Lesson Number One From the Candidates: Use Social Content to Drive Earned Media


Wendy Glavin headshotBy Wendy Glavin, Marketing and Communications Strategist/Branding+Social Media 

Everyday we are inundated with election analysis. Will Hillary Clinton win the Presidency? Will Donald Trump win the Republican nomination? Where are we as a country?

Issues such as, illegal immigration, Islamic terrorism, the economy, the gap between the elite and poor, corporate corruption, taxes, healthcare, trade and many others topics are dissected across every broadcast news station, newspapers, bloggers and social media.

In these unprecedented times where the new rules of communications and public relations are changing the worlds of politics, government and business, what can marketers and brands learn from this campaign cycle?

On-Demand Video - May 6 Doug Simon WebinarIf you watched or attended the May 6, 2016 Media Influencers Webcast: “Celebrity, Politics and Feeding the Media Beast,” you heard the “no holds barred” inner workings from the experts:

  • Michael Levine, Author & Public Relations Expert has represented 58 Academy Award winners, 34 Grammy Award winners, and 42 New York Times best-sellers.
  • Ronn Torossian, Founder, President & CEO at 5W Public Relations has 20-plus years experience creating powerful narratives and is one of the most well-respected public relations professionals in America. Under his leadership, 5W has grown into one of the 20 largest independent PR firms in the country.
  • Doug Simon, Founder & CEO at D S Simon Media, provides strategic counsel and executes media campaigns with video production and analytics and began the discussion with what are your passions?

Both Michael and Ronn cited politics and entertainment but Michael decided that, “Washington is Hollywood for ugly folks” and moved to Los Angeles. Ronn agreed about the large crossover between entertainment and politics and credited Michael for the first tweet and sound bite, “Washington is for ugly folks.”

Moving into speculations about what they have learned from the campaigns, Ronn said that Trump is a genius. “He may say Hillary would make a great President but could be indicted a day after the election. Does that affect the polls one point, seven points, and 15 points? Trump knows how to write his own narrative.” He added that both candidates have been in politics for 25 years so it would be surprising if there was a, “Give me moment.”

Doug agreed that Trump has done masterfully well in driving the media cycle by using all the tools. “He has been outspent and this is the first time one of the major candidates won the primary race without spending the most money.” He added that Trump, demonstrated with a tweet, he controls the narrative.

Doug and Ronn compared this to Obama during the Iran crisis where he, “Leaked half-truths” to the media. As Washington reports explained, and an upcoming New York Times piece, Obama knew that if he leaked something to the right blogger, they have their own self-publishing world that can tell the narrative.

Doug asked what can you do as a brand to control your brand narrative?

Ronn emphasized that everyone has an inherent bias and we accept that the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal are radically different that Fox News and CNN. Today, we don’t need Fox News to tell our story. We define our own prisms from which we tell our brand story. We don’t need interpreters to announce things like, “I am coming out of the closet, or I was beaten as a child.” We can just hold up our phones and tell our story.

Michael explained that fundamentally, it is about messaging. The metabolism rate of the world has changed. A news story used to get out in a week gets out in a day. A rumor unanswered in 24-hours becomes true. People are confused, overwhelmed and distracted. We get more messages in 30 minutes than ever before. Some of it is meaningful conversation and some of it is white noise. The best defense is a good offense.

Doug suggests the main issue is how to turn social media into a catalyst for earned media. Social media tools persuade traditional outlets. In a D S Simon soon-to-be-released report of corporate communications and public relations professionals: 81% are using social media, 92% are using Twitter and 93% are using Facebook. Social media is driving coverage.

Ronn said the bite-size introduction of Twitter size hash tags is today’s generator. We are in an ADD generation; People need to learn how to think. Michael echoed, “Wisdom is born of contemplation, born of time.” Put the cell phones down and think. Ronn also highlighted one of his clients who he counsels in media relations who suggested just throwing in social media. Social media is a voice, branding, calendar, a strategy, and authenticity of voice. There is a lot to it.

Michael emphasized the power of timing and that the, “politically correct” conversation tone has gone way too far. Trump has taken advantage of that sense which is refreshingly candid, even outrageous because he is countering a feeling that most Americans feel. The right message at the right time is critical.

All agreed that both candidates have a very high unlikable rating and their choice of Vice President will be very important. Condoleezza Rice was suggested.

Regarding Hillary, Doug said she doesn’t like the media game the way Trump does. Ronn suggests Hillary say, “Islamic terror” in terms of messaging since Obama refuses to say it. Also, Hillary has a lot of friends in the media and we will see a lot of Bill. Michael thinks fundamentally, people like Bill; so you buy one, get one for free.

Similarly, brands should think about partnering with brands that are more likable. Doug asked Ronn and Michael about the possibility of bridging the communications gap between the different viewpoints.

Ronn explained that the fragmented media world allows you to use big data, cloning programs, micro targeting, influencers and the reach so you can identify specific people’s behaviors and target messages directly to them.

Michael’s conclusion: In these unprecedented times, the path we take will have significant consequences that will be written about in years to come.

Ronn’s conclusion: This is a fascinating, exciting election that is a radically different campaign than ever before.

Doug’s conclusion: The public relations strategy takeaway is use social content to drive earned media.

My conclusion: As I observed throughout the hour, Doug, Michael and Ronn each had their own perspectives, but did agree on several points. Strong messages were presented without dumbing down their thoughts. What they illustrated was an authentic discussion about the merging of entertainment and politics and best practices for messaging, public relations and social media.

What can companies and brands learn from this discussion? The content was the election but the dialogue is transferrable to any topic. Be honest, thoughtful, willing to hear different perspectives and don’t believe everything you read and hear. Analyze and compare different points of view, contemplate, think and draw your own conclusions.

About the Author: Wendy Glavin is the Founder and President of her own firm. Wendy has more that 15 years experience as a marketing communications, public relations and social media strategist, having worked for a Fortune 500 company, Burson Marsteller, advertising and public relations agencies, a publishing firm and as a consultant to technology firms. Most recently, Wendy consulted for BIGfrontier Communications Group and clients in the FinTech, Finance and SaaS spaces. Wendy’s expertise spans traditional, new and social media marketing. Contact her at wendyglavin1@gmail.com 


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