Libertarian State Leadership Alliance

County Organizing Manual

County Organizing Manual

Second Edition

by Gene A. Cisewski

© 2001 Gene Cisewski. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book in whole or in part, in any form, except inclusion of brief quotations in a review.

This version is authorized for reproduction by George Phillies and the Liberty Congressional Political Action Committee for distribution as part of their Libertarian Candidate Support CDROM. Distribution in media other than CDROM, or other than as part of the complete Libertarian Candidate Support CDROM, such as public distribution via the World Wide Web, is not authorized by this release. For information or additional copies, write to Candidates are authorized to reproduce this manual for their staffs.

Table of Contents

Structuring Your Party Organization


Political Party Structure - Overview

Libertarian National Committee, Inc.

The Libertarian National Committee raises money, staffs a national office, produces some periodicals, and obtains ballot access for presidential campaigns.

Libertarian Party Regions

The Libertarian Party has eight regions. They are proportional, based upon paid-up memberships. Each region has a representative who serves on the National Committee. There is no structure or strategy to these units as they are recreated at every national convention by the states forming their own alliances. Not every state is always represented in a region.

Libertarian Party State Committees

Each state party should have one Committee responsible for the party operations within that state. Most states have an active, identifiable committee.

Libertarian Party Congressional District Committees

Few state party's have Congressional District Committees. These are used very effectively by the two major parties as vehicles to coordinate counties within the Congressional District; provide proportional, grassroots representation to the state committee; and very importantly, to field and run candidates for Congress.

Libertarian Party County Committees

This is the unit in political party structure on which this manual concentrates. Counties are often the lowest units of formal political structure (but the counties should also support their own ward organizations as a part of the county structure), with a couple of exceptions. First, some counties will charter city, village, and town organizations. Secondly, in large metropolitan areas, counties are often broken down into smaller units based on practical political subdivisions, i.e. Congressional Districts, State Legislative Districts, Commissioner Districts, or Wards, coming together as a whole only to select county-wide candidates.

Ward Organizations

The ward (or precinct, depending on your jurisdiction) is the smallest unit in the American political system. It is a subdivision of a county, town or city created by the local government. All voters living in the same precinct vote at the same location. All of their votes are tallied together. Consequently, the basic unit of all political organizations is the ward even though they fall under the county organization structure.

Organization at the this level is fundamental to any successful political party or campaign. There is no substitute for hard work. To locate Libertarian voters, to register them so they are eligible to vote, and to actually bring them to the polls, you have to identify them in the precinct. This has been true since the ballot box was invented. Despite today's TV campaigning, mass mailings, newspaper advertising, and electioneering gimmicks, there is still NO substitute for down-to-earth, house-to-house, person-to-person ward work. Only at the ward level is there the PERSONAL CONTACT which aids, builds and develops the Libertarian cause.

Once you have your county organized, it will be important to develop miniature organizations modeled somewhat like your county committee on the ward level. Your ward leaders will contribute the most, in the long run, to membership recruitment, campaign activities, poll watching, and all of the other grassroots activities vital to becoming a winning political party.


County Structure

The County Committees are elected in their LP county caucus. The Chair, 1st Vice Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer and other such members are selected to serve as the local Constitution may provide. The state Libertarian Party carries on Party business through an organizational setup of committees (organizations) in all counties of the state. Some degree of control is exercised over county committees since each county is granted a charter by the state executive committee. This may be suspended or revoked if officers or members of that county fail or refuse to carry out their responsibilities.

Each county unit must have a chair, vice chair, secretary, and a treasurer as mentioned. In addition, most committees should have a finance chair. The committees meet regularly to promote membership, carry on candidate recruitment and campaign activities, fulfill requirements for proper election procedures, and cooperate with the state organization through its officers. Committees may have other officers to carry on fund raising projects, campaigns, and other activities at their own option.

The organizational setup in large, metropolitan counties may be different due to the population and size of the metropolitan area. In these highly populated localities, the county may have an entire set of lower units based upon practical geographic divisions, such as congressional districts, legislative districts, commissioner districts, or wards.

Generally, a county caucus is an event held once a year or once every two years. All party members in good standing residing within the county elect a county executive committee and officers at this time. The executive committee is made up of the officers outlined above as well as additional representatives to reflect the entire county's population and membership.


Duties of the County Executive Committee

The county executive committee serves as the "board of directors" of the party organization. They have the authority to transact any necessary business between meetings and caucuses. The executive committee should make recommendations for appointments from their county and advise the chair.

These people have the responsibility to fill vacancies in their Party organization that occur between elections. The county executive committee completes the slate of delegates and alternates to the state and congressional district conventions as appropriate, (as we grow large enough to govern, the day will come, when we cannot expect all members to attend state conventions).

Carry Out Libertarian Policies

  1. Assume leadership in getting qualified Libertarians to run for office.
  2. Maintain a county headquarters during campaigns and, where facilities and finances allow, on a year-round basis.
  3. Work with auxiliary groups, for instance College Libertarians, in coordinating projects and activities in your county.
  4. Know the Libertarian "makeup" of your county (how many workers are needed to get out the vote, where the greatest campaign effort should be concentrated, and vote analysis by precinct), and the overall political makeup of your county, including knowing all elected officials.
  5. Where applicable by law, make sure that a Libertarian is on the ballot for election district committee positions elected during primaries.
  6. Where applicable by law, submit names of electors for appointment as elections inspectors, clerks and ballot clerks by the appropriate deadlines to the appropriate officials.
  7. Where applicable by law, submit nominees for the Board of Canvassers.
  8. Attend congressional district caucuses and state convention meetings.
  9. Answer all requests for information and other pertinent correspondence from the Libertarian State Party as soon as possible. Also, keep the state headquarters informed as to the activities and meetings of your organization. The primary function of the state party is to coordinate Libertarian activities, plans, and programs throughout the state. This cannot be accomplished unless every county party cooperates fully. Often the state party will get calls on the 800 number from people within your county. Being able to tell those callers about local meetings and current contacts is very important to your growth.
  10. Staff a county fair booth.
  11. Maintain a calendar of events for the leadership.
  12. Make sure the treasurer files financial reports as required by election law.
  13. Make certain that all officers of the organization and chairs of various committees are thoroughly familiar with their duties and responsibilities.

Recognition of the Party's Relation to the Community

The leadership of a Party is judged by its action and accomplishment in a community. Set the "tone" for positive action:

  1. Meet with the board and put your goals down on paper.
  2. Plan functions that include people you've never seen at Libertarian meetings before.
  3. Stay away from labels - go out of your way to refer to everyone in the party as Libertarian.
  4. Make your Libertarian Party the most popular organization in your community:

A group of "doers" with a positive program made up of members who care.

This will present the best possible image.


  1. Arrive early so you may start the meeting on time.
  2. Recognize guests and new members.
  3. Keep the meeting orderly and keep it moving.
  4. Diversify the meeting programs as to issues, speakers and member participation. Meetings should have a light touch as well as a serious side. Make them enjoyable.


Duties of the Officers


Duties of the County Chair

When we speak of leadership, we mean all officers and board members of a Party because this is the team that leads, guides, pushes and pulls the Party to new heights of accomplishment. Never lose sight of the fact that it is a team effort not a one-person operation. The chair is the captain, but cannot score alone.

To be chosen to serve the Libertarian Party in a leadership capacity is a great honor, an honor that carries with it certain responsibilities and obligations. For the Chair, these responsibilities are in four general areas: Administration, as a presiding officer, carrying out Libertarian policies, and recognition of the Party's relation to the community.

Party Administration
  1. Appoint chairs for special committees as the party needs require (membership, campaign, finance, publicity, special events, etc.).
  2. In lining up your team, remember it is essential to delegate authority.
  3. Be sure that the people appointed are competent and capable for their positions.
  4. See that there are no conflicts of interest in the appointments. A chair on your board should not hold office in another organization whose policies or philosophy conflicts with that of the Libertarian Party.
  5. Keep in close touch with your committee chairs. As county chair, you will receive material from the state party. Be sure to follow through and pass things back and forth as needed.
  6. To develop future leadership, encourage appointment of vice chairs.
  7. At the very beginning of the term, the county chair and board members, meeting together, should determine the goals for the year and how every officer or committee chair fits into the overall plan to achieve those goals.
  8. Every person has some talent. It's up to the leadership to find that talent and use it.
  9. A chair does not impose his or her thinking on the board or party, nor does he or she commit the party to any action without its consent.
  10. Be alert that your party is not used to promote the self-interest of any individual, individuals, or any other organization.
  11. Give credit where credit is due. Praise those who are doing a good job. Remember again that success is the result of good team work.
  12. A party usually grows and flourishes in direct proportion to its leadership. A thoughtful, fair-minded, well-organized chair with a strong board can reach the heights of political effectiveness.
The Chair as Presiding officer
  1. Presides at all meetings.
  2. Appoints and is an ex officio member of all committees except the nominating committee.
  3. Preserves order and makes parliamentary decisions (the parliamentarian advises but does not rule).
  4. Votes only to break a tie in a roll call vote.
  5. Votes as anyone else in a written ballot vote and cannot break a tie in a ballot vote.
  6. May not debate an issue from the chair, but may explain something in detail for the full understanding of the members so they are clear on the subject being discussed.
  7. Should have a basic knowledge of parliamentary procedure that will give confidence and authority in presiding.

To have a good meeting, never assume that everything has been taken care of by someone else. Confirm with your committee chairs. Also:

  1. Take advantage of all media publicity opportunities possible to promote the meeting.
  2. Prepare an agenda for each meeting.
  3. Check with each committee chair scheduled to make a report to ensure their presence.


Duties of the County Vice Chair

Vice chairs (in their order when there are more than one) perform the duties of the chair in his or her absence or inability to serve. Vice chairs should be chosen who are prepared to act as the chair in an emergency, and to take the chair's place in an emergency.

The vice chair should be carefully chosen. If the party elects more than one vice chair, a particular job should be assigned to each. The qualifications of these officers must be considered according to the work they have to perform.

The vice chair should help build additional strength through the encouragement of auxiliary clubs, such as College Libertarians. The vice chair will generally assist the county chair. Very often in smaller parties the vice chairs serve as standing committee chairs (i.e., program, membership, campaign, etc.).


Duties of the Secretary

The secretary is responsible for keeping the records of the proceedings of the party. The minutes are the official record of the organization; they should never be destroyed. A secretary should be accurate, prompt, and attend all meetings.

Specific Duties
  1. Keep all records of the party.
  2. Keep accurate minutes of all meetings.
  3. Prepare agendas for the executive committee and county meetings, in consultation with the chair.
  4. Issue membership cards.
  5. Keep a file of names and addresses of county members.
  6. Notify members of meetings at least 10 days prior to the meeting. Send a copy of the notice to the state party.
Materials Needed at a Meeting
  1. Permanently bound minute book.
  2. Copies of bylaws, standing rules, and constitutions from all Libertarian levels.
  3. List of officers and chairs.
  4. Current calendar.
  5. A copy of the chair's agenda for current meeting.
Duties During a Meeting

When reading the minutes, stand and address the chair, "Mister/Madam Chair," and remain standing until thanked by the chair. You are addressing your report to the chair. The reading of the minutes is often dispensed in most organizations if they are distributed to members well ahead of time (such as in the meeting announcement or before the meeting starts if they are brief).

  1. Record minutes of every meeting and compile in a permanently bound book. As soon as minutes are written after each meeting, send a copy to the chair.
  2. Read clearly the minutes of the previous meeting (if necessary). If approved, the word "approved," the date, and signature of the secretary should be written at the end of the minutes of each meeting. If corrected, circle error in red ink - never erase - write correction in left margin, date and sign.
  3. Send necessary materials to chair if unable to attend meeting.
Recording Minutes
  1. Minutes are the permanent record of the organization and are written in ink, or typed and affixed, in a permanently bound book, leaving a wide margin on the left side of the page for corrections.
  2. Must include kind of meeting (regular, special, executive committee, etc.), full name of the organization, date, time, place, if quorum present, name and title of presiding officer and secretary.
  3. If an executive committee meeting, it is advisable to list members present and may include names of guests.
  4. Statement that minutes of previous meeting were read and approved or corrected.
  5. Minutes should include the financial statement:

Itemize all bills presented and approved. The treasurer should give the secretary a copy of his or her report.

  1. List the committees reporting. Usually the secretary records only action taken, not what was said.
  2. Upon the completion of the work of special committees, reports are accepted and filed and the committees dissolved.
  3. Statement of matters held over from the previous meeting (if action was postponed, motion should be stated).
  4. Record of motions:
  1. Record all action of a meeting in the order in which it occurred. Do not record personal opinions and discussions.
  2. Time of adjournment.
  3. Signature of recording secretary and title. Not "Respectfully submitted," just "John Doe, Secretary."

The general rule for secretaries to remember is that they record only action taken - not what was said, but what was done.


Duties of the Treasurer

The bylaws of a party usually outline financial procedures and policy. Duties of the treasure will vary in different counties. However, the usual procedure is to:

  1. Make the treasurer sole custodian of all funds belonging to the party.
  1. The books and records of the treasurer should always be audited before a new treasurer takes over. The adoption of the auditor's report indicating that the financial records are correct relieves the retiring officers of the responsibility for the period covered by the report.
  2. When a new treasurer takes office, it is necessary to contact the bank approved by the executive committee and complete the required signature cards, making certain necessary signatures of authorized officers are recorded at the bank before checks are written.
  1. The treasurer's report should be a part of every business meeting.
  2. The treasurer and secretary or membership chair should coordinate to keep membership records accurate.
  1. The treasurer should be a member of the budget and finance committees.
  2. The treasurer preserves all records pertaining to the office of treasurer and delivers them to his or her successor.
  3. The treasurer should keep a procedure book containing up-to-date copies of the budget, bylaws, reports given, and any other information concerning the duties of the treasurer.
  4. The treasurer is responsible for preparing and filing all forms required by law regarding campaign finance.

