political communication that wins minds and hearts
“Ask not what your political candidate can do for you, ask what a PR agent can do for his/her political candidate.”
We are now a long way from the days of thousands of election posters, countless public appearances in front of potential voters, and big balcony speeches. Fresh candidates who stand on behalf of a political party, determined to win national elections not only have to cope with a demanding social and political environment but also survive an extremely tough election competition and effectively distinguish themselves from other candidates. The goal is and will always be the same: to win minds and hearts. So let’s roll up our political sleeves and look into the main dynamics that can make or break a political campaign.
It is obvious that the implementation of a political communication strategy, especially when it comes to fresh political actors, has transformed and entered a new era. Social media is the new arena in which candidates compete, yet it cannot completely replace traditional channels.
But just how hard is it for a political freshman to continuously develop and communicate her/his political profile, position, and agenda through the entire electoral process? And how much more complicated does it get when the advertising budget is limited? Α PR agent must hold candidates’ right arm with empathy, passion, honesty, and matching values. PR’s role is crucial in connecting with voting audiences by building a personal relationship with the candidate. Therefore, a trusted PR agency often serves as an essential link between the candidate and the public sphere by managing and handling all communications and media activities.
“Never, never, never give up!” in traditional PR strategies
A lot has been said about the role of traditional PR in election campaigns since conservative Winston Churchill’s famous “Never, never, never give up” quote. PR agents have always promoted candidates’ appearances on TV, written countless articles in newspapers and magazines, scheduled multiple radio and TV interviews, and tirelessly worked to keep a finger on the pulse. These PR strategies are not going to disappear any time soon even if times are changing with digital channels gaining prominence over traditional mediums. What will always distinguish an expert PR professional and bring political value to the table is the development of a genuinely impactful media strategy that matches the character and personality as well as the political goals, and ultimately resonates with the targeted voters. A PR agent should firmly keep in mind that the most important aspect is to stimulate interest in the candidate by creating highly targeted publications that effectively raise awareness and generate engagement. One of the fundamental factors for successful traditional PR strategies is the frequency of appearances and the media pace a candidate is advised to follow.
“I’m very hands-on about social media. That’s my voice”
The above was the remarkable statement by US democratic representative, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the candidate that shocked the political establishment with her one-step-ahead digital PR approach. In contrast to traditional political PR methods, valuable lessons in clever and cost-effective digital political marketing can be learned from the youngest woman ever to serve in the US Congress. It was her in the 2018 primary US elections that took Twitter by storm by amassing over 10 million followers, whilst comfortably defeating her opponent. What Cortez succeeded with – since as a young new candidate she had no significant financial resources to fund a major political campaign – was to engage in meaningful dialogue with her audiences by creating interesting and actionable content at basically no cost. By demonstrating true understanding, she managed to reach her voters through an open social media platform and communicate with them in real-time. The case of Cortez proves just how powerful social media is and shows the importance of smart digital budget allocation. Online political campaigns can be crucial when it comes to time essence especially closer to the final election day. Such tactics create an immediate impact and catch the political sentiment of the audience.
The campaign’s secret to success is… to communicate across difference
For those who pledge to dedicate their lives to public service, a true PR consultant owes to swim in deep waters. The skills, communication practices, publicity tools, and smart and cost-effective campaign strategies needed to support a new political candidate outweigh the importance of just being a simple PR professional.
In the end, there is no silver bullet when it comes to developing the best political PR strategy and the responsibility falls on the shoulders of the PR agent to continuously discover new ways and channels to promote the client via traditional, digital, or both channels- since every vote can make a difference. Exceptional and valued PR agents owe to create a strategic campaign to deliver the messages instantly because timing is of the essence As Winston Churchill put it, “Politics is not a game, but a serious business.”