It turns out political campaigns have more in common with startups than you might think. Back in August, Uber turned heads by hiring David Plouffe, the tech-savvy campaign manager behind Obama’s big win in 2008. Though many were baffled what the mobile cab company was doing getting into bed with a political strategist, there’s actually a lot of high-growth startups can learn from political campaigns.
1) Look for “scrappy” employees
If one thing is true about political campaign culture, it’s that being “scrappy” is a huge advantage in the competitive political workplace. The same qualities that make a successful political campaigner — possessing an entrepreneurial drive, willing to take risks, and ready for anything — also translate well to start-up employees. In the fast-paced world of start-ups, being able to take risks and adapt to new situations the box is not just a plus, it’s a requirement.
2) Know where you want to end up
The point of a political campaign is — obviously — to beat everyone else and get your candidate in office. This means that every decision, no matter how small, is made with the end goal of the election in mind. For startups, making goals is just as important. Setting out to accomplish something big requires everyone on your team to throw their weight in the same direction — whether your startup is seeking an exit, acquisition, or certain funding targets, setting out with a solid goal in mind is key. Like political campaigning, things at a startup can often move fast — you should know where you’re headed.
3) Recognize the power of New Media
It seems like politicians usually get slack for being slow to adapt to social and new media outlets — their advisors, however, clearly know what a big deal social media is and will continue to be in political elections. In fact, many of the social media strategies used by political campaigns have been adopted by startups. Remember: it was the 2008 Presidential Election which proved that new media would play a massive role in reshaping the way organizations communicate with large groups of people. The digital outreach and viral politics strategies used by campaigners has paved the way for startups to target and reach out to their consumer bases through social media.
4) Branding execution is key
In politics, it doesn’t matter if your candidate has a foolproof plan for world peace — she or he can’t get accomplish anything without well-executed personal branding strategy and name recognition. Candidates must prove that they possess personality, credibility, and integrity throughout the election cycle if they want to make it into office. The same general idea goes for startups: a great product or service won’t get very far off the ground without solid branding and a good PR strategy. Building a distinguished brand personality, credibility in your product/service, and integrity in business practices go a long way towards establishing a successful startup.