The treasurer's report of the financial condition of the organization should be a part of every business meeting. The treasurer should always provide the secretary with a copy. Such reports are not acted upon at the meeting. The report is read as information and filed for audit. No treasurer's report is verified until examined and approved by an auditor or auditing committee. The treasurer's report becomes official when members of the organization (or some authority duly designated by them) have adopted or rejected the auditor's report.


Other Functional Committees/Chairs

County organization may create as many chairs or committees of special activities as they like. Some of these chairs should probably serve on the county party executive committee, but not all have to. All should have clearly defined duties and be called upon for reports. The following is a list of other recommended county committees.

Finance Committee/Chair

Will take charge of all fund raising projects.

Public relations Committee/Chair

Handles all publicity with mass media (daily and weekly papers, radio and television stations) for events in the county. The public relations chair should know firsthand the mass communications outlets in the county, where they are located, when they go to press, and deadlines of broadcast news programs.

Membership Committee/Chair

Heads county membership drive. The membership chair should have a large committee of membership sales people to draw up plans for membership drives and see that they are carried out.

Program Committee/Chair

Arranges for such programs as interesting speakers, debates and movies, etc., for each county meeting. Remember, a good meeting has to be carefully planned.

Refreshment Committee/Chair

In charge of seeing that refreshments are served at each meeting.

Candidate Recruitment Committee/Chair

Works closely with the county chair and executive committee to see that a properly qualified, full slate of Libertarian candidates is on the ballot.

Literature and Mailing Committee/Chair

In charge of all literature and all mailings (except those run by the fund raising/finance committee) sent out by the county organization. Needs good, competent, reliable volunteers.

Telephone Committee/Chair

Has the responsibility of setting up a telephone committee to be used for getting large turnouts at regular and special meetings and for phone campaigns during elections.

Campaign Committee/Chair

Usually comprised of officers and the executive committee of county organizations plus any other individuals who have the "know how" of conducting county campaigns. Responsible for seeing that a good, hard-hitting campaign is carried on in the county.

Activities Committee/Chair

In charge of special activities and events.


Sample County Party Constitution


Libertarian Party of ______________________ County

Article I Name

The name of this organization shall be "The Libertarian Party of _________ County."

Article II Purpose

The purpose of this organization shall be to advance in every honorable way fundamental Libertarian principles and policies. As a voluntary organization, we shall cooperate and assist in all county, state, and national elections to the end that our Constitutional form of limited government for the United States and our state be preserved for all of the people.

As a part of the Libertarian state voluntary organization, this organization shall direct, manage, supervise and control the business and the funds of the Libertarian Party of ________ County.

Article III Membership

Membership in this organization shall be open to all ___________ County citizens who believe in the above objectives, purposes and principles of the Libertarian Party.

Qualified and voting members of this organization shall be those Libertarians in good standing who have been recorded by the Secretary/Treasure of this organization for at least 10 days prior to any meeting.

Article IV Officers and Executive Committee

Section 1: The officers of this organization shall consist of a Chair, a First Vice Chair, a Secretary, and a Treasurer, and such other officers as shall be provided for in the bylaws.

Section 2: Duties of the Officers

Section 3: The term of office for the officers and executive committee shall be two years, and until their successors are elected and installed.

Section 4: All officers and members of the executive committee shall be elected in a duly constituted county caucus or meeting.

Section 5: The executive committee shall be made up of the officers and those additional individuals as set forth in the bylaws.

Article V Meetings, Caucuses

Section 1: Meetings or caucuses shall be held under proper notice, at the call of the chair.

Section 2: A regular county meeting or caucus shall be held each year, at which time delegates and alternates shall be elected to attend the congressional district caucus and the state convention, and for the election of officers as needed.

Section 3: The executive committee shall hold meetings at such times as are determined by the executive committee.

Section 4: Special meetings of the executive committee may be called by the chair or by written request of five members of the executive committee and upon notice to all members.

Section 5: A county meeting or caucus shall be called and advertised at least twice in one weekly or daily paper in the county at least ten days prior to said meeting. The chair shall send a written notice to delegates and alternates of congressional district caucuses and state conventions.

Section 6: Voting by proxy shall be prohibited at any regular or special county meeting or caucus.

Article VI Nominations and Elections

Section 1: A nominating committee of not less than five members shall be appointed by the chair and approved by the executive committee prior to each election. This committee shall report one nominee for each office at the meeting/caucus for such election after which nominations from the floor shall be allowed.

Section 2: A nominating committee of not less than three members shall be appointed by the Chair and approved by the executive committee for the purpose of nominating delegates and alternates to attend each state convention and district caucus after which nominations may be made from the floor.

Section 3: Where there is only one candidate for an office, election may be by voice.

Section 4: Where more than one candidate is nominated for an office, election will be by written ballot. A majority of votes cast shall elect.

Article VII Appointments

All recommendations for appointments shall be made by the chair, with the approval of a majority of the executive committee.

Article VIII Quorum

Section 1: A quorum for a meeting or caucus of the organization shall be a majority of the members present.

Section 2: A quorum for a meeting of the executive committee shall be a majority of the executive committee.

Article IX Parliamentary Authority

Roberts' Rules of Order, Newly Revised, shall govern all proceedings except where inconsistent with the Constitution and bylaws of this organization.

Article X Bylaws

Bylaws may be adopted in compliance with this constitution by a majority vote at any duly called county meeting or caucus.

Article XI Conflict

In the event of any conflict or ambiguity of the constitution or bylaws adopted hereunder, the constitution of the Libertarian Party of (STATE) shall prevail.

Article XII Amendments

Amendments to the constitution may be made after approved by the state executive committee and by a two-thirds vote at any regular or special meeting or caucus of this organization where the call and notice states such purpose.


Developing Your County Organization



The party is only as strong as its membership. Beyond recruiting members, the chair should assist in the development of affinity groups like College Libertarians, women's libertarian groups, study groups and other such groups. The county party should coordinate efforts and information between these branches of the Libertarian Party. If this sounds like a tall order, it is, indeed. It is also an enormous satisfaction to know that you may have made the difference in finding and electing really qualified Libertarian candidates.


Membership Chair

The membership chair must possess administrative ability to initiate the plans for increasing membership and maintaining accurate, up-to-date records of the membership. This person must be enthusiastic so that co-workers catch the spark and prospective members are attracted by their warmth.

The membership committee serves as a vital liaison between a stranger and the Libertarian Party and must recognize the importance of this function. As in every phase of human relationships, which in our case is known as public relations, there is no substitute for the personal approach: meeting other people, being interested in them, being kind and friendly.


The Membership Drive

The membership drive should be launched and on its way in January with a well-organized plan to double your membership; a plan with a goal that will not only renew membership but will stimulate interest and obtain new members. This means an enthusiastic, working membership chair and committee with a membership program to tie in with any Libertarian functions. Where do you look for members? You should try the following areas:

Previous year's members - members who paid last year but not yet this year have to be contacted. This can be in the form of a mailed renewal notice with dues to be returned to you in a reply envelope. Some parties use a voucher and find people just look for the annual "bill." A follow-up phone call, placed at least twice if you don't reach the member on the first try, should be used as a reminder.

Past members - Libertarians who have previously belonged but for some reason failed to renew their membership. They should be made aware of upcoming projects and programs that might increase their interest in joining.

Campaign workers - ask all recent Libertarian candidates for their list of volunteers and workers. Contact them and invite them to your next meeting.

Spouses of candidates - these people should probably receive "top priority" on your membership invitation list. Don't forget to include other members of their families.

Senior Citizens or Older Americans - Our older citizens do love to be part of a mixed age group. We need to show these citizens that as members of a Libertarian organization they will have a larger voice than as individuals. These people also have free time to volunteer, when asked!

Members of other organizations - Kiwanis, Jaycees, Lions, NRA Chapters, any other group where you belong and can invite friends to join.


Techniques Used In Increasing Membership


1. Telephone Campaigns

Using lists that you have already secured, recruit by telephone. Organize your committee and when assembled, ask each to take one of the lists and look up the telephone numbers. Then ask them to telephone each person on their list and invite them to join your party.

(Suggested approach in a membership drive)

"Mrs. Smith?" (YES)
"Mrs. Smith, I am ______________________ of the Libertarian Party of ____________________ County. On March 20, we are having a meeting to honor (speaker or other prominent individual). We are inviting all of our local Libertarians to join us. We would very much like to have you join us, Mrs. Smith. Are you free between 7:00 and 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 20?" (YES) Then give location, invite her to bring a friend, or offer to pick her up. The sales pitch will come at the meeting by the membership chair or party chair, who will explain all about your party and its activities as part of the program. Chances are you will have a new member.


2. Membership Mailing

Due to the ever-increasing cost of mailing with the postal monopoly, it is imperative that you receive the most for your money. Your mailing can be sent first class, third class, or bulk rate. Check with your post office regarding the requirements for bulk rates. Allow ample time in this type of mailing. Your postage cost is approximately half with bulk rate, but there is a minimum number of pieces involved (usually 200), weight limit and, of course, the time element.

  1. Make your mailing interesting and inviting - to the reader. Think of this when you create a mailing: millions of drill bits are sold in the United States every single year. Yet nobody really wants drill bits. What they do want are holes! Appeal to what the reader really wants and then tell them how they will get that by joining you.
  2. Make your membership form informative to you and the prospective member. Include a brief questionnaire asking members to volunteer for various activities with the party such as:
  1. Enclose a self-addressed envelope, preferable colored, for each return form and check. The colored envelope is a more obvious reminder to get their dues in.
  2. Include a program booklet or calendar for the year.

The membership mailing should be followed up with a telephone call for those that have not replied.


3. Grass Roots Drive

Obtain a map of your county and a list of last year's members and precinct\ward committee people. Plot on the map where each individual is located. Then select a "team captain" within a given ward, village or township who will be responsible for contacting last year's members and will seek out new members. Each "team captain" is assigned a reasonable goal depending upon the number of members currently residing in a given area.

You may also have each "team captain" compile a list of prospective members and have the party mail a "Won't you join our Party" letter and follow up with a telephone call.

Your membership drive may prove fun if you reward the person or "team captain" with the largest number of memberships.


4. Three I's Project - Invite, Inform, Involve

How does it work?

An informed leader INVITES a small group of Libertarians into their home for some refreshments and conversation on politics. This leader will INFORM the guests about the importance of a third party and the broad principles of the Libertarian Party and how they offer practical solutions to today's specific problems. The host encourages questions and input from the guests. Guests should then be encouraged to become INVOLVED in the Libertarian Party.

Where do you begin?

The number of leaders for this project will vary with the size of your group. It could be from two to 20 leaders. Be sure you include leaders from all areas in your county. Also, do not forget your minorities, whether by race, ethnic group, religious affiliation, gender situation, or special interest with libertarian overtones. This is very important as we want to be all-inclusive, not exclusive.

Conduct a workshop for your leaders. They need to be informed in order to sell our product. If possible, conduct this workshop at two different times to accommodate busy schedules. Generate enthusiasm among your leaders, because they will be your sales people! Some leaders may need some assistance in recruiting people for their meeting. Suggest various groups such as neighborhood friends, bowling teams, church groups, etc.

Ask your leaders to keep records of whom they invite and what type of response they receive. This information could be presented at a "Final Report Meeting" of all your leaders. A good critique session will be very beneficial. You can work out the bugs, so the project will be even more successful in the future.


A Successful Membership Drive


Five Rules for Attracting and Holding New Members

Rule 1

It is NOT required that each new member pledge to attend every meeting or serve on a committee. This would be the ideal situation, but the Libertarian Party welcomes every person who wishes to join.

Rule 2

The membership committee does not cease to function with the acceptance of dues from the new member. That new member must be welcomed at the first meeting and introduced. A name tag should be provided and a place reserved for them.

Rule 3

New members may be warm, cool or cold to the idea of active participation in the party. They may wish to participate only by paying dues.

Rule 4

You will not attract new members without good programs. They should be timely. Today's people are issue oriented and a program geared to information on an issue can be stimulating. The party should refrain from forcing a stand on every controversial issue. As the members become better informed they'll naturally decide, on their own, to take a compatible stand.

Rule 5

The meetings to which we invite new (or prospective) members leave a lasting impression. They should be as impressive and attractive as your party can possibly make them. Always have a membership table at every regular meeting or Libertarian function - staffed by your friendly committee members - to take dues and issue membership cards.

REMEMBER: During the period of the membership drive, the close cooperation of the chair, membership chair, public relations chair, program chair and hospitality chair is essential.



What is a volunteer? A volunteer is "one who enters into or offers himself or herself for any service of his or her own free will." All have the same motivation to willingly perform a service without pay. Their activities are the mortar and cement of politics. Volunteers are the strength, the hope, the pulse of the Libertarian Party - a vital source of enthusiasm and fervor. Volunteers sustain a campaign. The role of the volunteer is the most significant contribution force in any political campaign. To keep this volunteer force vibrant in an election campaign, recruitment must be effective, extensive, and efficiently administered - for ultimately, millions of volunteers are needed nationwide for us to become the dominant force in American politics.

Volunteers are motivated, first and foremost, by the conviction that the Libertarian Party provides the best candidates for office and deserve their support and hard work. Other motivations may include:


Volunteer Chairs

The selection of the Volunteer Chair is the first critical step in launching a successful recruitment program. This key position should be filled with an individual who is enthusiastic, highly motivated, and who works well with others. An enthusiastic person can inspire others to action and motivate them to come back time and time again to tackle the burgeoning jobs as a campaign moves ahead. The volunteer chair will need a committee to help. In addition, the volunteer chair should be a person with a wide range of contacts to recruit from among community resources. This chair should make every effort to assess the talents and capabilities of the volunteer and match these with the campaign assignment whenever possible. Recruit the leadership for your volunteers from Libertarian groups or among people who have proven themselves in the campaign of previous candidates.


