Politics & Society

What Are the Different Roles on a Political Campaign? Learn About Various Different Campaign Staff

Written by MasterClass

Jun 24, 2019 • 4 min read

Political campaigns are huge logistical operations requiring large staffs and an organized hierarchy. If you’re thinking about entering the world of politics professionally, it’s important to understand the various positions on a political campaign.

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Common Campaign Staff Positions

  • Campaign Manager: The campaign manager is responsible for creating, implementing, and overseeing a campaign’s strategic plan. The manager reports directly to the candidate and is responsible for conducting the campaign in accordance with the candidate’s mission, vision, and values. The campaign manager is responsible for making certain that the campaign is organized to make decisions effectively, efficiently, and quickly and must have final approval (next to the candidate) of the budget and all sponsoring decisions. With the help of advisors and consultants, the campaign manager: Writes the campaign plan; Hires and manages the core team responsible for the campaign’s operation; Makes strategic and tactical decisions throughout the race.
  • Political consultants: These are experts in particular areas of planning and running campaigns who take on advisory roles. Campaigns hire consultants when existing staff and volunteers do not have sufficient expertise or time, or when it is financially advantageous versus adding staff. In a state-wide race, for example, a campaign might draw on the assistance of consultants in areas where the candidate, key supporters, and staff have few connections and little experience. Consultants can be freelancers or work for outside firms. There are consultants available for every imaginable function of a campaign, but common consultants are listed below.
  • General consultant. If a campaign has a general consultant, he or she typically aids the candidate and the managers in developing the campaign strategy and plan, and then helps navigate major issues and events. Sometimes, they also oversee the advertising and messaging. A general consultant might be a former campaign manager possessing extensive knowledge and experience, and he or she may work across multiple campaigns simultaneously.
  • Fundraising consultant. Advises the finance director on strategy and planning for fundraising. The consultant is generally someone known to the donor network and has experience in introducing candidates to potential donors, hosts for events, and bundlers. They may also know how to organize events, call programs, mail, and internet fundraising.
  • Media consultant. Advises on messaging, and strategy, and handles the creation of advertisements. Campaigns will most commonly hire consultants with expertise in specific types of media, including television, digital/online, direct mail, and radio. Campaigns may also retain firms that place ads on televisions, cable, or digital.
  • Communications Director. The communications director leads the communications team, and oversees all campaign interactions with media outlets and members of the press. On a small campaign, the communications director handles press themselves; on a larger campaign, the communications team is generally comprised of several aides, who share information with journalists and editors to generate press coverage for the campaign. Communications may also be responsible for all social media and web activity, ensuring that the campaign is heard online and that the campaign’s message is advanced across all platforms. Communications also corrects or refutes adverse or inaccurate information. The communications director reports to the Campaign Manager.
  • Field director. Leads a campaign’s grassroots organization. At the start of a campaign, the field director designs a field plan, which lays out tasks to achieve goals for voter identification, persuasion, and turnout among target groups. Canvassing and GOTV efforts are part of the field plan. During the campaign, the field director manages field organizers and reports to the campaign manager.
  • Field organizer. A field organizer recruits, trains, and manages the volunteers in the grassroots effort to identify, persuade, and mobilize targeted voters. Field organizers also recruit other volunteers. Field organizers report to the field director and are most commonly assigned specific geographical areas.
  • Finance director. Responsible for creating and executing a campaign’s fundraising plan. The campaign’s fundraising goals are driven by the projected funds needed to carry out all aspects of a campaign’s operation, balanced against what’s possible to raise. Finance directors work closely with campaign managers to define goals and make strategic and tactical adjustments over the course of a race. Finance directors tend to manage a portion of the candidate’s time for personal fundraising appeals.
  • Social media director. Plans and executes strategies and tactics for reaching target audiences over social media platforms. On some campaigns, the social media function falls within the communications department, but it can often be a consultant role or a senior function that reports directly to the campaign manager.
  • Speech writer. Writes speeches for the candidate and perhaps also for representatives of the campaign. The speech writer works closely with the candidate and campaign manager and also with policy advisors, researchers, and communications staff. Reports to the campaign manager or director of communications.
  • Pollster. The pollster is responsible for conducting the campaign’s survey research and focus groups, analyzing the results, and interpreting their implications for campaign messaging and strategy. Typically reports to the campaign manager.
  • Treasurer/controller. Campaign laws require a treasurer to sign the campaign finance reports, certifying their accuracy. In a smaller campaign, that function may be combined with the controller’s duties, which include paying bills, overseeing the deposit of contributions, managing the budget, and ensuring compliance with campaign finance laws, including the preparation of any campaign finance reports of donations and expenses.
  • Policy advisor. Does research to help develop and shape the candidate’s public policy agenda. The policy advisor reports to the campaign manager, and may also work with the speech writer or communications director to craft messages for the campaign.
  • Scheduler. Manages the candidate’s calendar. All requests for the candidate’s time go through the scheduler, who works closely with the campaign Manager and the candidate to prioritize.

Bear in mind that these positions may not exist on every single campaign—it depends on the size of campaign, which is impacted by the type of election the candidate is running in. Learn more about campaign strategy for all elections in David Axelrod and Karl Rove’s MasterClass.