Lessons for Communications Pros from the Campaign Trail
By Gene Marbach
A little more than a month to go before we Americans take to the polls to decide who will lead the country for the next four years. Presidential campaigns provide many great lessons for communications pros in terms of what works and what doesn’t. This one is no exception.
Let’s take a look at some of the doings of our politicos:
Sitting on a lead. The polls have President Obama ahead in the race. During the recent United Nations confab, the President was criticized for not scheduling meetings with world leaders. Such “unstructured” events could lead to “off-the-cuff” statements that might result in unwanted negative headlines (it should be noted that during last year’s event, the President had quite a few meetings with world leaders). It appears that Team Obama is playing it safe in choosing where the President makes appearances. Also, given the gaffe-prone nature of the Romney campaign, there is no need to go on the offensive at the moment. However, this could change dramatically with the coming debates.
Increasing the “Likability Factor.” Both candidates have made appearances on the morning shows during which they’ve faced such scintillating journalistic questions pertaining to sleepwear and TV shows (e.g., Mr. Romney was asked which he preferred: Snooki or Honey Boo Boo). While Edward R. Murrow might be spinning in his grave, appearances on such shows serve to humanize the candidate. The “likability factor” can never be underestimated as I’m not sure how much my fellow citizens know about the issues or, for that matter, care about them. They might just vote for the most likable candidate.
Sloganeering that Captures the Spirit. The Obama campaign appears to have mastered the art of memorable sloganeering, crystallizing their themes with a minimal use of words. “Hope and Change” (the theme of the President’s last run) has given way to “Forward.” Anybody know the theme of the Romney campaign? I don’t. I could look it up but that would be cheating and we run an honest blog here.
Color in the Details. Presidential aspirant Mitt Romney has been criticized for not offering specific details about his policy proposals regarding the economy, taxation, and Medicare, among others. Of course, Team Obama has no problem offering its views on what they believe Mr. Romney will do if elected. The lesson: speak for yourself; don’t let your opposition fill the void with information that may not be correct.
Market You. This one is tied into the previous point. Thus far in the campaign, Mr. Romney has been “demonizing” the President while offering little in the way of evidence as to why he would be a better choice. Demonizing the opposition will only go so far; however, it might not be helpful in persuading the independent voters, who may play a critical part in deciding the outcome of this year’s election.
With time before the elections, it will be interesting to see how this all plays out and what other lessons we can learn.