Volunteer Recruitment

The biggest demand for volunteers comes with organizing campaigns for your candidates. The task of seeking out volunteers appears, at first thought, an awesome assignment. Take a positive approach. Hundreds of volunteers are out their awaiting an occasion to help. Many have never taken part in a political campaign - not because they lacked the desire - but rather because they did not know how to offer their services. There are two phases of a volunteer operation. First to FIND THEM, and even more important, to KEEP THEM:


  1. Do not be discouraged when attempting to recruit. If one in ten accepts, you are lucky.
  2. Be sure you have the right person recruiting - attitudes are contagious.
  3. Leave no stone unturned in tapping potential sources of volunteers. A primary corps of volunteers can be found among those individuals whom you encounter daily or weekly: friends, neighbors, relatives, teachers, the butcher, the baker, banker, beautician. Don't forget your lawyer, doctor and insurance agent.
  4. Make a list of all your family and friends. Use your holiday card list, membership list of your church, PTA, civic and social groups.
  5. An enthusiastic cadre of volunteers will be found among friends and volunteers of past and present candidates. Former candidates themselves will often pitch in where needed.
  6. Letters to Libertarian primary voters will often yield volunteers. Enclose a card to be returned to you with their name, address, phone number and field of interest. List some options for them.
  7. Coffees are excellent techniques for recruiting. Try to have one in each ward in your district. The yield may be only about 10% of the guests, but those who come are excellent potential workers.
  8. Another source of volunteers lies in the membership lists of service clubs, fraternal, professional and women's organizations.

Once you have found the volunteers, you and your candidates have three responsibilities involving volunteers:

Inspire! Recruit! Thank - often and with sincerity and enthusiasm!


  1. Always remember that a volunteer is a volunteer. They are not paid and can get up and leave very easily.
  2. Maintain a good sense of humor. As the campaign proceeds, days may get hectic and the best laid plans may go awry. We cannot let small difficulties or personalities obscure or impair our goal of victory.
  3. Build a team spirit, but don't be phony. Dream up a slogan for the troops. It serves as a binding quality that gives confidence and winning enthusiasm.
  4. Put them to work.
  5. A volunteer is a free agent - so keep in mind that he/she is working with you, not for you.
  6. Don't try to make a volunteer do something he or she doesn't particularly like to do.
  7. Tell volunteers what is expected of them.
  8. The volunteers are people who are really tall children.
  9. Over-recruit on volunteers per shift for telephone banks or projects that require a specific number of workers. That way, one worker's absence will not delay the team effort of others.
  10. Be flexible, keep it fun, simple, exciting and challenging. Be businesslike and have a good game plan, but be realistic and don't choose too many projects.
  11. Write all instructions for volunteers in simple, concise language; supplement them with verbal instructions.
  12. Make a realistic work schedule, then provide a method of follow-up to be certain tasks are accomplished.
  13. Have name tags - the candidate needs to know volunteers and volunteers need to know each other.
  14. Campaign managers should always participate in the jobs assigned. For example: if doing a mailing, the manager should address 500 envelopes. If a door-to-door canvass, the manager should walk each night for a while.
  15. Thank each volunteer repeatedly.
  1. Have refreshments.
  2. Never, never, never ask a volunteer to work alone. Team spirit and camaraderie are vital.


Program Committee/Chair

A program chair should be a good organizer, enthusiastic, innovative, and willing to devote the necessary time to the leadership role. A small committee should help the program chair in planning and responding to new ideas. The committee should bring experience and knowledge in government processes and rules and traditions to the Libertarian Party. The chair and committee should structure a calendar year of programs around a theme. An annual calendar of events provides continuity in programming.

One essential aspect of programming is to establish early in the schedule a reputation for interesting and substantial presentations. Some speakers may require reimbursement; therefore, establish a budget to accommodate these necessities.

The political scene changes rapidly and some may feel it is difficult to outline a program plan for an entire year. The calendar of events can be changed and the unexpected should always be anticipated.


Setting Your Calendar

Before planning the yearly calendar, eliminate days you cannot meet due to predetermined events. Then list all dates that are legally fixed by law:

Dates established by the national, state and local party that are important to the members of your organization:

A calendar that includes the types of dates listed above is a vital tool to the successful management of your organization. Involve the committee while developing the calendar.

Once you have the knowledge of the fixed dates, you can go on to set up a yearly calendar.


Planning Programs

Plan your events well and early. Work with your county executive committee in setting up a calendar of programs and events. When planning meetings, there are only two things to consider:

  1. The purpose for which you are arranging the meeting; and,
  2. The kind and type of audience you plan to reach.

When planning the meetings, there are six purposes for meetings. At least one must be present to justify calling the meetings. If it has more than three, it should be made into separate meetings:

  1. To conduct general business
  2. To hear a prominent speaker
  3. To learn about an important issue
  4. To teach political action
  5. To perform political activity
  6. To entertain

The best possible combinations are:

2 and 6, or 1, 2 and 6

3 and 6, or 1, 3 and 6

4 and 6, or 1, 4 and 6

5 alone

6 alone

5 and 6 together

1. General Business Meeting

There are certain meetings where just the routine business will take up as much time as is available. For example:

With this general business out of the way, entertainment in the nature of refreshments at the meeting place or a nearby location would make the gathering complete for most.

2. Meet to Hear a Prominent Speaker

Good speakers with a "name" are in short supply and great demand. Don't expect prominent speakers to travel many miles to address a handful of people. The cost in fares, time and energy is too high. Consider a person who can bring you the message you need, not just of the title or position of the speaker.

A meeting at which you are presenting a prominent speaker must be planned well in advance. It must be done with perfection since you are displaying one of your party's best products. Your program committee must really be on the ball. Where is the meeting going to be held, is your regular meeting place large enough? Is your regular time of meeting satisfactory? What do you estimate to be the size of the audience? Can you attract more?

Who will introduce the speaker? Have they prepared the introduction with the consent of the speaker? Has the speaker been advised of the length of the talk, the subject and the type of audience, will a question period follow the speech? Have you made hotel reservations? Have TV and radio arrangements been made?

As to publicity, consider using newspaper ads, posters, radio and TV announcements. Send meeting notices to the membership at least two weeks before the meeting, but this is not enough. The telephone committee should call each member with a special appeal to attend and to bring guests. In most meetings of this type, decorations are appropriate. Pictures of the party office holders, party slogans and symbols should be prominently displayed. Flags and bunting easily decorate a large hall.

3. Meeting to Learn About an Important Issue

This type of meeting can take many forms. Consider the following:

Movies - Videos - Panel discussions - Debates - Skits and dramatic plays

The first two involve little preparation. Educational films and videos are available from a variety of sources. To present the program, all that is necessary is an introduction to the film and the ability to handle a discussion period after its presentation. Make sure everything is set up before the meeting.

A panel discussion keeps interest high. It demands persons conversant with the subject and pays big dividends if the panel puts in a rehearsal performance.

Debates are a little tricky. You run the risk of dividing the group. If the subject is not a party issue, a debate is the best way to expose the audience to both sides of the question in all its strengths and weaknesses.

Skits and dramatic plays, while tremendously effective, should not be done without willing participants. The rehearsals required, the time spent and the props needed almost dictate against their use in parties short on people power. Your energy can be better expended. However, you may be that fortunate group with a trained actor-director who would carry it through.

4. Meetings to Teach Political Action

A meeting to teach political action can take the form of a speech or panel discussion. A printed copy of the major points should be prepared ahead of time for distribution to the group, along with pens for taking notes. Elementary subjects should be stressed, such as:

5. Meeting to Perform Political Activity

The activity which you might want to perform may be suggested from some of the subjects in the above list. To explain the format of the meeting, let's use as example the first item on that list, circulating nomination papers.

6. A Meeting to Entertain

All work and no play . . . Our final purpose in party programming is to provide the fellowship between members. Picnics, dances, outings, should play and important, though not dominant, part in your organization's program. Coffee hours with the candidates serve a social as well as informative function. Dinner or luncheon meetings with a good speaker inform as well as raise money. A first voters' party with dancing, entertainment and cake will allow your party members to meet new persons, who, if they have a good time, will wish to join your party organization.


Special Projects - Dinners

Dinners are used for two main purposes:

For a kickoff dinner, a convenient rather than a swanky location is desirable. A good, inexpensive meal rather than ice carvings and a flaming desert. Keep the cost as low as possible to get maximum participation. Make the program one with a general air of enthusiasm. Forget the "name" speaker and instead go in for surprise attractions, local jokes - any means of inspiring the diners with a feeling of belonging to a joint effort.

For a fund raising dinner, on the other hand, you will aim for an air of prosperity, with a nicer menu, better service, more "flair." Use a name speaker as a drawing card and have events that will appeal to people other than the standard "party faithful."

Decide whether you want to make a larger profit on fewer plates sold or a smaller profit on more plates. You will have to judge your situation to see which will probably put more money into the coffers. Never be afraid to try to sell tickets where you don't expect to make a sale. If the speaker is topnotch, it is amazing the people who will want to hear him or her and will help your financial cause in the process.

Six weeks is the minimum time necessary for a successful fund raising dinner. Tickets have to be printed - and sold. Reservations have to be made in a good hotel or restaurant. A speaker has to be scheduled. Six months is not too far ahead to plan in order to ensure the best speaker and the finest arrangements. Expertise on the subject matter is important in selecting a speaker, but an individual's ability to express ideas and stimulate an audience to action should be the main reason for extending an invitation to a speaker.


Checklist for Meetings

Phase 1 - Planning Stage

  1. Best possible date (no conflicts with other affairs).
  2. Convenient and adequate meeting space (but not too big! A small room filled to capacity looks like a huge success, a large hall with lots of people but lots of space looks like the turnout was lower than expected).
  3. Starting time most convenient for everybody.
  4. Complete list of those to be invited (or notified).
  5. Invitations or notices mailed at least two to four weeks in advance (depending on type of meeting, constitutional requirements, etc.).
  6. If appropriate, arrange details of publicity and promotion.

Phase 2 - A Couple of Days in Advance

  1. Try to ascertain how many will attend.
  2. Confirm meeting place, date and time arrangements with management, host, etc., to prevent embarrassing misunderstandings.
  3. Arrange for light refreshments, if appropriate.
  4. Finalize meeting agenda and provide copies to those who need them.
  5. Check facilities for the press, radio and TV (telephones, electrical outlets, typewriters, seating, refreshments).

Phase 3 - Just Prior to the Meeting

  1. Check flag placement (American flag should be on the left as you face the head table, or to the speaker's right. The state flag should be on the right as you face the head table, or to the speaker's left).
  2. Check P.A. system for volume, mike adjustment, acoustics, sufficient number of microphones, etc.
  3. Check seating arrangements.
  4. Have name tags, if appropriate.
  5. Have a guest register properly placed and greeters to have people sign it, if appropriate.
  6. Have a pitcher of water and glasses for speakers.
  7. Have pencils, pads of paper, place cards, if appropriate.
  8. Have copies of the text of the speaker's remarks for distribution to members of the news media.
  9. If movies or videos are to be shown, be certain that the equipment is working properly, that cords are not apt to trip any guests, that location of light switches is known, and that somebody is responsible for turning them off and on when required.


Protocol is the simple application of good manners to people, especially those in official positions. There are no rules that are not simple, common sense. A breach of the rules is not a "hanging offense" if it is done by accident and if rules of simple, polite behavior have been used.


Dates and Times

There is a great deal of competition for the spare time of both the general public and your own party members. This fact should be considered in setting the date for any Libertarian meeting. Make certain that the date of your political meeting will not conflict with any other major event scheduled for your community by some other organization. In many cases, the local Chamber of Commerce or some other civic group maintains a calendar of events in your community. Your local newspaper editor also may be helpful in checking for possible conflicts.

The time for meetings will be guided by local custom. When the audience includes people from rural areas, bear in mind that sufficient time must be allowed for them to finish their work and travel to the meeting.



The "atmosphere" of your meeting is affected by the surroundings in which it is held. Participants will form a definite subconscious opinion of your organization (and its philosophies) from their impressions of your meetings.

A meeting place should meet the following general requirements:

Remember, through these meetings you are attempting to "sell" the Libertarian Party, its principles, and its candidates.

The public impression of your meeting will have a definite effect upon their attitudes about all for which the Party stands.


Rules for a Good Meeting

  1. Start promptly.
  2. Follow the Order of Business.
  3. Adjourn at a reasonable time.
  4. Encourage member participation. Ask direct questions of members you know can and will answer articulately and without embarrassment. When discussion periods are planned, arrange to have several members ask questions. Don't allow any one member to monopolize the discussion.
  5. Introduce newcomers to your meeting or organization. Make them feel welcome.
  6. Involve as many people as possible in your meetings. One way is to ask for reports by chairs of standing and special committees. Advise these chairs in advance that such a report will be expected. As a regular procedure, this will also have the effect of stimulating greater activity on the part of these chairs.
  7. In special meetings when the public is invited, the business part of your meeting should be eliminated to avoid boring the audience with "family matters."
  8. When general business is out of the way, entertainment in the nature of refreshments either at the meeting place or a nearby location would make the gathering complete for most.


Running an Organizational Meeting

If you are just tackling the job of organizing your county for the first time, it will be your responsibility to call your county organization together. This can run much more smoothly if you take a few precautions and do a little planning ahead.

Arrange well beforehand for a system of registration at your meeting. This will provide you with names and addresses for future contact and a check on who participated in the meeting. A table and registrar may have to be provided. If you have no registration fee, as such, for your meeting, consider a fishbowl, primed with a couple of dollar bills, on the registration table for contributions to help defray the costs of the meeting. If you are new at your job, ask around to find out how many people have participated in such meetings in the past and try to gauge the size of the room needed - too few people in too large a room, even if it is the best turnout your party has ever had, is depressing.

If a temporary chair has to be elected, arrange in advance to have somebody make the appropriate motion and nomination. Have somebody lined up to be secretary for the meeting; with the necessary materials. Secure the services of a GOOD parliamentarian, who is familiar with your plan of organization, as well as Roberts' Rules and rely on them. Make sure an American flag is in the room. Name tags are a nice touch and are not difficult to arrange if you plan ahead to have someone make them out as the people register. Have your agenda run smoothly. Have your election of officers and such other business as may properly come before your meeting.

