Election in the Home Stretch: Communications Strategies for Closing

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andrewr224By Andrew Ricci, Vice President LEVICK
(Allison Miller contributed to this post)

Well, folks, it has been a longer than ever election season, but we are in the home stretch with under three weeks to go until Election Day. This campaign has been unlike anything the United States has seen before, and as the final debate came to a close on Wednesday night, both candidates entered a critical period where they now make their closing arguments to the American people – even as many are already heading to the polls.

What is next, then, in terms of marketing and PR strategies for the candidates? Up until this point, the strategy for both candidates has largely been about framing themselves and their opponent, but as the final days draw near, the next two weeks bring with them a strategy less reliant on framing and messaging and instead heavily focused on three strategies: executing a strong ground game, getting supporters to vote early where possible, and activating their supporters to make their voices heard.

Much will be made in the next few weeks of the stumbles, speeches, rallies, and attacks, but as far as the behind the scenes activities of a campaign are concerned, it’s all about activation. Each day closer to Election Day will bring more talk of Get Out the Vote (GOTV) activities – which have been in the planning works since day one.

For months, state field organizers and volunteers have been relentlessly contacting eligible voters to ascertain their support for one candidate or another — you may have gotten one or more of these calls yourself. Reading from a script, these volunteers and organizers ask some version of the question “If the election were held today, are you likely to vote for Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump and asking you to put your support or opposition on a scale of 1 to 5 – one for Strongly Oppose and five for strongly support, with undecided at a three. The name of the game is counting votes and getting to the magic 50%+1 number needed for victory, and the GOTV campaign phase is all about making sure your supporters vote early or turn out on November 8.

Election in the Home Stretch: Communications Strategies for ClosingWith the shift into a GOTV-focused strategy comes a natural corollary shift in messaging. Voters will begin to notice a heavy emphasis placed on early voting. In just the past week, a light-hearted video was released by the Clinton campaign featuring President Obama discussing the benefits of early voting – a video that garnered almost 100,000 views since its release. Not only do campaigns rely on early voting and mail-in votes to obtain initial data, but early voting eliminates the chance that someone may not be able to get to the polls on Election Day, whether it be because of long lines, a personal emergency, or even something as seemingly inconsequential as rain (historical data suggests that adverse weather does indeed suppress turnout).

The final strategy is a renewed emphasis on “every vote counts.” In an election full of continuous peculiarities, what has struck so many as particularly surprising are the low likeability numbers for both Clinton and Trump. It’s hard to remember a time when two candidates from both major parties were so disliked and therefore, an increased stress will be placed on the idea that “every vote counts” in an effort to convince those moderate voters who may not feel they identify with either candidate to still exercise their civic duty regardless. A prime example of this came in just the past month as the nation saw Al Gore, who referenced his close loss in the 2000 election, plead with Clinton supporters at a rally about the importance of voting, calling himself “Exhibit A” that every vote really does count.

This has been a long campaign season and many are looking forward to November 9, when the ads and mailings have stopped and the news can return to something – anything – else. Even though this has been an unusual campaign, the playbook for the next three weeks should be pretty standard. And regardless of who wins, it will be one for the record books indeed.

 

About the Author: Andrew Ricci, Vice President at D.C. communications firm LEVICK.  Andrew, an experienced media relations expert, content-creation specialist, and public affairs strategist, started his career working on political campaigns and on Capitol Hill, serving as a senior communications aide to Rep. Zack Space (D-Ohio) and as the Congressman’s official spokesman during his reelection campaign. At LEVICK, Andrew now counsels a wide range of clients navigating reputational challenges in the public eye. 

 

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