The formal announcement is a press event, a photo op, a chance to drive home a central point about your candidacy…a key point that you want in the lead paragraph of the story and the sound bite on the evening news. There are certain things required to make it successful-press coverage, a crowd, a central message, and a strategy to keep you in the news during the days that follow. All require a little advance planning.
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The Press. I nearly always have my clients sit down for one-on-one interviews with key reporters before they make a formal announcement. It is a chance to let a reporter know what makes you tick, what your priorities will be, a chance to share your story, events that have affected your views, and why you think the way you do. One on one conversations increase the likelihood that the reporter will cover your announcement. As you approach your announcement day, be in touch with the reporters by phone…they will be more likely to show up if you do.
The Crowd. If you want 150 people at your announcement, you need to invite double that number three weeks in advance and badger them on the phone and in emails about showing up. The invitations do not have to be expensive fancy, but they should be graphically interesting and absolutely clear about the time, date and place, with your phone number and contact information.
The Speech. Don’t try to write it the night before. Good speeches take time to craft, and a great delivery requires practice. Ideally, you’ll be able to deliver it without a script. It will have applause lines, and be woven in a way that allows you to repeat your central message several times. Usually I begin working on the announcement speech for my clients three weeks before the event. We often go through several drafts, and we always schedule at least three practice sessions.
The Post-Announcement Roll-out. Have a plan in place to capitalize on coverage of your announcement so that you can turn it into more than a one-day story. Announce a big endorsement a day or two after your formal announcement. Or advise the press of your travel schedule—speeches you are giving or groups you are meeting with. Have an 400-600 word op-ed ready to go to newspapers that lays out your rationale or a policy position you discussed in your speech. Schedule some one-on-one interviews with TV or radio stations a day or two after your announcement and then issue a release about what you said in the interview.
Some other things to remember about Announcement Day.
1. Make the reporters job easy. They should have a hard and electronic copy of your speech. Make sure they have a good head shot of you and an accurate biography.
2. Make it easy for any television and radio outlets to get the shots they want with high quality sound. Often it is helpful to have a riser so that TV stations can get a good shot. It is always advisable to rent a mult box connected to high quality hard wire microphone at your podium.
3. Treat the people who attend your announcement well. Light food is a nice touch, but far more important is individually thanking the people who attend.
4. Your announcement day is not one for Q & A. Do your speech, and be done. Do not offer up a post-announcement press conference, otherwise the news will be the way you answered a question and not what you said in your speech.
5. Make sure you have your own cameras recording the event so that you can use pieces of it on YouTube or in fundraising emails. Move the first one to your email list the day of the announcement and follow with emails containing snippets from your speech during the days that follow. And when you do, ask for money and make it easy for people to give by providing a hotlink to the contribution page on your website.
These are just a few of the rules and tactics that I have used to help dozens of candidates plan and execute their formal campaign announcement.
Have questions? I’ll be happy to answer them. Hit the comment button. Call me at 845-458-1210, or email me at [email protected]
Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.
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