If you have a speaker, make it short. Your organizational business meeting may run longer than you expect. Have some resolutions ready for introduction. Avoid a feeling of "railroading," but an efficiently run meeting, with no embarrassing gaps or "waiting for somebody to do something" certainly improves our party image. If the media is present, give them copies of any speeches, the agenda, resolutions, or other matters that will be presented so they can be familiar with the material and can quote or comment on it accurately.


Showing a Speaker the Proper Courtesy

1. Invitation

Invite your speaker in writing at least three weeks in advance.

Include all information as to when, where, formal or informal, name and size of group, type of audience (men, women, mixed, old, young, etc.).

Make sure all financial arrangements are understood in advance.

Two or three paragraphs outlining the local situation and topics to be stressed or avoided, sent well in advance, are helpful.

When you receive acceptance, follow up with information as to hotel (or home) accommodations you are providing, who will meet the plane, time of news conference if you have arranged one, and any helpful hints as to transportation schedules in and out of your town.

Request an 8 x 10 glossy and biography for each news media outlet.

2. Arrival

Alert the press, radio and TV on time of arrival. They may wish to cover it.

Be sure to meet, or have your speaker met, at the plane and be ON TIME.

Attend to getting baggage as you would for any guest.

Drive your guest directly to the hotel where he or she can freshen up.

Brief the speaker on late local events or problems.

Allow the speakers time to be themselves. Arrange to pick them up for news conferences, TV or radio appearances, the meeting and any other engagements you may have made.

If your event is a luncheon or dinner, your speaker and spouse are your guests. Never ask your guests to pay for their own meals. If it is not a meal function, be sure to invite them to lunch or to dine with you and perhaps a small group of leaders.

Leave a written schedule with your speakers so that they can plan personal calls to friends without interfering with your arrangements.

Don't wear your speakers out before the meeting. Some like to sightsee, others prefer to rest and collect their thoughts. If your locality boasts some special attraction, and time permits, ask them frankly if they would be interested in being taken to see it.

3. The Meeting

Make sure the lectern is properly adjusted as to height and adequately lighted. Provide ice water. Check American flag for correct position (if displayed flat, it should be behind the speaker with the union to his right. When flown from a staff on a speaker's platform, the flag should be placed on the speakers right. If placed elsewhere than on the platform, it should be on the right of the audience as they face the platform).

Check the loudspeaker before the meeting and make certain the microphone does not hide the speakers face.

Start your meeting ON TIME. Introduce other guests briefly and do NOT schedule a half a dozen local speakers before your guest.

At a luncheon or dinner, start with a brief greeting but introduce the head table AFTER desert and just before the speaker, when tables will have been cleared.

If your speaker agrees to questions, alert people so appropriate ones will be asked.

After the meeting, the speaker should have an opportunity to meet interested people.

4. Departure

Never just drop your speakers after they perform!

If your guest must leave shortly after the meeting, escort him or her to the car or the airport.

If your speakers stay overnight, escort them to their room; arrange to pick them up in ample time to comfortably catch their flight.

Arrange in advance for their hotel bill to be sent to you.

Be sure to thank your guest again for coming and for contributing to the success of your meeting.

Always send thank-you notes IMMEDIATELY to speakers and honored guests. It is bad manners not to acknowledge the time and effort expended by speakers. Remember to send press clippings in your note.

5. Points to Remember

Remember, not all dynamic speakers are "names" - nor are all "names" great speakers.

When you are requesting a speaker, it is just as important to consider a person who can bring you the message you need as it is to think of the title or the position of the speaker.


Seating Arrangements

The matter of proper seating of a head table is important. Protocol, under which heading this falls, is of such importance that the President maintains a special department headed by the Chief of Protocol just to ensure that diplomatic relations are kept at the highest possible level. We, too, must do our very best to not hurt anyone's feelings.

Even when every rule is obeyed, there are often hurt feelings over the seating of a head table - usually the feelings of somebody who was not asked to join the group, so be especially careful in your selection. It is better to fail to seat someone who understands than to properly exclude someone who doesn't. The invitations to sit at the head table should be graciously extended and clearly made so that there is a minimum of misunderstanding.

Order of Seating

  1. Always seat the toastmaster or other presiding officer in the middle, or, if a lectern is used, to the right of the lectern.
  2. The principal speaker sits to the presiding officer's right.
  3. A second speaker sits to the left of the presiding officer and to the left of the vice chair.
  4. Elected officials are seated ahead of appointed ones and the rank of officials is national, state, county, city and then town.
  5. Any spouse holds the same rank as the official and usually sits on the opposite side of the table.
  6. Be sure to include a city official who has been invited to extend a word of welcome to either the guest speaker or the guests at large.
  7. Whenever the state chair and/or your national committee representative are present, they should be seated at the head table.

Even where ample head table space is available and especially where it is not, a second head table, (1) placed directly in front of the main table but on a lower level, or (2) facing the head table from the opposite side of the room, or (3) joining the head table in a "T" shape might well be considered. Or use a reserved table just in front of the speaker's table. The advantage is in increasing the number of people who may be honored by special seating.

A room should be set aside for the gathering of the honored guests. Know where it is to be and advise your guests of it when the invitation is extended. Lining up a head table to enter the hall as a group is probably one of the most difficult tasks you will have at a dinner function. It seems to be some law of nature that the minute you place them correctly they tend to wander off and have to be rounded up again. It may seem childish, but it is well worth the effort to have a series of chairs lined up with numbers or names on each seat and have each guest sit in a chair in the appropriate order. People seem to sit in a line much better than they will stand in one. If corsages are to be given to any of the ladies who will be present, now is the proper time to make the presentation (and be sure they are securely attached - extra pins are handy).


Table of Contents


Public Relations

Public relations is the way you tell your members and the general public about your organization and its activities. There are two primary forms of public relations to employ in your job as a county party leader: internal and external.

Public relations should be assigned to the public relations committee or chair. In smaller counties, it will be a major part of the county party chair's duties.


Internal Public Relations/Communications

Internal public relations should:

  1. Notify members of meetings.
  2. Keep members informed on the activities of the organization; the business transacted at previous meetings, state and national events, and to a smaller degree allow for the views of the membership.

A county organization's internal public relations may best be accomplished through the publication of an organizational newsletter. The newsletter should:

  1. Be published regularly.
  2. Inform members of coming meetings and events.
  3. Inform members of actions taken at previous meetings.
  4. Inform members of other local political events.
  5. Recognize the accomplishments of the organization's members.
  6. Offer members an opportunity to express their views, i.e., letters to the editor, guest columns.


External Public Relations

As a local public relations chair, you will find that most local news media will depend on you to keep them supplied with Libertarian Party news. Lay the groundwork for your publicity. Before you write a single line of a news release:

  1. Learn about each newspaper, radio and television station serving your area.
  2. Read each paper thoroughly. Watch and listen to local TV and radio news programs. Get to know their style.
  3. If you have not already done so, get acquainted and on a friendly basis with the news media representatives in your area and the editor and political reporter on the papers - both daily and weekly.
  4. Learn the deadlines. By what day, if it's a weekly, does the paper want the story? Or, if it's a daily, what time? Then get your story in before the deadline. If it isn't on time, it won't be used. The same applies to radio and television.
  5. Monitor radio and TV political programs, especially talk shows. Suggest political topics of local concern and interest to the media editors. Try to develop a Libertarian speakers' bureau in your organization. Experts capable of discussing the issues should be encouraged to become vocal, articulate spokespeople for your organization.
  6. Always be friendly. Don't argue with reporters, editors, station managers, or news directors when your story isn't used. They have problems, too.
  7. DON'T FORGET . . . either hand deliver or send all news releases to all media centers in the area and surrounding areas serving people comprising your local political base.


What is News?

Everything you do is NOT news. The following are typical newsworthy events:

  1. Libertarian Party meeting with speaker and important business. This may be released before the event as an announcement, and the next day to report the results of the meeting.
  2. Announcement of a project.
  3. Libertarian leader makes a statement or replies to one - but it's usually not covered unless it's presented before some sort of group.
  4. Resolutions passed on topics of political or local interest.

One Event - Much Publicity

Suppose your organization is planning a dinner with a speaker. That one event can result in as many as seven different stories in the newspaper. The trick is to start your public relations early. Avoid the one massive news release detailing all the plans - a story that the editor may well trim to half the length you've submitted and then never run another follow-up.

Instead, write a series of shorter news releases to be released on different days, submitting them one at a time. From the single event, you can publicize:

  1. Announcement of dinner with name of chair.
  2. Main speaker named.
  3. Plans for dinner with names of other chairs and committee members.
  4. Picture and biography of speaker.
  5. Reminder story of dinner.
  6. "Dinner to be held tonight" story, recapping plans.
  7. Follow up story.

Of course, it has to be a pretty big event to get that kind of attention. But often you can get three, four or more stories out of it.


Writing a News Release

The criteria for getting a story used is its news content, not the fancy preparation. Still, if your release looks good, adheres approximately to some journalistic guidelines, and arrives before deadline, you've increased its chances for making print or grabbing some air time.

There are a few rules to keep in mind in preparing a release:

  1. Include a name, address, and phone number on your release in case any media person might have questions or need clarification. These items are usually typed in the upper left-hand corner of a release.
  2. Always double space!
  3. At the top right side give the release date and time. If you wish to mail the releases in advance, say Monday morning, but want them used Tuesday evening, you might say, "For Release, 1:00 p.m., Tuesday, May 1." In this way, radio, TV and evening papers will be likely to use the release at the same time. Usually "For Immediate Release" is proper.
  4. Leave plenty of white space on your release; editors need room for instructions and rewrites. Go down at least two inches from the top before beginning your release and leave about 1½ inch margins on each side.
  5. At the end of the page, if your release is to be continued (not recommended!), center "more." Then, in the upper left-hand corner of the second page, use "Add 1." At the end of the release, skip a line or two and put "###" or "-30-" in the center of the page.

<Sample Release Heading>

Libertarian Party of Dane County
Rob Hess, Public Relations Chair
P.O. Box xxx
Madison, Wisconsin 53701

For Release: 1:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 1, 1995

Dane County Libertarians Endorse Anti-Draft Initiative

(body of release)




The style that the media uses is an inverted pyramid. With this technique, the most important part of the release should be included in the first paragraph, and each succeeding paragraph should be less essential. Your release should make sense no mater where it's cut off.

Answer the five "W"s - what, where, who, when, why - in your lead paragraph. The lead paragraph, like the release itself, should be an inverted pyramid.

Sentences should be short and complex structural forms should be avoided. Paragraphs should be shorter than normal prose, even if separate paragraphs would not be justified normally. One-sentence paragraphs are commonly used.

Be careful with pronouns. Make sure there can be no doubt about what noun the pronoun stands for.

News releases are written in the past tense, unless they apply to a future event.

For further hints to get your news releases started, read Appendix B in this manual and look to examples of AP and UPI stories in your daily papers.


Tv and Radio Releases - Special Considerations

Radio and TV news directors will more readily use your release if you adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Make it super-short. 45 seconds long at the most (about 100 words). A 30-second release is even better.
  2. Capitalize the entire release for easy on-the-spot reading.
  3. Never use quotation marks, but make it obvious when you are quoting.
  4. Spell out all dollar amounts, dates, numbers. Don't abbreviate anything.
  5. Make sure Libertarian leaders visit local radio and TV stations for interviews and statements on current issues. It is far more successful to stop by than to have the media come to a Libertarian meeting.
  6. At special events have proper facilities available for camera crews, tape recorders, and even a news room. This saves the TV-radio news people's time. News room should have outlets, phones, and typewriters. Make sure the facilities have enough electrical outlets for TV cameras and lights.
  7. Most radio newsrooms have direct lines (phone). Find them, and when a big story is ready to be released by your local organization, call them. They can tape a spokesperson's comments and use it on the radio news program.


Photography and the Media

Candid pictures are best. Have the people involved "discussing" an issue, "looking" at a map, "inspecting" a situation. Write a "cut line" identifying those people who are pictured and briefly explain what's taking place. Local papers will usually print pictures of local people. That is news and builds readership.

Candidates and Party leadership should consider providing local papers with glossy black & whites - 5" x 7".

Television stations prefer 35mm color slides - several head-on positions - that will project the subject to the left of the newscaster when on the screen to their rear; it will put the subject on the viewer's right.

REMEMBER: One picture is worth a thousand words!

Some Final Hints

No one expects each local organization to be thoroughly professional in media relations. But in politics, nothing is more important than letting people know you exist.

Find a person interested in doing a lot of phoning, writing and follow-up work to be Public Relations Chair. Keep track of the talk shows and newspapers in your area, make sure scrap books and thorough records are kept on what happens.

Always treat members of the competing news media equally. Cooperate fully with reporters. If one asks you for details on a story, answer the question without beating around the bush. If you don't know the answer, find out. Don't be forever talking to reporters "off the record." If you don't want something published, don't tell it.

Always be accurate! Make sure names, statistics and dates are accurate.

Finally, never let the media get under your skin!


Fund Raising

All successful efforts are a result of good planning. Financial goals are achieved as a result of implementing a good county finance fund raising program.

Your county fund raising plan should be built around the basic premise that people give to other people. You need to create tools and programs that can be used to match the giver with the appropriate level and the most effective vehicle to be used.

The purpose of this section is to give ideas to the county chairs and their committees. Without generating the necessary dollars, your county organization cannot carry out its political plan for the year.


County Finance Chair

Finances are too important to be cared for in the county party chair's spare time. Therefore, an important priority of the county chair is to appoint a county finance chair and build a strong finance committee. The finance chair, along with the committee (under the supervision of the party chair) will plan all fund raising events.

When deciding who your county finance chair should be, keep in mind these five basic guidelines:

  1. Can you, as county chair, successfully work with him or her?
  2. Does he or she have the time and money to devote to the job?
  3. Does he or she know the sources of money in your county?
  4. Is he or she well thought of and highly respected in the community?
  5. Does he or she have the drive and personality to be a successful fund raiser?

If you can answer "yes" to all of these questions, then you have the perfect finance chair.


