Candidates talk to reporters and journalists play an important role in our discourse. How to make news in a political campaign.
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Of all the revolutionary changes that have happened in political communication the past 10 years, there has been one constant. Candidates still talk to reporters. Journalists still play an important role in our discourse. What is said by or about candidates in newspapers, magazines, blogs, social media, on the radio and television can make or break a political campaign.
Too often I see candidates running for office regard the news media as a nuisance to be endured; or in some cases a hostile force to be avoided. That approach will not advance your cause. It’s a good way to ensure the press will treat you as an adversary. No matter how much you have to spend, it is hard to outshout those who buy their ink by the barrel, or have unfettered access to the airwaves.
Voters are influenced by things other than your paid political advertising. If you have no earned media strategy you’ll be squandering a cheap and inexpensive means of disseminating your message to the public.
The first step in constructing a free press political campaign strategy is to inventory every media outlet in your jurisdiction, every daily and weekly newspaper, magazine, blog, radio station, cable and commercial television station. Then take a look at media outlets outside your district that are widely read, heard or viewed by a substantial number of your would be constituents.
The second step, get the names of the reporters, their contact information, e-mail address and the names of the bookers and producers for the TV and radio hosts. Be sure to also include any important columnists or guest commentators that often show up on the editorial pages of newspapers or important publications.
You now have a press list; those who should receive your press releases, statements, news about your campaign, copies of your speeches or op eds that you write during the course of your campaign.
The third step, research the reporters on your list. Not just their name, but everything you can learn, where they went to school, their degrees, their career and special interests.
Inventory the stories they have written and look at their writing style. Are they the kind of reporter who digs and does real investigative journalism, or are they satisfied to quote from press releases they are fed or the blogs they read? Then do the same for the television and radio hosts. They all have their biases, and few even pretend to be objective. Based on their audiences and ideological bent you’ll quickly see which are likely to be friendly to you and which won’t.
Finally, develop a plan and political campaign strategy to make news. Common ways to do it include the following:
Your announcement speech
Important Policy Speeches
Important Events where you’ll be invited to speak
Endorsements from prominent supporters
All of your media hits should be heavily promoted on social media, with pictures and video. Even if you don’t always get the coverage you want, it is a good way to keep your supporters informed and engaged.
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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