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Stages of a Campaign


Disciplines > Politics > Campaigns > Stages of a Campaign

Define identity | Establish legitimacy | Create participation | Achieve penetration | Become an institution | See also


There are five stages for starting a campaign, whether it is a political campaign or an advertising campaign. This is also known as the 'Yale Development Model.'

Define identity

The first stage for setting up a campaign is to be very clear about who you are and what you stand for. People will join your campaign only if they can identity with it, forming a close bond with it.

Defining identity means considering what the values and beliefs of the organization will be. You are, in effect, setting up a new 'person', and considering the whole personality can be a useful activity.

Think about the visual triggers that will say who you are. Use a clear color theme. Define a logo that aligns with the identity. Define slogans that both look good and resonate in an auditory sense.

Also think about how to differentiate your identity from that of others. When people look at the campaign it should portray a very distinct personality that separates it from other campaigns.

Establish legitimacy

Create legitimacy for the campaign so people will take it seriously and accept it as a valid thing. If you are in an existing party or are using a known brand, then you will automatically already have the legitimacy of that party or brand. If you are in a party, get the sponsorship of its leading members.

Remember your personal legitimacy too. Maybe you are well qualified to speak as you do. Maybe you have long experience.

Seek further power through alliances. Ensure your policies and other elements of identity are aligned with those of your allies (and vice versa). You can also ally with ideas of the day, joining with them and showing that you are supporting good causes.

One reason you need strong legitimacy is because your opponents will try to destroy it. Consider how they might do this and prepare accordingly. Know what skeletons you have in the cupboard and either hide them well or get them out early to prevent others using them against you.

Create participation

Invite and recruit people to join your campaign. Display your identity and show how allying with it will be good for them. Give them opportunities to become involved, creating a sense of investment. Give them small gifts or do them favors to create a dynamic of exchange or to establish your as a good or helpful. Ask them to display symbols of the campaign (which also increases their identification with it).

Participation is particularly important early on as you cannot do everything yourself and gaining more active hands will multiply the number of further participative members you can recruit.

Achieve penetration

Build mass and momentum that will carry you forward and drag in bystanders and anyone in your path. Create a machine that runs by itself, with slick processes of recruitment and retention that will keep the path rolling.

Penetration does not need significant participation of the newer recruits, as the main officers and activists of the campaign would be recruited in the previous stage. In the penetration stage, what you really want is visible membership that continues to convince slower people that this is the place to be. Social rules lead to people fearing being left behind and joining not really because they believe in the ideals but because this is where the party is or that where they are standing is no longer fashionable.

Become an institution

Finally, and if appropriate (as many campaigns have a limited duration) create continuity and permanence that says 'we are here to stay'. Establish long-term goals and strategies. Acquire an imposing headquarters. Set up fixed processes for handling bureaucratic elements of work.

See also

Bonding principle, Investment principle


Binder, L. (1971). Crisis and sequence in political development. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press


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