By: Nicole Trayer, Communications/Digital Strategy Committee Member
In a crowded field of 14 Republican and three Democratic candidates for president, it can be hard to leave a lasting impression on voters. Some, such as Donald Trump, have opted for outlandish and below-the-belt statements that will get media’s attention, while others, like Bernie Sanders, have decided to run a campaign free of negativity. But when it comes to public relations and political campaigns, what is most important?
Stay up-to-date with social media
Let’s face it – we live in a technological society, and one of the best ways for candidates to connect with voters, especially young voters, is through social media. So far in this race, we’ve seen a lot of candidates step up their social media game. The latest craze is Snapchat. Jeb Bush (R) and Hillary Clinton (D) both used the app to kickoff their campaigns. Clinton even had her own live story, “Hello, Hillary 2016,” at her first official rally. Since then, other candidates, such as Marco Rubio (R) and Martin O’Malley (D), have become active users posting stories daily. So what do candidates gain from this? The answer is simple – free exposure. To be successful in this election you need to stay relevant and Snapchat is a simple way for candidates to keep voters updated quickly along the campaign trail.
Understand the media
In a presidential election, the media is a candidate’s worst enemy and best friend. Airtime equals exposure, and it is the media who decides which candidate gets the most airtime. So far in this election cycle it has been entertainment that sells. Donald Trump (R) knows this and has been very effective at hogging all the media’s attention. His constant badgering of other candidates and provocative policy statements make headlines daily, giving him non-stop coverage. Most PR professionals would agree this is usually not good publicity, but this strategy works extremely well for him and gives him basically free exposure. Staying relevant in the media will keep a candidate relevant to voters. Once a candidate establishes strong media relationships, they can use them as a platform to spread their message and reach their intended audience.
Maintain your image
Being likeable is one of the most important things voters look for in a presidential candidate. How candidates present themselves and how the public perceives them is crucial to the success of any campaign. Even more important, however, is for them to maintain that image once it has been established. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has struggled with this so far on the campaign trail due to her recent email scandal that has left voters questioning her trustworthiness and credibility. Clinton has tried to protect her image by releasing the emails from her private server and taking questions on the scandal, but this will be something that could continue to haunt her in this election. Once an image is tarnished, it can be hard to get it back. Therefore, a candidate must manage their reputation and remain accountable for their actions.
Answer the tough questions
Voters like a candidate who is not afraid to answer the tough questions. Often times we see politicians dance around the answer to a question without really saying much. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the media and the voters to hold candidates accountable by asking the tough questions, and it is the candidate’s responsibility to answer them. In PR, it is crucial that an organization/individual tells the truth and tells it themselves. This helps to solidify trust. One candidate who has been very open when it comes to answering all questions is Carly Fiorina (R). Fiorina centers her campaign on answering the tough questions and has kept track of every question she has answered since launching her campaign. On her website, there is a feature called “Answers” which allows voters to type in just one word or phrase and videos pop up instantly where she is answering a question pertaining to that subject. The ability to answer the tough questions openly and honestly will increase any candidate’s trustworthiness and likeability among voters.
These are just a few of the necessary PR strategies to run a successful presidential campaign. Each candidate has utilized all of these strategies in one way or another. Moving forward in the 2016 cycle, the way candidates employ these strategies will be key in determining the success or failure of their campaign.
Image credit: http://www.outsidethebeltway.com