In a high-energy year with competitive primaries up and down the ballot, there’s a dire need for experienced campaign managers that consultants say the industry is struggling to meet.
Part of the reason for that is a changed career path for these practitioners. In the past, managers would build their careers by leading campaigns over the course of several cycles. Now, they’re leaving the field to work at firms — or starting their own companies — after managing just a single race or two.
“Everyone thinks they’re a consultant now,” Danny Laub, a partner at GOP media firm POOLHOUSE, said at C&E’s Reed Awards Conference in Nashville, Tenn. “There are just people who are managing less.”
Laub said he looks over resumes for firm hires as well as campaign staff and has noticed something striking.
“Experience over the last 10 years has shrunk,” he said. It’s now “one or two cycles of experience over previously four cycles of experience.”
One baffling thing about the manager shortage that Laub and several other consultants noted is that pay isn’t the issue. In fact, they said, experienced managers can earn well into six figures in the role — particularly in this job market.
Another factor: the pandemic caused many in the industry to reassess careers and some are now less willing to essentially live on the road to work — even when the job offered is well paying.
With a shortage of talent, many campaigns are now looking beyond local hires, Laub added.
“You have a lot of managers coming in from out of state.” In the past, he noted, the manager was local and the GC was from out of state, now that’s reversed. “I think we’re trending more in that way as talented managers are moving around the country.”
More firms are now stepping into a general consulting role to help fill the gaps caused by ongoing staffing issues.
John Balduzzi, who heads The Balduzzi Group, a shop that does direct mail, TV and digital, said with so many candidates running this cycle he’s had to “serve that GC type role.”
That sort of coverage is a relief to Janet Katowitz, president of Sage Media Planning & Placement, Inc: “As long as there’s one strong [leader] — whether that’s a manger or a consultant” a campaign can operate effective, she said.
Ultimately, it’s up to that person leading a campaign to handle the staff and consulting team effectively, Katowitz added: “I’m a big believer in being inclusive.”