A funny quirk of being a press staffer on campaigns is that as everyone else’s work slows down, you tend to be the last person on the team that still has responsibilities.
Weeks before the election is when press finally tunes in to your race, typically. That is when fundraising is kind of wrapping up, the paid media team has put their last ads to bed and sent their final mailers to the printer.
As you round the corner to a week before Election Day, the field team is scrambling for GOTV and you are trying to juggle press requests for reporters that just figured out they need to do a piece and get a photographer to follow your candidate while they knock doors. Come Election Night, there is less and less for people to do - a few folks will be stressed out in a back room, watching returns come in or tracking the numbers by precincts, but most of the rest of the team is off at a bar somewhere, celebrating that their hard work is over.
That is when the press person truly becomes last man standing. Organizing an Election Night Party to the best of your ability that gives the press what it needs to make your candidate look great is the most important thing you can do for your candidate. Here are a few tips:
First and most importantly, accept before the night begins that you are going to be stone-cold sober, and possibly one of the only people in the room that is. I have seen Election Nights go south because results are bad, or too close to call. Total sobriety is the only way to deal with that, so no matter how many other people are drinking around you and offer you a drink, just say no.
Your job is to make your candidate look good and get the press what they need. Photographer on deadline and results aren’t in yet? Figure out how to stage a photo for them. Make sure your candidate has her make up on and is in some decent lighting. Hold their purse or phone for them. Try to make sure the party is in a place that has outlets and wifi so press can do their jobs. Have your candidate talk to reporters, win or lose, after results are called. Their supporters and voters deserve to hear from them, so make some kind of scrum available.
Brand the space. Obviously everyone in the room knows what party they are at, but in photos or television shots, an image of a yard sign or rally sign with the candidates logo on it will help viewers and readers know what they are looking at. Pass out rally signs to other folks standing in the background of photos if you can’t hang them on the walls.
Prepare for a late night. If your candidate was too superstitious to write remarks or a statement in advance, bring your laptop and write something for them to approve. Definitely release the remarks that were given, or a statement, after results are final so press not in attendance have something to report on. Keep checking in with the working press at the party to see if they have what they need. Questions will come up, like “Who was the person that introduced her at the podium? Can you get his title? Who is she hugging in this picture, can you get her name?” and you need to be responsive, even as it gets late into the night.
As the press person, you are probably not having the most fun at a party, but your job is vital — so rise to the occasion! It is an honor to get to help a candidate who just won on their big night. And those happy Election Night clips are important for their next campaign, so it is worthwhile to deliver the best coverage you can.
I want to thank Councilwoman Erika Strassburger and State Senator-elect Lindsey Williams for allowing me to be a part of their teams on their big nights. Those nights were definitely some of my 2018 highlights and I’m grateful that I was able to help two great women celebrate their victories. Here’s to more success in 2019 and beyond!