Finance Committee

After you have found your finance chair, the next step is for the two of you to recruit your county finance committee. The finance committee should include lawyers, bankers, business executives, small business owners. Pick those individuals with a proven track record of money raising in civic and charitable affairs. Naturally, you run the risk of these individuals being heavily involved elsewhere, but successful individuals have become that way because they know how to make the most of their time and can always find the extra time to do one more job.

Your finance committee should include people throughout your county. For example, you may have five members from a large city, two from a middle sized city and one from each significant town around your county. Once you've gotten them on board, they're in place - county wide - and ready to work when you plan your fund raising activities.


Duties of Finance Chair & Committee

The finance chair and committee should understand the county budget. After all, they are responsible for raising the funds to meet the budget, so they should be confident that it is realistic and well conceived. Lacking this confidence, they will be unenthusiastic about their task, making the fund raising arm of the county organization a failure.

The finance chair should plan a very aggressive fund raising calendar featuring at least four events per year. For example:

The reasons for an active calendar are quite simple:

  1. You raise badly needed dollars for the Libertarian party and local candidates.
  2. County Libertarians are kept busy and active.
  3. New people are attracted into the party through the activity generated (of course this will increase your membership and expand your organization).

The finance committee should review past fund raising events and retain those that have proven successful in past years. Questions the committee might ask when determining the success of an event are:

  1. How much money did the event raise before expenses?
  2. How much money did it raise after expenses?
  3. How much volunteer-power and time did the event require?
  4. How could the event have been made more successful?

Once a review of past events has been conducted, it's time to plan an aggressive calendar for the coming year. Remember, your calendar should not conflict with major state or national fund raising events, if at all possible. Nor should it conflict with major civic events or fund raising drives if you want to succeed. Avoid soliciting members simultaneously during drives sponsored by organizations such as the Community Chest or United Way.


How to Plan a Fund Raising Dinner

The fund raising dinner is one of the best ideas ever conceived, because it combines fun and work, glamour and dollars. The primary advantage of the fund raising dinner is that it has a deadline. Tomorrow is always a better day for most of us, especially when it comes to making contributions. A dinner can generate a substantial amount of money, strengthen the party organization, raise morale and gain publicity if it combines:

1. Good Advance Planning

This really means that one of the finance committee members should take on the responsibility of dinner chair. This should be an individual with the time and energy to handle the myriad of details inevitably involved in a dinner (see Special Projects in the Development section for more details about dinner planning and the public relations section).

2. The Right Ticket Price

This is usually the most difficult question one must answer in planning a dinner. The problem is this: how to raise as much money as possible without offending those who cannot afford to attend or generate bad publicity. As a general guideline, the answer is to charge as much as the Libertarians in your community can afford. But keep in mind that the idea of having a dinner is to raise money. Don't undercharge for the dinner tickets.

3. The Right Speaker

There are never enough truly outstanding speakers to go around. Therefore, it is important that you start your search for a speaker at least three to four months in advance. Remember, most outstanding speakers get hundreds of invitations annually. You'll have to ask early and offer a persuasive reason for a speaker to appear at your dinner.

4. The Right Timing

Picking the proper date for your dinner can mean the difference between a roaring success and a dismal failure. Be sure to avoid other events scheduled in your community, especially those that will attract Libertarians. Avoid the summer vacation season and major holidays. If possible, schedule your dinner around the availability of an outstanding speaker.

Remember, a fund raising dinner can be your most successful county event of the year if it is well planned and fully organized.


Direct Mail

Your county finance committee should consider direct mail canvassing. Face to face solicitation is by far the most effective way to raise money. But direct mail can also generate a substantial amount of cash if properly and carefully used. The key to an efficient direct mail operation is having a fertile mailing list made up of known Libertarians, active members of the county organization, people that attend Libertarian activities, and business leaders.

A mass mailing to everybody in your county is a highly inefficient means of generating funds. Therefore, you should strive to compile a mailing list from which all dead wood has been pared. It is axiomatic the givers give again. So any mailing list should begin with those who have given in the past.

It costs money to type, stamp, address and stuff envelopes, but with the highly sophisticated equipment and consultants available to us today, the task of undertaking a direct mail campaign becomes much easier. Investigate the availability of this equipment and these consultants.

A persuasive letter, or a reason for giving, is the heart of the direct mail appeal. The letter must employ a sales pitch and be as personal as possible. Offering some tangible reward for giving, such as a membership card or subscription to a newsletter, can often increase giving substantially.

Don't forget to enclose a return envelope. You must make giving as simple as possible for the direct mail donor.


Candidate Recruitment

If you are a Libertarian Party, your primary function is the election of Libertarian candidates to public office. If all somebody wants to do is complain about the system and talk about what the parties in power today should do to change things, then they should form a Libertarian Club. There's a big difference between a Party and a Club. A significant focus of the function of a political party is candidate recruitment.

Good candidates are critical to successful elections. Without them, even the best organized and financed campaigns will not succeed. Recruiting, preparing, and supporting such candidates are fundamental responsibilities of the Libertarian Party. If the Libertarian party is to build itself and gain elected offices, candidate recruitment must be conducted in an organized, aggressive manner.

At this stage in our development, we have to consider informational campaigns as a way of getting our start in the political arena. One potentially effective approach for running candidates is to take quality people with no political experience and have them run for bigger offices (i.e., Congress when you do not have an otherwise qualified candidate for that office) to get their feet wet and help fill out the Libertarian ticket while developing some name recognition. Few resources would be spent on this type of race, but the party and campaign would take advantage of free media to help build the party. This type of candidate should have a commitment to then running a more serious race for county or state legislative office in the next cycle to take advantage of the experience and name recognition.

Other people in your party will be known in the community and have some experience. They should be encouraged to run for an office that fits their qualifications and where they would have a chance at winning. These priority campaigns are where you would target your primary campaign resources.

The remainder of this manual suggests a plan of action for Libertarian units to develop an effective candidate recruitment mechanism for all levels of partisan races. While this plan may not be all-inclusive in its techniques and approaches, it will help stimulate new recruitment efforts to prevent offices from being given to the Democrats and Republicans through the lack of Libertarian candidates.

The other purpose of this section is to encourage active party involvement in the process of candidate development once they have committed to run. Providing resources to the candidate and helping him or her gain valuable community visibility are key factors in enhancing the chances for victory and should be regarded by party committees as important as recruiting the candidates.


Basic Rules for Recruitment

The County Party organization is responsible for recruiting candidates to run for every public office in the county and state legislature. Whatever method a county party uses, there are some basic suggestions to follow in recruiting candidates.

  1. Start early. Do not wait until the last minute so you will have to settle for mediocre candidates or not have the time to develop good ones properly. Develop a calendar of planned deadlines well in advance so the various phases of activity can proceed in an orderly manner. Then adhere to these deadlines.
  2. Know what to look for. Research the district's characteristics (socioeconomic, issue, voting behavior, and political complexion, population distribution, dominant groups, etc.). This should suggest from where the candidate should come, what community groups the candidate should belong, etc., in order to appeal to the broadest segment of the constituency. It should also indicate where and how the campaign should be waged. In addition, decide what personality traits, public service record, and political presentation would be advantageous in waging the type of campaign that will be necessary to win.
  3. Know where to look. Once you know what characteristics the candidate should have, choose the possible candidate source groups most likely to produce such an individual. Do not limit yourself in this respect; develop as many contacts as you can in as many groups as possible. These will be helpful not only in recruiting a candidate but also in providing volunteers and other assistance later.
  4. Be aggressive. Actively seek out group contacts and potential candidates. Do not wait for them to come to you. They are generally busy people who have many things to do who may not be aware of your interest, so let them know about it.
  5. Recruit more than one prospect. Be prepared to have a candidate ready if your first choice decides at the last minute not to run or turns out to be less than desirable. Do not be afraid of primary contests. If waged constructively they can be very helpful in building up Libertarian candidate identity and organization early in the campaign. However, it is the responsibility of the party to make sure primary opponents do not decimate each other at the price of the general election.
  6. Provide as much help as possible. Give as much as you can to your candidate or candidates as early as possible in resources, publicity, and visibility. Arrange for appointments to Libertarian and community groups for the candidate and publicize them. Help remove obstacles to prospect's candidacy (employer resistance, etc.). In primary contests it is important that the party provide equal and fair treatment and assistance to all candidates.
  7. Be candid with the candidates. Give them your honest assessment of their strengths and weaknesses, along with constructive, diplomatic suggestions for overcoming the latter. Inform them honestly of your priority on their races, what help (financial or otherwise) you can and will provide, and what their obligations to and from the party unit are. Do not promise what you cannot deliver; failure to meet inflated commitments will only result in an embittered candidate.
  8. If a candidate cannot be recruited, one of the committee members should be encouraged to run. While priorities for filling candidate slots are necessary and desirable, it is still important that as many of them be recruited as possible, even if they are truly "shadow" candidates who do little besides place their names on the ballot. Full slates of Libertarian candidates prevent the diversion of Democratic and Republican resources from unopposed races to more competitive or marginal ones. It should be remembered, however, that Libertarian units should be careful in allocating money and other resources to these "shadow" candidacies when it would be better spent elsewhere.

These ground rules are essential to a good recruitment effort, but in order to make them work, they must be implemented in an organized manner.


Candidate Recruitment Timetable

County Executive Committee Responsibilities

June - preceding election year

  1. Establish long-range goals.
  2. Appoint the recruitment committee.
  3. Form multi-county legislative district committees (for and with overlapping districts with your neighboring counties).

Recruitment Committee Responsibilities

July & August

  1. Decide primary contest policies.
  2. Determine the offices to be recruited.
  3. Establish a schedule of deadlines.


  1. Research the constituencies and incumbents.
  2. Set preliminary district priorities and deadlines.

October & November

  1. Set criteria for candidates in each race.
  2. Determine candidate source groups.
  3. Assign committee members to contact source groups.
  4. Develop a list of potential candidates.
  5. Obtain data on prospective candidates.

December & January

  1. Interview and screen prospects.
  2. Evaluate the prospects.
  3. Make commitments to the candidates.


  1. Train candidates in campaigning and issues.
  2. Assist in campaign organization.

As soon as a candidate is recruited, every effort should be made to:

  1. Assist in improving candidate visibility.
  2. Get the candidate training materials and a campaign manager.


Candidate Development

A good candidate must have a number of qualities that can be perceived by the electorate: willingness to run and drive to win, good physical traits, the ability to meet people, the ability to perform in an office, high moral character, concern for the community, and others. In addition, the candidate should have as many demographic characteristics in common with the majority of the constituency as possible. Recruiting committees should keep all these qualities in mind so they know exactly what kind of persons they seek.

Ideally, candidates committed to run should be recruited well ahead of the actual campaign. Often it is necessary and desirable that they be "groomed" over a period of years to run for a specific office and have the best possible chance of getting it or keeping it in Libertarian hands. The following is a series of development activities that can be conducted over different lengths of time - preferably one to three years, but when necessary, for a shorter period. While these activities should be directed by party units, they are also the responsibility of the candidates themselves. If they are reluctant or refuse to undertake them, the party should seek another candidate.

1. Community Group Involvement and Public Service

If candidates are weak in the area of prior public service, they should be encouraged to join a few community groups and participate in some of their activities. This will increase visibility and identity in the community, give them experience in working with others, improve their records of public service, and expand the base on which they can draw for campaign organization and finances. However, a word of caution: no one should join a group unless they truly believe in its program and purpose. Joining for the sake of joining and being able to list another activity on a campaign brochure or resume is artificial and will be perceived as insincere. There are enough different groups and projects available to generate just about anyone's genuine interest.

2. Appointment to Party and Public Positions

Very helpful in increasing candidate visibility in non-election years are appointments to party or government positions that can be given appropriate publicity. Party units can establish study committees or advisory groups to which the prospective candidates can be appointed. These can be used effectively to promote a candidate, educate them on issues, acquaint them with regular party members, and give publicity to Libertarian positions and events. Libertarian office holders - where we have mayors, county board members, etc. - can use the appointive powers they have for the same objective.

3. Contact with Community Opinion-makers

Party leaders should arrange for meetings of the candidates with influential community leaders and opinion makers (and get to know them yourself if you don't already have friendly relations). The candidates can get acquainted, present some of their ideas, and seek the advice and help of these people, preferably in a social situation initially. Such sessions can indicate whether these leaders will support the candidate, or if not, to flatter them by soliciting their ideas. The ultimate goal of these gatherings should be major financial assistance, public endorsements, or other assistance for the candidates.

4. Building the Campaign Organization

Candidates, with the help of the recruitment committee and other party leaders, should immediately begin to recruit their key advisors and workers for the campaign so the initial planning and organization of the campaign can begin. A manager, public relations director, legal counsel, accountant, finance chair, and organization director should be selected initially. These people in turn can recruit their own subordinate workers. The candidate should try to incorporate his contacts in various community groups into his organization to make it as broadly based as possible, if only on a figurehead or advisory basis.

5. Party Involvement

If any of the candidates have not previously been affiliated with the Libertarian Party, efforts should be made to involve them in LP organizational activities. This will acquaint them with regular LP members, give them political experience, provide them with volunteer workers, and give them a means to win the trust of party members who do not know their background or politics.

6. Family and Employer Support

Candidates without the unwavering support of family and employers have a severe handicap. While the party organization may not be able to secure the former, it may be able to help remove employer resistance to the campaign. Libertarian friends or associates of the employers might persuade them to allow, or at least not oppose, the campaign and possibly to arrange for a leave of absence or reduced workload for the candidate. If employer resistance cannot be overcome, party leaders may try to arrange for another job for the candidate. Republicans are particularly effective with this strategy in their own candidate development.

7. Election Experience

For an untried candidate, it may be advisable for them to participate as an informational candidate first - or as a volunteer worker in another campaign. This can provide firsthand experience in campaign planning and techniques, public exposure, and recruitment of workers and supporters.

8. Campaign Techniques

Candidates who have weak public speaking skills or a cold-fish handshake can improve these campaign essentials through guidance and practice. A popular LP incumbent can offer help on improving these techniques by demonstrating how they do them and why. Such advice coming from a successful campaigner should not be lost on the candidate. Encourage the candidates to speak out and introduce themselves at party and public meetings to build up their confidence and perfect their approach long before the campaign really starts.

