The Bureau of Labor Statistics describes a political advisor as a consultant who provides services to candidates running for public office. At the top of the profession, senior consultants are involved with campaign strategy. Junior consultants specialize in one of four tracks: fund raising, media relations, polling and opposition research. According to the BLS, most occupations in politics require at least a bachelor’s degree for an entry-level position. Students interested in becoming political advisors should major in political science, government or communications.
A senior political advisor should have at least 10 years of experience in the profession and a deep understanding of campaign issues. He will either be the campaign director or report directly to him. His job is to offer an analysis of the client’s campaign, message and media persona and then formulate and implement an election strategy using two main resources: media time and financial support. He will also be responsible for developing the candidate’s public image by enhancing her strengths and coaching her in debate performances and how to interact with voters.
In implementing his strategy, a senior consultant or campaign director will need a team of specialist consultants. The most important of these are the fund raisers. A fund raiser must contact donors and persuade them to donate to the campaign. She must spend a lot of time on the phone with potential backers or meet them face to face. This is a high-pressure role because successful political campaigns might cost millions of dollars. The fund raising specialist must also be able to coordinate face-to-face meetings between big donors and the candidate.
Once the donations start rolling in a senior political consultant will either enlist the help of a media relations specialist or handle the job himself. In this role, he will organize press conferences, commission campaign advertisements and buy air time on TV and radio. He must manage press coverage in a way that ensures that the central campaign message gets out and that media exposure is positive. Additionally, a media consultant will have to implement online and social media strategies.
Polling Specialist and Opposition Researcher
A political advisor might also act as polling specialist by conducting ongoing surveys to assess if the media campaign is working. A polling specialists designs the polls, oversees their implementation, collects the data, interprets it and presents it to the campaign director. Most polling surveys are done over the phone or by e-mail. An opposition researcher specializes in studying rival campaigns and candidates. He will go through records to find information that gives his candidate an advantage over her rivals and also uncover information that might damage the other campaigns.