Every election cycle is different and as times change, so should your strategies in ensuring success at the ballot box. One strategy that is growing in importance is building alliances with well-respected, third-party groups in your community. These groups range from local businesses, civic groups and even other local governments.
When it comes to other local governments, there was a time when many just flatly stayed out of it and remained neutral on another local entity’s ballot issue. These days, more and more local government “peers” are questioning and even opposing another’s levy request. Why is this happening more often? A big reason is the economy and the continued reduction of support of local governments from the state, not to mention a smaller tax base due to the loss of local business taxes and the elimination of the estate tax. In other words, everyone is fighting for the same pot of money and that pot has been dramatically shrinking over the years.
How do you deal with this? Make it a priority to meet and discuss challenges with these groups. The more informed they are, the more likely they will either remain neutral or become supportive of your efforts. If they question things, make sure you respond. Ongoing dialogue is critical to building and maintaining this important relationship.
Also, make sure the public is informed before any other group can frame the message and create doubt in the community. Be proactive about communicating the facts about yourself so you do not find yourself reacting and responding to criticism and ultimately, losing control of the message. Politics often play a major role in these relationships and you can’t control everything. However, the more “out there” you are with your communications and outreach, the more effective you will be in “weatherproofing” yourself from criticism. A long-term comprehensive communications plan that includes a strategy to work with other local groups will help you in building positive relationships and ultimately help lead to a victory at the ballot box on election day.