9. Knowledge of the District and Its Issues

A candidate who has never run or held office before will probably need advice from experienced Libertarians in the county. Get old newspapers from the last time a race was held in that district. Look at how the old campaign was waged (you might also find things the incumbent promised and failed to deliver). Surveys and polls by party organizations or private companies can be very helpful in this also, except that professional polling can be expensive. Since the impression of a candidate as being understanding and representative of a constituency is critical, the candidate and the party units involved are responsible for being as informed as possible on what is bothering the people, what a person who wins the office sought can do about them, and what some constructive or imaginative solutions may be.


Appendix A

How often do you hear the phrase, "You know what you should do . . . ."? Rather than discourage ideas, tell a potential volunteer that the plan might work, but that you have to have this information to better understand the scope of the project. If that individual comes back with a solid plan on this basis, super. You may have a great project, now complete with a road map to success. If it was just somebody with ideas, but no commitment to doing anything themselves, they may just stop nagging you once they know that you expect more than a list of tasks from your fellow volunteers.

Project Chair's Planning Guide (CPG)

  1. Title your project.
  2. Primary purpose. The primary purpose of the project should state what this project will do and should be no longer than one sentence.
  3. Description. Give a brief description of the proposed project and background information. Then list at least three specific goals, in order of importance, that relate directly to the project. These should be measurable goals. Any other goals that do not relate directly to the purpose should be listed after the first three goals.
  4. Human power. What are the specific task assignments? You should list everyone involved and their duties, including:
    1. The project chair.
    2. Committee people.
    3. A member of the executive committee who serves to act as a liaison and informs you about the party policies that relate to the project.
    4. The vice chair (?) Who makes certain the project meets goals as stated in the overall organizational plan.
    5. The party chair who makes sure the project meets goals as stated and signs contracts.
  5. Resources. What specific materials, supplies and resources will be required. List resources, addresses, phone numbers, and contact people.
  6. Problems and solutions. List at least three potential problems with solutions in order of importance.
  7. Budget. Complete a proposed budget indicating all anticipated income and expenses. Make certain the proposed budget equals the budget approved at planning sessions and that the budget balances.
  8. Action. List the specific steps to bring this project to a successful completion, showing planned activities for each step. Make certain steps are in the future tense - these are steps you will take. Include all steps from start to finish. Make sure to include the following: at least quarterly updates to the executive committee, newsletter deadlines, committee meetings, event dates, and all other pertinent steps.
  9. Once this chair's planning guide has been completed to this point, it will be submitted to the executive committee who will decide whether it fits with the mission and current organizational priorities.

    Upon approval of the executive committee and the completion of the project, the following three items must be added to the original proposal. This allows the committee to determine the success of the plan, provides a guide to future generations in continuing the successes, and gives everybody a learning tool for the future - whether the project succeeds or fails.

  10. Revisions. Record any revision of the original plan. List revisions by order of deviation from original plan and give a brief explanation for the revision.
  11. Recommendations. What recommendations do you have for future project chairs? Each recommendation should take its own paragraph. Put some thought into this question - this is what future project chairs will use to plan projects.
  12. Results. Give specific and measurable results for each goal established. Describe the impact of this project on the organization, individual members, and the community. This is the most important section of your planning document. This states how you actually have impacted the Libertarian Party of your jurisdiction and the community. Make certain to state each goal and result separately and then give a paragraph each to: the individuals involved with the project, the Libertarian Party, and community benefits of the project. Also, complete an actual financial statement showing the final budget for completing this plan.

Appendix B

How to Write Effective News Releases

Learning to develop and manage effective media relations is one of the most important skills a person working in the political arena can master. This includes knowledge of the two general types of media coverage your organization can consider when developing an overall media strategy. The two types are earned media and paid media. Earned media is defined as news coverage earned through news releases, news conferences, interviews, and events. Paid media refers to advertising that you buy, and in which you control the message 100%

Earned media has two major advantages over paid media for political organizations. First, earned media almost always costs less than paid media - often, nothing at all. Secondly, a message transmitted to the public through earned media carries more credibility than a message the public receives through paid ads because earned media is perceived to be part of "objective" news coverage.

There are two steps to success in acquiring earned media. They are: physically transmitting your message to the media, and packaging your message so the media will note it and share it with the public. This appendix will examine in detail how these two steps can be accomplished using the most common tool of public relations: the news release.

News Releases: An Overview

A news release is simply a statement designed to effectively and efficiently transmit information from you to journalists. You can issue them for many purposes: to announce the formation of a new organization, a new project, a new appointment, a position on a public policy issue, an activity, or anything else that resembles news.

Using news releases to get your message to journalists requires two steps: knowing where the journalists are and writing your news release properly so that it conveys information.

Developing a Media List

For step one, you have to acquire media lists. These lists should be maintained in a manner that makes it easy to make address changes and recopy them. Typing the list on copier label sheets or keeping the list on a computer database are two ways of accomplishing this. You should also distinguish, via label or data codes or by compiling separate lists, between different types of journalists and media (i.e. radio, newspaper, magazine, and television reporters; also distinguish between editors, reporters, and columnists; between reporters covering world news, state and local news, politics, human interest feature stories, sports, finance, and so forth).

There are several ways to develop media lists. Usually organizations that share views similar to your own will give you a copy of their list. You may wish to request a copy of the media lists of several organization and combine them. For a new Libertarian Party county organization, one of the quickest and most practical methods is to develop your own. Use a telephone book to identify all news organizations that serve your county (including those media outlets that lie outside your county but broadcast into or circulate within your county). Call them and ask for the name(s) and FAX numbers of the journalist(s) who cover the topics on which you work.

After you have developed your media list, and mailed or Faxed to it, be sure to keep your records updated. Make a note of all address changes, title changes, and keep your list current.

Beginning Your News Release

There are very specific formats for writing news releases, and you should learn them and use them. If you do not follow the proper format, there is a good chance that journalists will not read your release. Besides that, as the news release format is designed to efficiently transmit information, you have every motive to use the proper format in order to get you job done well. The format is easy to learn and simple to use.


To start, you should develop news release letterhead. Although styles vary, a typical news release contains the name of your organization, your address, and your phone number on the top left and the words "News", "News Release", or Media Release" on the top right.

Typically, news release letterhead in the United States in on 8½" x 11" paper, and legal size (8½" x 14") is considered acceptable.

A #10 (standard business size) carrier envelope will also be necessary. It should match your news release letterhead in both style, ink color, and paper color. It is acceptable to use larger envelopes if your release is to be accompanied by other items too large for a #10 envelope, such as photographs, sample copies of books, and so forth.

At the top of your release you should type, "For Release: Immediate" or "For Release: <the date you want>". If you do not want journalists to use the information presented in the release until a certain date and time, type "Embargoed Until <date and time>" under the "For Release" information.

On the right, directly across from the "For Release" information, you should type "Contact:" and then the name or names of a person or persons who will both be available to answer questions from the media and be capable to answer all reasonable questions. The individuals' phone numbers should be included under their names, and - very important - make sure they are available at those numbers when the release goes out.

The Slug

The first bit of text in a news release is the "slug." This refers to the title, or headline, on the release. The slug should very briefly summarize the topic of the release and, if at all possible, utilize action verbs to sound as interesting and as newsworthy as possible.

The Inverted Triangle

A good news release follows what is known as the inverted triangle format. The inverted triangle means that the information presented to the journalist in the release begins with the most important information. The next paragraph contains slightly less important information, and so on, until the very last bit of information in the release is the least important. If you have written a release correctly, it should be possible to cut off the bottom half of the release and still be presenting enough information to make the release useful to journalists.

It is important to use the inverted triangle format because many journalists receive large numbers of news release each day. Time constraints may force them to read only the beginning of a release before deciding if they will use the material or throw the release away. It is, therefore, in your interest to present information in an efficient and straightforward manner so that a journalist can access your information quickly.

The Lead

The lead is the first sentence or paragraph in a news release. It should contain what is known as the five w's: who, what, where, when, and why. These five w's give a journalist what he or she has to know in order to pursue your story. You should memorize the five w's and make certain that they appear in your lead.


Keep the release short and succinct. A news release should rarely go over one page in length (those that do will typically be release containing the full text of a speech; these are specialized releases not useful for getting journalists to attend functions or to cover hard news). Always type a release, and use wide margins. It is very common for a release to be typed double-spaced in order to allow journalists to take notes on the release itself. If you do not type double spaced, at least leave space between paragraphs. Paragraphs and sentences should be kept short. Use exact dates whenever possible (for example: Sunday, April 20 or even April 20 is more informative than "next Sunday" or "the Sunday following election day"). When using numbers in text, spell out the numbers 1 - 10 (one through ten); for higher numbers, use numerals.


News releases are designed to transmit facts. Opinions should not be included unless they are clearly identified as such. One permissible way to convey opinion is by including a quotation by somebody in your organization conveying the opinion you wish to transmit. Make certain that the quote is encased in quotation marks and clearly attributed.

Closing Symbols

At the end of your release, you must signify to journalists that the release is over. There are two commonly-accepted symbols that mean "this release is over." The first is -30-, the second ###. Use either at the end of your release, placing whichever one you choose in the lower center of the page. In the rare instances that your release goes over one page, type MORE at the bottom of the first page and any other page that is not the last page and put your symbol at the end of the last page.

News Release vs. News Advisory

From time-to-time you may want to send out a release that does not announce an event, appointment, or other specific activity, but simply informs journalists about something that they might find useful. One example is a release telling journalists about the publications your organization produces - publications journalists might find handy when preparing stories. In this case you would not expect journalist to write a news story about your publications, but you would want to encourage journalists to use your materials. Another example is a release telling journalists that your organization has a new address and telephone number. Again, you would not expect journalists to write a story about your new office, but you would want journalists who contact you to know your new address and telephone number.

In these instances, you can write "News Advisory" or "Media Advisory" on your letterhead and carrier envelope in place of the standard "News Release." This tells journalists that the information in the release is information useful to them, not necessarily something you want them to file in their stories. If you do not wish to purchase and/or design new letterhead, it is perfectly acceptable for you to type Advisory" just over the "For Release" section on the top left of the page.

Including Photographs with Your Release

In some cases you may want to enclose a photograph with your release. Examples of this include: a professional "head shot" of a candidate or speaker, a candidate and key supporter in announcing the endorsement of the key supporter, etc. Use a black and white glossy photograph. Type a caption describing what the photograph is and the date and glue the caption on the back of the photo.

After You Have Mailed (or Faxed) the Release

The first rule is: be available to answer questions. The second rule is: treat reporters with courtesy. The individual or individuals you have listed under "Contact" on the release should be easy to reach on the days following the mailing of the release. They should be briefed on the answers to likely questions. If they do not know the answer to a reasonable question, they should be prepared to find out the answer and get back to the reporter before their deadline. It is not considered rude to ask a reporter doing a story what his or her deadline is for having their story completed and filed (turned in). Reporters' questions should be answered as soon as possible, and reporters' telephone calls should be returned ASAP as well. A couple of hours can frequently make the difference between getting in a story and not getting in a story.

Getting on the Day Book

Media wire services, such as the Associated Press, Reuters, the United Press International, and others maintain what are called day books. These are not books at all, but lists of all events occurring on a certain day. If your news release advertises an event, mail a release well in advance of that date to all the news wires in your area and you will be listed on the day book. You should, however, telephone each wire service the night before or very, very early in the morning of the event to make certain that they received your release and you are listed. If they did not receive it, you can get listed by giving the wire service your information over the telephone. Journalists and assignment editors from newspapers, radio, and television all refer to the news wires' day books frequently as they determine what news they cover. A day book listing costs you nothing and is very useful in getting the word out about your event to journalists.


There's nothing difficult about using news releases to acquire plenty of free, earned media for your Party. There are, however, established techniques and formats that should be used to make your releases and your overall media program as effective as possible. Use these techniques and formats, and as long as you have something worthwhile to say, you will receive the credibility and the exposure an effective earned media program can give you.

Also, you will note that this appendix uses the word "news" or "media" instead of "press." "Press Release" is commonly used and you can make that decision if you like. However, there are those broadcast journalists out there who will tell you "we don't have any presses here." Calling something a "news release" has the slight advantage of not irritating those occasional reporters from the Fifth Estate who take everything personally.


Appendix C

How to Get Published: Opinions/Editorials

The Purpose of Writing Editorials

Writing an editorial and having it published in the Opinion or Commentary section of local and national newspapers can benefit you and your organization in a number of substantive ways. Through editorial writing you can reach thousands of people with your position on an important public policy issue. You can establish "expert status" for both you and/or your organization, thus generating media attention. Your group can obtain valuable "earned Media." And you can gain a new source of revenue. In addition, if you are interested in pursuing writing as a career, editorial writing can provide you with valuable experience and credentials.

Choosing a Topic and Angle

The first step in preparing a newspaper editorial is choosing a topic. The topic you select should be one in which you and/or your organization have an interest and one that you feel comfortable writing about. The key to writing editorials with impact is to choose the topics that are most important to you. This is a great way to feature your candidates and help them develop name recognition and credentials.

Deciding on the angle for your editorial is critical. The angle is an interesting and/or innovative manner of presenting an opinion - an opinion that is not necessarily itself original. In a nutshell, the angle is what will make your editorial stand above the others.

It is important to note that most newspapers carry editorials written by well-known syndicated columnists such as Jack Germond, George Will, and Walter Williams. Your article cannot simply be a regurgitation of these articles. In fact, your essays may have to be even more creative than those of syndicated columnists, since columnists can rely somewhat on well-established reputations.

An effective angle will include one or more of these attributes:


It may be an overused cliche, but "timing is everything" when it comes to getting your newspaper editorial published. If your article is no longer timely, interesting or relevant by the time it is read by a newspaper editor, it will not be published. This is something you should bear in mind when you are selecting your topic and your angle.

