Monday, January 30, 2012

Politics, Primaries and PR

On the Eve of the Florida Primary, Republican candidates have ramped up their ads and marketing throughout the sunshine state, spreading their messages and slinging mud from the Panhandle to Palm Beach. The anatomy and inner-workings of political campaigns can be as complex as inferential statistics, but dissected and analyzed they are essentially glorified, smoke and mirrors-clad PR operations. In this week’s edition of our blog, let’s examine a few of the popular public relations stratagems utilized by the Karl Roves and David Axelrods of the political world.

The Friday Afternoon Sneak

Tax returns. Shadowy business dealings. Swiss bank accounts in the Bahamas. This type of incriminating information about a candidate is always demanded by the public, and often released at an optimum time to limit damage and decrease the chances of the story gaining legs. That time? Friday afternoon, as late as possible, to ensure the negative press does not fester in the weekly news-cycle. The hope is by Monday morning all is forgotten and forgiven, and the candidate in question can continue what they do best: kissing babies and glad-handing the locals.

The ‘Hands-Off-Hands On’ Super PAC Attack

2012 is the first election incorporating Super PACs, or super political action committees that allow for exorbitant campaign financing donations. While candidates are limited to a certain dollar amount donated by one party or individual, these organizations are free from monetary restraints. Although not openly endorsing a candidate in particular, their television and radio advertisements frequently denigrate another, doing the dirty work that allows a candidate to keep their hands clean (and pockets full!) Prime example: Restore Our Future, a conservative-minded Super PAC, has already raised north of 12 million dollars in 2012, mostly going towards attack ads.

The Debate Deflect and Engage

When questioned by a moderator during a debate on an issue that will only serve to sully your image: don’t answer it! Classic deflection is a PR maintenance strategy employed by political strategists, and we’ve all seen it occur. Most recently, Newt Gingrich was grilled about his ex-wives, to which he proceeded to attack the moderator for not focusing on ‘the real issues.’ While the line of questioning was valid and certainly pertinent to any conversation about a presidential candidate, the strategy served Gingrich well: he enjoyed a standing ovation from the debate crowd and now enjoys a staggering 14-point lead in Florida.

The underlying theme: what can’t help you will only hurt you. Politicians and their cohorts are masters in the art of damage-control public relations, and by employing the strategies above (and many others) they keep a tight-seal on any negative leaks which may impact their campaigns. What are some of your favorite methods in political PR?

-Carter Breazeale

PR/PR Public Relations