A Guide to Collaborating with Businesses

Partnerships, sponsorships, associations: whatever your campaign decides to name them, relationships are the lifeblood of politics. Creating strong connections with people bolsters you in meeting the goals of your cause and winning elections. We see it in every presidential election, and the most recent one was no different. High-profile businesses and organizations like Nike or UFC came out in support of each candidate. Celebrities did as well. Superstars Beyonce and Jay Z endorsed democratic candidate Hillary Clinton while macho-man Chuck Norris endorsed Donald Trump in noteworthy announcements that created much news buzz.

Having celebrity endorsements is, without doubt, a huge advantage, especially if you run a small campaign. But at the end of the day, running a campaign requires a lot of time, people and money-- resources that you may not have easy access to. This is why business sponsorships and endorsements will be your lifeline. Having businesses on your side is a way to gain resources and voters while running a campaign on a budget. It's also a way to get more involved in your community and constituency by mutually supporting the businesses that keep the economy healthy.

Business-politician relationships are the kind that last, and you'll need to make plenty of them if you want to get elected or stay in office. We're here to help you with some tips on how to cultivate and maintain these relationships. Here is a four-step guide to collaborating with another business or organization.

Step 1: Brainstorm

What type of candidate are you? Are you hard-nosed or more empathetic? Would you call yourself trendy or more old-fashioned? Are you bipartisan or do you just go with the flow? Your campaign probably asks these questions of itself on a daily basis; it's a way to keep your platform and campaign as consistent and reliable as possible. But this time, reframe the questions in your mind as if your campaign were actually a business. Analyze your demographic, and determine your brand.

Be honest.

Make sure to be honest with yourself, your campaign, and your demographic. While you may have a perfect idea of what you want your brand to be, make sure it's still in touch with your constituents. If you want your brand to be a trendy, progressive campaign in a conservative, old-fashioned town, you might want to rethink it. It's always crucial to bring about change and new ideas to a political discourse, but only as long as you're still accurately and responsibly representing the wants and needs of your district.

Once you've decided on your brand, do a little research and learn what businesses in your constituency match it. You can use text message marketing to conduct surveys of your supporters to see what places they go, things they do, and most importantly businesses they patronize. Also look at the demographics of your followers; for example, if your supporters are middle-class women of color, you might want to consider a few businesses that have a similar demographic of patronage. Create a list of possible businesses to approach, and make sure it's a long one.

Step 2: Reach Out

Once you've created your list of businesses you want to reach out to, be sure to arrange them by priority. Put the businesses you're most interested in, or in need of, at the top and put the ones that you could do without at the bottom. You'll want to reach out to each business in this order to make sure that you're not scrambling for important sponsorships later on.

When you reach out to businesses, make sure that your have an objective in mind. Cold calling an organization and vaguely asking for support is obviously a no go. Think about upcoming campaign events or venues, and concrete ways that these businesses could get involved. For example, if you're planning on reaching out to a popular diner, ask if they wouldn't mind donating food or offering it at a discounted price for a fundraiser that you're spearheading. You could also just come to them with a cool idea; for example, if you're reaching out to a clothing store, offer to collaborate with them on creating fun campaign merchandise like t-shirts or bandanas.

Plan for both sides to benefit.

Always make sure to have a plan that will benefit the businesses you're reaching out to. Whether you're giving them exposure to the community or more profit, be upfront about how you're going to help them. Realistically, that's the first question they're likely to ask your campaign when you reach out. How will this benefit our business? Be prepared, and anticipate their questions and needs. Do this not just because you want the sponsorship, but also because you genuinely want to support these businesses. You've already determined that your demographic supports these businesses; you don't want to pull one over on them or see them fail. A partnership can always be a win-win if you approach it in that way.

Step 3: Follow Through

Do what your campaign promises. Don't be sleazy, and most importantly follow through on your end of the bargain. While a lot of politicians might dip out the moment they get what they want, this actually ends up hurting them in the long run. Don't give yourself a bad reputation; help these businesses you're partnered with. Go above and beyond. If you go above and beyond for them now, you can expect them to go above and beyond for you in the future.

Stick to the plan.

Be organized, efficient and straightforward. Have a plan and stick to it. While your campaign might have one way of doing things on its own, adding another organization into the mix can create a whole other wave of dynamics to consider. Make sure your team is in tip-top shape, and make the event or collaboration a good experience on both ends. A business won't want to work again with a campaign if the collaboration is jumbled and unorganized. It turns out to be more trouble than it's worth in the end. Make the experience one that a business will crave in the future; be the candidate of which a business will say "we love working with them."

Try to give employees of your partnered businesses benefits for working with you at your event. If you're at a rally or festival, create your own sponsorship chalet to thank them for helping you out. Give them a tent with fans or shade in the summer, or maybe a heated trailer in the winter. Be zealous in your efforts to thank them and show them appreciation at every turn. At the end of the day, they didn't have to help you. They chose to, and that's pretty great.

Step 4: Follow Up

Always make sure that even after the event, you're keeping in touch with these businesses. Try to visit them, and buy their products or services every now and again. Don't just forget about them after all is said and done. You don't want to have the reputation of running a campaign just to use people. Also, you never know when you might need a helping hand in the future. Maybe later in down the line, you'll be running another campaign or know someone who's running a campaign. That's when you can reconnect with these businesses to mutually benefit again.

Don't be a user.

Creating relationships with businesses is the gift that keeps on giving. If you show yourself to be a politician or candidate that makes real connections, then people will trust you and continue to give you support. Publicly thank them for their donations, or shout them out in your political campaign text messages. Either way, keep the support going beyond just the one interaction.

You can also cite these businesses for feedback of your events or campaign in general. See what they have to say from the perspective of an organization, and use that input to improve your campaign or even just your future events. Most feedback you receive is most likely from someone either extremely for or extremely against your cause. Receiving feedback from businesses you're in partnership can give you a clear-minded and focused opinion. Not to mention, you give the impression of a politician that actually values the words and input of the organizations in support of you. Not only do you improve because of feedback, but you gain trust because you're asking for it.

Beyond Bipartisanship

Nowadays it seems like conservatives are pro-business and liberals are pro-government, but reality doesn't reflect this idea. Supporting businesses is a win for the economy, and it's a bipartisan move for every politician.

Sometimes it seems like businesses and elected officials go head-to-head with each other, but the reality of that relationship is quite the contraire. All in all, business and government, when they work together, actually make an excellent match. Beyond the election, businesses can provide a stronger foundation for your community if they support you. Be a candidate that takes these businesses seriously, and tries to make meaningful connections with them for the good of the community.