Here’s today’s tip: Hire a professional to execute thorough opposition research and a vulnerability study early in the campaign.
There are a lot of areas within campaigns where I routinely encourage campaigns to keep things in-house. In a lot of cases, you’re able to save money and achieve an equal or greater quality level in areas like canvassing, fundraising, etc. However, vulnerability and opposition research are not in that class.
I’ve interviewed several folks who work in this world on my How to Run for Office podcast and hope you’ll check them out. But suffice it to say, this is an area where there is always going to be a qualitative difference between the work product of a professional and a beginner.
Each of these two research realms involve identifying and looking under various rocks, trying to locate that hardest to find, often intentionally hidden, nuggets about someone. In terms of opposition research, what you find or don’t find will have a huge impact on the arch of your campaign messaging and your efforts to differentiate yourself from your opponent.
When considering the vulnerability study, the differences are even more stark. As the candidate, you are the wort person to identify your areas of weakness. When you look in the mirror, you can rationalize every wrinkle or blemish on your record or character. Easily turning them all into lessons learned or proof of tenacity.
But voters won’t see things the same way you do. If you don’t analyze your background and self through a very harsh lense, you won’t be able to anticipate your weaknesses and vectors of attack opponents may take. If done correctly, however, you’ll be able to pre-plan responses or preemptively detonate problems before the opposition takes aim.
When a candidate or someone inside their tight circle of trust handles opposition or vulnerability research, the results are virtually always skewed. Opposition research is conducted through the eye of someone who already hates the subject and will assume the worst. The vulnerability study however will view the candidate in an overly charitable light. When combined, these defects will leave a campaign blind to both the right way to attack and defend.
Hire a professional to execute opposition and vulnerability research. Your race and budget will determine what you can or should spend, but if conducted properly, these will be central strategic pillars of your campaign. It’s too important to leave to amateurs.