We’ve been talking about the many ways of communicating and disseminating your message. Today we’ll discuss the media…as in newspapers, radio and television interviews, and bloggers.
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There is a trick to it. If you are passive about getting attention, or shy about engaging reporters, bad things will happen. Reporters will ignore you. Or they will assume you are hiding something and start digging for dirt, or they will assume you can’t answer questions or defend your positions.
Therefore, don’t be passive about the press. Be assertive about getting attention. It’s a lot cheaper than spending your own money to communicate with voters.
Press releases, your announcement, endorsements and press conferences are usually a way to get attention. Debates, one-on-one interviews with print reporters, radio interviewers and bloggers will usually get you stories and help move your message.
There is an art and a science to steering interviews to subjects that enhance your chances of winning. And on my YouTube channel, you’ll find several videos about that subject on a playlist called Making the Most of the Media. There you can learn about the do’s and don’ts of preparing for a television interview, radio interview, a sit down with a print reporter, how to plan and execute your formal announcement, and making the most of a debate.
What makes news that the media wants to cover? Usually four things. Pictures. Polls. Mistakes, and Attacks.
Pictures are news, and more effective than mere words in a story. I once sent a Presidential candidate to visit a hog farm in Iowa, and a picture of him holding a baby pig was on the front page of every newspaper the next day.
Want to highlight your compassion for the poor? Invite the press to get a picture of you serving soup in a soup kitchen. Getting an endorsement from an important labor group? Stage a photo op with members of the union at a construction site. Getting an endorsement from an environmental group? Have the press conference at some bucolic setting with trees, a lake or river in the background. What if the press doesn’t show up at your photo op? Have your staff take the pictures and put them out with a release to the media.
Polls. They will make news when they are good for you, bad for you, good or bad for your opponent. Capitalize on them when they demonstrate that you are gaining steam during the course of the campaign, or when they show that your opponent is losing ground. When poll numbers are your hook, highlight the reason you are gaining ground —such as the differences you have with your opponent on an important issue, and the reason your opponent is losing ground— citing some unpopular position or mistake they have made. One cautionary note. If you constantly highlight your poll numbers when they are good, you will choke on them when they go bad.
Mistakes. When you make one it will be news. When your opponent makes one, exploit it and use it to your advantage. Remember the video of Mitt Romney talking about how 47% of the American people were on the dole? When the video went live the Obama White House quickly pounced on Romney’s mistake, enlisting his cabinet members and surrogate attack squad to pile on.
Attacks: Recently Donald Trump went after Ben Carson about his religious beliefs and convictions. I am not sure that was wise, but the attack got Trump a lot of attention. Bernie Sanders recently unloaded on Hillary Clinton’s shifting positions on issues. It made news.
No campaign plan is complete without an earned media program. If you don’t have one, you are missing priceless and inexpensive ways to keep your campaign in the news, and clips and footage that you can send to supporters that show you are getting good press attention.
Need some ideas for your earned media program? Happy to speak with you. Call me at 845-458-1210. Or email me at Jay@JayTownsend.com.
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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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