 years ago, political consultants wouldn’t use social media for fundraising. And before that, political advertisements were only found in newspapers, and there wasn’t a need for public relations consultants specializing in commercial messaging.
The future of political consulting depends entirely on what new technology emerges. Any method of communication and political digital marketing can be used by political consultants to target and galvanize voters. The first to put billboards in space wins!
So what does it all mean?
As you can see – the scope of activities political consultants cover is very wide. Consultants provide advice, guidance, and support to political campaigns, candidates, and other organizations with political agendas.
Whatever form of support they take, consultants are more influential on the outcome of a campaign than the candidates themselves.
Even very small decisions political consultants make can influence a campaign outcome. Every political campaign will occasionally use phone banking and calls to reach out and influence voting decisions. If the volunteers can’t use or need to learn how to use tools like predictive dialers, the campaign effectiveness will be limited, and the key measures, such as the vote goal, won’t be reached.
While there are plenty of great options for Democratic and progressive consultants, HubDialer is the tool they choose when it comes to calling campaigns. Sign up for a free trial and see how easy it is for campaign managers to connect with voters.