Don’t ask who won the election, ask how

On Tuesday, November 4, the United States of America experienced a historic national election…kind of.

Americans at large don’t appear to invest themselves too heavily in midterm elections. Less than half of the country typically votes in midterms, and media coverage is steady but unenthusiastic when compared to the presidential horserace. Heck, only 41% of Americans claim to have given this election serious thought.

Yet, for communications professionals, overlooking the political sphere can be a grave omission. After all, political campaigns are just that—campaigns. Like any good brand, candidates require thoughtful positioning, strategic marketing and, of course, an aggressive public relations team.

Let’s take a look at what we can learn from recent feats by civic communicators:

  • Design can define: Obama’s “Hope” poster is the most recent illustration of the power that comes with a unique, appealing brand image that nods succinctly to ideology.
  • Don’t be a digital dud: Politicians, like large corporations, often struggle to adapt to the digital landscape. Strategic  adoption of online communications can pay impressive dividends, especially for young voters – in our case consumers. The Obama campaigns themselves have plenty to teach in terms of crafting innovative and effective email, social media and big data campaigns.
  • Employ PR to manage context: In these midterm elections, Republicans successfully leveraged the President’s unpopularity to appeal to undecided voters. Public relations can help you shape the nature of the debate and control your publicity to deliver the most impactful results.
  • Craft a digestible message: “Yes we can.” “It’s morning again in America.” “I like Ike.” It’s no wonder Ralph Nader couldn’t quite pull off his 2000 slogan: “Government Of, By and For the People…Not the Monied Interests.” But note, shorter isn’t always sweeter.

We can’t all be “The Great Communicator,” but we can certainly learn from Reagan’s example. It’s fine to be apathetic toward election results, but misunderestimate the process at your own peril.

Image courtesy of Vichaya Kiaitying-Angsulee/

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