Some helpful hints on timing:


The process of identifying the newspapers or magazines to which you want to submit your editorial is called targeting. There are four elements of targeting:

Writing the Article

It is not the intention of this manual to teach readers writing skills. If you have not already developed sufficient skills in this area, you should consider taking a writing composition course, reading style and composition books, reading editorials written by others, and/or simply practicing. You should keep the following in mind when you write:

  1. Avoid using "big" and foreign words. In an attempt to be perceived as intellectuals, some novice editorialists use technical jargon or big words throughout their articles. Far too often, the terminology makes the author seem pretentious, the word is misused, or it seems out of place in an otherwise smooth and well-written essay. Writers should remember that their message can become convoluted when the use words and phrases that the average reader cannot understand. And editorial that no one understands is worthless and is unlikely to be published. There are times, however, when writers must use big words or foreign phrases. Sometimes such a word or phrase is ideal for encapsulating an event, emotion, sensation or individual and all other words pale by comparison. For instance, a writer might use the French expression coup d'ètat, rather than saying "the violent ouster of the established government."
  2. Do not assume that the reader knows as much as you do. Presumably, you know something about the topic on which you are writing. Readers of your article, including editorial page editors, may know nothing about it. Make sure to identify key figures or organizations mentioned in your article not only by name, but their associations; spell out all acronyms at least once; and take the time to fully describe events included in your essay rather than just making passing references to them. Readers should need no supplemental materials to fully understand you opinion. In a nutshell, your article should be fully self-contained. For instance, if you have written an article on Northern Ireland, a reference to the "IRA" might appear as "...the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a group classified by the U.S. Department of Defense as a terrorist organization."
  3. Avoid making your article too narrow or technical. Do not make your article so technical or narrow that the average reader will not be interested. Remember, one of the objects of editorials is winning people over to your position on a particular issue. You will not accomplish this by boring readers with details that do not interest them and are not necessary to make your point. Editorials are written for the masses.

Standard Op/Ed Format

Typically, opinion pieces should be between 600 and 800 words for newspapers and can be up to 3,000 words for magazines. They should be typed (preferably double spaced) on letter-sized paper, free of grammatical errors and typographical errors. If your article looks unprofessional, don't expect it to be used. For the convenience of the opinion editors, writers should title the article and indicate the total number of words used at the top of the first page. Be sure to include your by-line at the bottom of the last page of text and provide brief biographical information on yourself.

Additional Tips to Get Published

  1. Establish credentials, such as
  1. Sending your articles . . .
  1. Be prepared for calls. Occasionally newspaper editors have questions about submissions or want updated information, particularly if there have been late-breaking developments on your topic.
  2. Perseverance! Don't be discouraged by rejections. Undoubtedly, you will receive many of them. No matter how good your writing may be, you will not be able to anticipate the needs of newspapers at a given point 100% of the time. If you have trouble placing a particular article, you may wish to consider adapting it for the "Letters to the Editor" section.

Finally . . . . .

. . . . . You don't have to be famous to be a successful editorial writer. You need only possess sufficient writing and research skills and follow the simple guidelines outlined in this appendix.


Appendix D

Talk Shows: Bringing Libertarian Ideas to the Public

Radio (and television) talk shows, with millions of listeners and viewers, serve as an excellent resource for Libertarian activists. Talk shows provide an inexpensive and effective way to communicate the libertarian point of view to a large number of people. Because talk shows require a regular supply of interesting guests, often on the spur of the moment, talk shows are generally an accessible medium for Libertarian activists. Any Libertarian activist who becomes a guest, or even telephones, one of the many talk shows is reaching a tremendous number of people with the libertarian viewpoint.

Telephoning a Radio Talk Show

Many people, Libertarian activists included, listen to radio talk shows without ever telephoning the show to get on the air. One reason is that some people feel intimidated by the idea of being heard by thousand, if not millions, of people Another reason is that listeners believe that it is nearly impossible to get on ("I always get a busy signal.").

It's natural to be intimidated by the prospect of speaking before thousands of people. So the trick is: don't think of it like that. Instead, think of your call to a talk show as a conversation between a friendly stranger (the talk show host) and yourself. Most people talk to strangers frequently - store clerks, for example. Do most of us feel nervous about that? No. So think of your call to a radio show as something similar, except that the subject matter is something that interests you.

Another way to rid yourself of nervousness is to listen carefully to the other callers. Do they sound like Rhodes Scholars or broadcast professionals? No. Of course they don't. They sound like ordinary Americans. Remind yourself that you are just as capable as they.

The second reason many Libertarians don't telephone radio talk shows is because they believe it is too difficult to get on. Wrong! A little perseverance is all it takes. Talk shows are big business for radio stations and syndicates. They have invested considerable resources into researching such questions as how may listeners they have and who their callers are. This research shows conclusively that, for both big shows and small local ones, only 2% of the listeners ever call the show. And this 2% calls repeatedly. That tells us a couple of things:

First, it tells us that it is possible to get on a show - that not getting a busy signal is not simply a one-in-a-million fluke - because most of a show's callers are calling in repeatedly.

Second, it tells us that it is OK for Libertarian activists to call in repeatedly, because that's what nearly all the other callers are doing, too!

It also tells us how it is that some talk show hosts recognize the voices of some of their callers. It's not a feat of prodigious memory - it's merely that these callers telephone frequently.

Make a habit of listening to radio talk shows - if not frequently, at least occasionally. Write down the telephone number and put it wherever you keep frequently-called numbers in your home or office. Then the next time you have an opinion, or a Libertarian viewpoint to share, call! And if you have a car phone, make use of the minutes and hours spent at traffic lights and traffic jams by spreading the Libertarian word to thousands of your fellow citizens. Just use care behind the wheel.

How to Become a Featured Guest on a Radio Talk Show

In order to become a featured guest on a radio or television talk show, you should follow these basic steps:

  1. Find out what radio and television talk shows are in your area. Go to your local library and look for a broadcasting directory in the reference section. The broadcasting directory will have a listing of radio and television stations and talk shows. Familiarize yourself with the talk shows: listen to them, learn the names of the hosts, and get a feel for what the hosts are like personally and politically. Get a broad picture of the issues that are covered by the hosts. You will most likely be interested in talk shows dealing with current events.
  2. If you'd rather not invest the time in a library visit, check you phone book and your local newspapers. The first will always list major radio shows, the second nearly always does (sometimes with detailed information). And you can always find out what shows are on the air simply by turning on the radio and listening.

  3. Write to the host or producer of the show. When writing to a talk show host or producer, you should use one of the following two approaches:

Be courteous and friendly and provide full information on your expertise in the subject area. If you have previous experience as a guest on talk shows, include that information. Be certain to make it apparent to the host/producer that your appearance would make for an interesting show that would appeal to his or her listeners.

Follow up your letter with a telephone call to find out if you can schedule a specific time for an interview. If you cannot arrange a specific interview time, but the host/producer promises to get back to you, give him or her your telephone number. If appropriate, offer to mail copies of articles on the issue that you've had published, including letters to the editor sent to you local paper. After you send this information, wait a few days. If you do not hear from the show, call again to see if an interview can be scheduled. Remember, you are helping the host/producer by agreeing to be on the talk show. Unless the talk show has guests booked well in advance or is biased, you will most likely be schedule for an interview. Do not call the host/producer every day! Just make sure that you follow up on your initial contact.

Finally, be sure you are timely. You are much more likely to get on a talk show if the issue you are talking about is in the news.

  1. How to prepare for the interview. Remember, the purpose of the talk show is to provide interesting, stimulating, topical discussion (which in turn attracts listeners, which increase revenue to the station). You will be more interesting if you are well prepared for the talk show. Your assertions during the show are open to challenge, if not within the interview itself, then possibly in a balancing interview.
  2. Talk shows run anywhere from 10 minutes to three hours, but any one guest is rarely on more than one hour. The interview can either be in person (at the studio) or over the telephone. When possible, hosts usually prefer to have you come to the studio. Some shows are pre-recorded while others are live. Be sure you know the specifics of how your interview is going to be conducted. You have to know the time, place, format, context, and duration of the interview in order to adequately prepare.

    Once you know the specifics of the talk show, choose the two or three most important points you want to discuss. These are the key points which you believe you should make - irrespective of the questions asked. If the host and you share a similar point of view, these points will be likely to come up naturally. If not, make sure that you include them where you feel it is appropriate.

    Review current developments in the subject area. Make sure you are fully up-to-date on the issue or news story by reviewing the most current newspaper and magazine articles and watching the television news on the topic. You have to be prepared to respond to developments occurring even the day of the interview. Guests who demonstrate that they are in full possession of the facts are more likely to gain the respect and confidence of the listener.

    Many talk shows have a pre-interview, usually conducted by the producer or an assistant just before the show begins. The pre-interview is an opportunity to suggest specific issues you would like to discuss. It also affords a chance to get an idea as to what direction the host is likely to steer the interview.

    Be prepared for any possible counter-argument that might be put to you. Realize the listener is more likely to be influenced by a rational, reasoned argument than by political dogma.

    Whenever possible, use anecdotes to underline your points. Draw from your own experiences and build mental pictures through vivid and descriptive words that evoke specific images. Your examples should be brief, factual, recent and relevant. Most effective anecdotes have been thought of in advance.

  3. How to act once you are on the air. Most talk shows start with the host introducing the guest and the subject to be discussed. After the introductory remarks, the host asks the guest some general questions. For example, he or she may ask you how you got involved with the issue or what you think about the problem in general. These questions will be followed by more specific questions and then the host may invite listeners to call-in and ask questions. Some callers will be hostile and/or obnoxious. Do not get into an argument with them - as Bonnie Flickinger, elected Libertarian, says "kiss babies!" Let the host settle all disputes. If the host does not, let the caller continue. Listeners will become offended and the obnoxious caller will end up making himself look foolish.

Always be confident in what you say and be able to back up what you say with facts. Do not contradict yourself. If you do not know the answer to a question, do not try to answer it. You will run the risk of ruining your credibility should your information subsequently be found to be false. Be honest, and say why an answer cannot be given. For example, "I don't know" or "I'd rather not answer until I review that information fully." Remember to use conversation style and to be friendly and informal. Simplicity is essential. Use short and concise sentences that come to the point. Try to speak from experience, use anecdotes and illustrations that are both relevant to the point being discussed and to the experience of the listener.

Also, do not limit yourself to answering the questions asked by the host. For example, if the interview is short and you are pressed for time, you may wish to offer a brief response answering the immediate question and then make a transition to the other point you want to make. But always respond first to the question at hand. Talk show hosts look dimly on being treated as stage props for monologues.

In general, difficult or embarrassing questions are best answered directly. This can be done without giving ground on your position. A key tactic is to challenge the assumptions expressed in the troubling question. But if the assumptions are accurate, you may wish to attack the logic by which conclusions are reached from those assumptions. You will gain credibility with both host and audience by your frank response.

Under certain circumstances, you may wish to avoid answering a particular question even when you know the answer. If this is the case, your indirect response should address an aspect of the question, providing relevant details while avoiding the point of the question. Provided such answers are articulate, interesting, and impart valuable information, the host will seldom hold you to directly answering the question. Remember, your goal is to communicate the information you want to the listeners, and the host's goal is to provide an interesting show (few radio hosts see themselves as investigative reporters - they are entertainers. Do not necessarily feel constrained by the host's questions.

The most useful impression which you can make on the audience is that of credibility. Only when the listener is prepared to believe you, or for that matter any speaker, will he or she begin to pay attention to what is being said. For this reason the style of your presentation is very important. The image and impression you want to project is one of being friendly, sincere, natural, considerate, helpful, and competent. The following list may be helpful to you in projecting such an image:

At the end of the program, the host will thank you. Respond with, "it's been a pleasure." It is OK, however, to say nothing at this time if it is clear that the segment has run overtime and the host is anxious to wrap things up.

If you enjoyed speaking on the show, drop the host a letter and offer to be on again. Many talk show hosts find themselves in a jamb once in a while when they can't find a guest. If possible, tell the host that you can be available on short notice in the future.


Appendix E

Guide to Hosting Successful News Conferences

An effective media relations program can be the cornerstone of a successful, growing Libertarian Party and political campaign. There are two types of media coverage, covered in Appendix B - earned media and paid media. To capture additional earned media through the news conference method, you must first know why news conferences are held, and when it is appropriate to call one.

The Purpose of a News Conference

The purpose of a news conference (also called a Press Conference, but that choice sometimes alienates broadcast journalists) is to announce a newsworthy event at a suitable time. Examples of reasons to call a news conference include: announcing the filing of a public-interest law suit, announcing a new or updated stand on an issue by your elected Libertarians or the organization as a whole, announcing the introduction of a piece of legislation, announcing a major award, calling for specific actions by a government body or official, etc. It is appropriate to call a news conference when you have satisfied two criteria: the event is important enough to warrant news coverage, and it is timely enough to warrant news coverage on that date.

The Format of a News Conference

News conferences typically follow a set format. Journalists will be seated, usually auditorium-style, facing a podium. The sponsor of the news conference will begin the proceedings by introducing themselves and by either reading a short statement or by introducing one or more others who will read short (1-2 minutes is common) statements. The reporters will then have the opportunity to ask questions of all those who have spoken, with the initial speaker acting as emcee. At a certain point, the reporters will either run out of questions or the emcee will call the news conference to a close. Nearby there will be a table containing press kits, which are written copies of prepared remarks and supplemental material supplied by the sponsors and/or speakers. The entire news conference should probably take less than thirty minutes.

If you are considering calling a news conference but have never attended one yourself, you might find it useful to attend one. Most news conferences are open to the public, although you may wish to forgo asking questions if you are not a journalist. Attending a news conference will show you how they are structured and improve your confidence about organizing one yourself. You can learn about the news conferences in your area from your local newspapers, which nearly always carry a calendar section listing important local events, their locations, and times. If it is available to you, you may also wish to watch the cable public affairs network C_SPAN, which covers a great many news conferences on a wide variety of topics.

The Three Critical Elements

Once a purpose has been established, there are three critical elements to a news conference. The are: a location, journalists, and a spokesperson(s).

