Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Political PR: It's not just for pundits

On Jan. 8, as the presidential candidates duked it in New Hampshire in the first official primary of the 2008 presidential primary season, members of the PRSA Puget Sound Chapter were treated to a unique inside look at the political season--and why PR professionals should pay attention.
In a program most would have to catch on TV, PRSA members experienced firsthand a stimulating discussion, featuring two of the state's top political advisors, Republican strategist Randy Pepple and Democratic strategist Cathy Allen, moderated by one of Seattle TV's most respected political journalists, Robert Mak, host of KING 5's Up Front.

What's the main difference between campaign PR and corporate PR? What's the difference between developing a campaign for a product or corporation -- and developing a political campaign? Time. Money. Audience.
Both Randy and Cathy agreed that the pressure and timeline of a political campaign requires PR professionals to develop hard-hitting, impactful and short-term strategies to reach a broader audience on a much smaller budget than your typical corporate campaign.

The intensity of the campaign forces strategists to go for the shock value-- meaning more negative than positive.

In a traditional PR campaign, Allen budgets roughly two years' time to impact public opinion, in a political campaign, she says advisors have nine months or less to make an impression.

Strategies have to be flexible enough to change over night, Pepple said.

Working on a statewide campaign is like PR Bootcamp-- if you can't react quickly, you are done. If you're ready to really test your media relations and crisis communications skills and you have a favorite candidate, this is the year, Pepple and Allen agreed.

Campaigns are always looking for knowledgeable PR professionals to jump into the trenches and help out. It's a great way to prove yourself and develop a reputation.

Even if you're more of an independent, not interested in delving into the world of political campaigns, Cathy, Randy and Robert agreed, people look to public relations leaders to have some basic knowledge of how the 2008 elections are shaping up and what it means.

Here's a little nugget you can drop: This is the first time since 1952 that no sitting president or vice president is on the ticket. It's all up for grabs!

There was so much more ... but it's too long for a blog post! Wish you were there...

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