When selecting the location for a news conference, seek one that will be convenient to the journalists you want to attract. If you are located outside a city but seek coverage from electronic media and newspaper journalists who are headquartered downtown, it is usually best to hold your conference downtown near the journalists rather than convenient only to you. There are exceptions, of course, such as a news conference announcing the opening of a new headquarters.

For indoor news conferences not held in your own offices (which is your likely situation) determine if there is a place in town where news conferences are frequently held. If so, consider renting a space there yourself, since many journalists will be familiar with the location. Another excellent location is a conference room in a well-known hotel that is convenient for journalists. Conference rooms can be rented at a reasonable rate for several hours. An added plus for renting a hotel conference room is that hotels will provide a podium and a microphone.

It is also possible for you to hold a news conference outdoors, but you should do so only for a very good reason. Occasionally, impromptu news conferences are held outside by prominent policy makers and other celebrities. This is fairly easy for them, as they are able to attract reporters nearly everywhere they go. If you are a celebrity or are working for one, you can use this option occasionally. Another reason you may want to hold your news conference outdoors is to take advantage of interesting visual or esthetic surroundings that relate to your topic. In these instances, make certain that you have permission to be on the land in question (contact your city hall or police department for information about permits if you think you may need one) and make certain that the area is not noisy.

If reporters are to come to your news conference, they have to be invited. You can invite them in several ways: by mailing and or faxing a news release and follow-up with a telephone call; by telephoning reporters, editors and assignment desks; and by getting on the Day Book. See the appendix on writing news releases and media advisories for more information about techniques to successfully accomplish this.

A news conference may have one speaker or several. If several, one should act as emcee. That is, the individual who will begin and end the event and otherwise act as a master of ceremonies. Speakers should identify themselves and, if applicable, the organization they represent. They should then make brief, succinct statements a few minutes in length. It is a good idea for speakers to write their remarks ahead of time and have copies available, on a nearby table, for the media. After all speakers have concluded, the floor should be opened to questions from the media. When there are no more questions, or when the news conference has gone on an appropriate length of time, the emcee should end it, saying something like, "That concludes our news conference. Thank you for coming."


The following tips can help you make your own performance optimal and make your news conference as effective as possible.

  1. Dress appropriately, preferably in solid colors. As sponsor of the news conference, you and your associates will be in the best position to define "appropriate" dress. However, on most occasions, standard business dress is called for, because you will want to project competence and authority. Solid colors, or nearly solid colors (such as pinstripe suits) look best on television. A dark suit with a red tie (or scarf for women) is the preferred dress for both genders for television interviews on Capitol Hill. White suits and dresses should be avoided because under bright light, white has a tendency to glare on television. A little bit of white - such as a white dress shirt under a suit - is fine.
  2. Prepare and have available a large number of press kits containing copies of statements and supplementary materials. A news conference called by a coalition of groups, for example, might have as its press kit a copy of the media release that announced the news conference, a copy of the remarks of each of the speakers, and succinct background information on the participating groups and the issue in question. Many press kits should be made before your event and placed on a table where they will be easily accessible to reporters. You may do this by assembling everything together in a folder, or by laying out stacks of each individual component. Press kits are extremely useful to reporters preparing stories and also to you since they: cut down on the number of routine questions you receive during the news conference (such as "How do you spell your name?"); help assure that reporters quote you and describe your work accurately; and allow the reporters to have quick and easy access to the information provided at the news conference when they sit down to write their stories.
  3. Don't say anything that can be taken out of context. As you write your prepared remarks and as you answer questions, be careful that you do not say anything that could be misleading if somebody quotes you only partially. If you do so, a reporter or political opponent may quote a portion of your remarks later to your detriment. One formerly prominent politician, for example, speaking to a group of reporters on the subject of offensive jokes, said, "This is an example of an ethnic joke I find offensive . . ." - and told the joke. Later, he resigned from office as a result of the firestorm of criticism he receive when the reporters repeated the joke, noting merely that they had heard it from him.
  4. Think through all the possible questions you might receive in advance, and determine your answers. This technique is helpful in two ways: it helps you have the best possible answers, and it reduces your nervousness because you will be fairly sure that you will not receive any questions you are not prepared to handle.
  5. Be aware that reporters may not know as much about the subject matter as you do, and be prepared to be informative without being condescending. Some reporters will know a great deal about your subject, but others may cover a dozen stories on a dozen different topics in a week, and therefore know very little. If your subject is complicated, it is a good idea to have plenty of useful, but easy to read, background information in your press kits.
  6. Do your homework. If you are not up-to-date on the subject, thoroughly review the facts before the news conference. When you agree to speak at a news conference, you imply that you are an expert on the subject in question. Do not insult the media by expecting them to travel to your event to hear your opinion only to have them learn that you have not made an effort to be fully informed.
  7. Admit it if you do not know an answer to a question. Even the best-prepared expert will sometimes be asked a question that they cannot answer. If you have done you homework, this will be a rare occurrence, and probably an understandable one. The question may be extremely specific, or there may not be an answer available. On these occasions, do not hesitate to admit that you do not know. It is far better for you to admit that you do not know an answer to a question than for you to try to fake it with a lot of empty words, or worse, a false answer. Simply say, "I'm sorry, I don't have the answer to your question." If you think you can find out, invite the journalist to telephone you later for an answer or take their name and phone number and get back to them promptly with an answer. If there is a good reason (a reason, not an excuse) that you do not know, you can say that. For example: "I cannot tell you how many people in the county have AIDS, because the government agencies' estimates differ greatly and I do not want to give you a figure that may not be accurate."
  8. If you state a personal opinion, identify it as such. If it is appropriate for you to state a personal opinion during a news conference, make certain that reporters understand that the opinion is your own and not that of the Party, government agency, or organization that you may be representing at the news conference. If it is not appropriate for you to express a personal opinion, don't do it - no matter how tempted you may be.
  9. Maintain control of the subject matter. Do not let the media change the subject if you do not want the subject changed. Some news conferences, such as a typical televised White House news conference, are designed to address a broad array of topics. However, single-issue news conferences are also common, and sometimes necessary. For example, if a group of political action committees representing the entire political spectrum joins together in a coalition to advocate, say, changes to improve ballot access laws, and this coalition holds a news conference, it is key to the success of the event that only that one topic be addressed. Otherwise, some speakers may say things that other speakers don't agree with, and an argument overshadowing the main statement could result. Similarly, if a politician struggling to overcome a financial scandal calls a news conference on state adoption policies as a means of getting some constructive news coverage, the last thing he or she may want is questions about the scandal. In these instances it is appropriate for the person handling questions to retain control of the subject matter by saying to the reporter who asked the extraneous question something along the lines of "That is an important matter, but today we are here to discuss . . ." If is is appropriate to do so, you may wish to soften that answer by saying something like (for the first example) "if you wish, however, to stay a few minutes after the news conference, some of our speakers may be willing to answer questions on other topics" or (for the second example) "questions about campaign finances should be addressed to the Senator's campaign manager, who can be reached by phone at the campaign office."
  10. Give straightforward, succinct, quotable answers. Radio and television reporters will be looking for sound bites. That is, short and succinct encapsulations of your point. The electronic media rarely has more than seconds to devote to airing tape of any one individual, so they are forced to seek snappy quotes that make a point in just a few seconds. Since it can be difficult to speak in sound bites off-the-cuff (such as during a question-and-answer session) it is a good idea to do so in your prepared remarks.
  11. Be natural when responding to questions. Think of the encounter between you and the reporters (even if the question was hostile) as a conversation. This tactic has two benefits: first, it relieves some of your stress, because event if you have had little experience at news conferences, you undoubtedly have quite a bit of experience at conversation; second, it helps you keep your answers reasonable and pleasant, and stops any hostility from escalating. Keep in mind that television viewers watching your answer to a hostile question will probably not see the question being asked. If you act as hostile as the questioner, therefore, you will seem nasty and defensive, and the audience will not know why.
  12. Never lie to a reporter. Ethics is one good reason, getting caught is another. As noted above, if you don't know the answer, admit it plainly. If you expect to be asked questions that are unusually challenging at a news conference, decide in advance how you will reply so you don't feel tempted to lie under pressure. In the unlikely event that a reporter asks a wholly inappropriate question that you could not possible have prepared for (such as a query about a candidate's personal life at an issue-related news conference) and you are not prepared to share the truthful answer with the general public, do not lie to duck giving a truthful answer - simply decline to answer on the grounds that the question is irrelevant to the topic of the news conference.
  13. If a reporter asks you several questions quickly, don't get flustered. An appropriate response is: "You've asked several questions there. Let me get to the main point first . . ." Then answer the questions in the order you think is the most important. If, as sometimes happens, you forget one of the questions as you answer the others, don't feel embarrassed about asking the reporter to repeat the one you forgot.
  14. Practice not having fillers in your speech. An example of a filler is "um", "ah" and similar words of no meaning. You will find it easier to stop using fillers if you speak slowly. This allows your mind to catch up with your speech.
  15. Pause slightly after hearing each question that is asked of you to allow yourself a few seconds to decide upon an answer. Don't feel self-conscious about the pause, as it will seem longer to you than it will to the audience. Use of this technique is strongly recommended, because the answers of even a very experienced politician tend to improve tremendously when he or she pauses first for a few seconds before beginning a reply. If you doubt that a speaker can wait a few seconds before answering a question without it seeming unnatural, watch an interview show like Face the Nation when a gifted politician is the guest and see it in action.
  16. Look a questioner in the eye. If you look away, even if it is only because you are a bit nervous, you may appear to be dishonest or hiding something. Appear honest and confident instead.
  17. Don't - necessarily - accept a reporter's facts as truth. Some speakers assume reporters know everything and then become extremely flustered if a reporter challenges their facts. Do your homework in advance so that you feel confident about your own grasp of the facts. This will help you to know when a reporter is giving you new, useful, accurate information, but also when a reporter has no idea what he or she is talking about. The best response when a reporter is using information you've never reviewed is the truth: say you have not heard the reporter's information before. Then respond appropriately, either "If that is the case, I think . . ." (if you suspect the information is accurate) or, "I need to review that information before I can make a statement" (if you think the information is not accurate.
  18. Don't be afraid to ask a reporter to repeat a question if it is unclear or if you did not hear it. Otherwise, you risk looking foolish as you may answer a question you were not asked.
  19. Be positive: don't repeat accusations. If you receive a question with a negative edge, such as "You are supporting free trade with Nicaragua, but several congressmen have questioned that government's human rights record", don't repeat the negative by saying something defensive like, "Although the government's human rights record is questioned, the Sandinista guerrillas are the only other option and they are much worse." Be positive, instead. For example, "The country has had verifiably free and fair elections every two years of the last decade. The beauty of democracy is that if the citizens believe that this government does not represent their best interest, the citizens will vote them out. I can therefore support the trading with the government chosen by the people with full confidence." This is important because a reporter can take the negative answer and accurately say, "Although the spokesperson admitted to questions about the government's human rights record, he nonetheless remained insistent that the government be supported." If you have done your homework and your cause is truly just, there will always be a positive way to reply to an accusation. If you think it will be difficult, think of the harshest questions you can in advance and develop positive replies.
  20. Arrive early! The room should be reserved in advance and open to the media a minimum of one hour before the news conference, and two hours if possible. This permits television stations to set up cameras, and all reporters who wish to affix microphones to the podium. You do not have to be there for two hours yourself once the room has been opened (unless you have to be for other reasons), but the media should have access to the facilities early.
  21. Start on time. It is an insult to reporters if you start late. All speakers should arrive at least a few minutes before the news conference is to begin and the announced schedule should be followed. Otherwise some reporters may leave, or leave early. This is true even if your news conference is very interesting, as reporters are busy people and they have deadlines.
  22. Hold most news conferences in the morning. Most news conferences are held before noon because very many reporters have late afternoon deadlines. Morning news conferences allow journalists a few hours to use the information and still file stories in time for the evening news or the next morning's newspaper.
  23. Don't say "No comment", unless it is with a smile or you are dealing with matters of national security. This comment sounds pretentious if it is used inappropriately. As noted earlier, if you can't answer a question, be truthful and say why you can't answer.
  24. Enlighten, don't debate! If a reporter attempts to debate you on the point, do not give up the moral authority your place at the podium affords you by engaging in a debate. Simply enlighten the reporter (without sounding condescending!) as to why you believe that way you do and move on.
  25. Make sure that you are either tall enough or elevated enough to see over the podium. If necessary, bring something stable to stand on. A speaker who cannot be seen is unlikely to appear on television. And a speaker who seems to be struggling to peer over the podium will lack authority. If you are not sure if you have to stand on a platform, bring one just in case. Then arrive early and check. Two cinder blocks, laid side-by-side, work well as an inexpensive and easy-to-make platform. If you choose another option, make sure it is stable and that it is not so small that you are in danger of falling from it.
  26. Check the morning newspapers and other news sources the morning of your news conference. You should be aware of any late-breaking developments on your issue so you can decide if you wish to comment upon them, and so you will be prepared to handle questions about them.
  27. Speak with energy. You should appear to be interested in what you are saying, because if you are not, why should the reporters be? Too often speakers at news conferences read their statements in a monotone. This is not only likely to bore the reporters, but, as it makes for terrible television, it will decrease you chances of coverage on electronic media. Practice speaking if necessary; underline words you wish to emphasize. Above all, be interested in what you are saying. Some of that interest will be apparent.
  28. Consider offering coffee and donuts at your morning news conference. While offering food is strictly optional, and fewer news conferences offer food than don't offer it, it can be a nice touch. Some reporters and or participants may not have had time to eat that morning, and be more alert and attentive to your presentations after they have had something to eat and drink.
  29. If you think you could benefit from practice and/or more confidence, watch interview shows on subjects that interest you and answer questions to yourself as if you were the guest. Compare your answers with those of the real guest. You will improve your skills and gain confidence.


A news conference is held to make a newsworthy and timely announcement. They are an excellent way to acquire earned media, as they are neither complicated nor expensive. Many techniques exist to help you present yourself and your views effectively.