If you believe polls, Tuesday’s New York presidential primary this Tuesday will see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump emerge as winners. Both New York residents will have what is typical of most primaries: victories in their home state.
New Yorkers can only cast a vote for a candidate in the party in which they are registered. Republicans will decide if they support the controversial GOP front-runner Trump or one of his remaining rivals. Registered Democrats must choose between Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the former New Yorker who has surprised pundits by giving Hillary a run for her money.
Sometimes the decision on who to vote for isn’t based on a “favorite” candidate; rather, it’s a pragmatic determination. If you’re a Democrat, you might consider who has the best chance of beating Trump or whomever the GOP nominates at its convention. If you’re a Republican, you may reflect on whether you’re happy with Trump as our potential president, or whether you should support Ted Cruz or John Kasich if they have the better shot at beating the Democrat.
You also could base your decision on who most closely reflects your own political views, or the candidate who you simply find more likable. Trump and Sanders supporters seem to favor their candidates’ tendency toward blunt talk and how they often avoid “political correctness.” In Trump’s case there’s no such thing as political correctness, and a lot of people find this appealing. Many find it appalling, not only because much of what he says is outrageous on many levels, but because he is a public relations nightmare. One can only imagine how his lack of a PR filter would be perceived and interpreted on an international stage.
Despite public relations debacles that would have sidelined any other candidate, Donald Trump is leading his primary battle. But blunt, unfiltered words are likely to become damaging to national policy and politics. I’ll base my vote on whose words and positions–and whose PR filter–will effectively lead us for the next four years. It’s a choice not to to be taken lightly. Your thoughts?
Let’s start with full disclosure: I generally support President Obama and the Democratic Party. I usually avoid politics in this blog, but there are a few public relations lessons to be learned from Election Day 2014.
It’s generally agreed that Democrats suffered significant setbacks, losing several governorships, House seats, and the Senate majority. I believe a combination of tactical errors caused their losses, while a consistent strategy propelled the Republicans. The news media also played a significant role in influencing this election’s outcome.
Let’s look at some PR maxims and how they relate:
1) Accentuate the positive — PR people promote the good stuff. But Democrats never took ownership of significant achievements. Under the party’s president and the Senate majority, the country avoided a depression, has lower unemployment and higher stock prices, millions more have health insurance, the environment is better protected, two wars are over, and Bin Laden is dead. The Dems didn’t run on their positives.
2) Be consistent — PR people understand branding. Republican candidates never strayed from their umbrella theme that President Obama is a failure and, therefore, so is anyone from his party. This relentless messaging helped propel GOP candidates to victory.
3) Support your organization’s leadership — PR folks know it’s never constructive to badmouth the boss. Democrats not only gave in to the constant focus on Obama’s lower approval rating, they ran from him and some actually denied ever supporting him.
4) Understand the media’s hunger for contests — Journalists and pundits know that drama is good for ratings. Because they were highly focused on Obama’s approval numbers and Democrats’ efforts to avoid him, the election’s outcome became a self-fulfilling prophecy. There was little discussion about issues, and few policy questions put to the politicians who have blocked Obama’s every move. Instead, a shift to the GOP was framed as a possible solution to the gridlock that was purposely created.
5) Communicate your successes — I say President Obama has been pretty inadequate at highlighting and articulating the good things he’s done. PR people know that lack of information breeds misinformation.
OK, that’s my election analysis as it relates to PR maxims. Your thoughts?
Climate change could really use some positive PR right now.
President Obama announced new steps last week to cut carbon emissions, promote energy efficiency and boost solar power. “There are cost-effective ways to tackle climate change and create jobs at the same time,” he said. The president added that 300 organizations and companies have pledged to expand their use of solar energy, which he noted is getting cheaper and easier to use.
There’s overwhelming scientific evidence that humans are contributing to climate change. But many Americans aren’t buying it. In a January Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, “just 27% of respondents said addressing climate change should be an absolute priority this year, with 41% saying that it could be delayed until next year and 29% saying it shouldn’t be pursued.” The same poll revealed a sharp difference in the way Republicans and Democrats view the issue, with 40% of Democrats said addressing climate change should be an absolute priority, compared with 14% of Republicans. A Public Policy Polling survey last year found 38% of Americans believe global warming is a hoax.
As part of the public relations war being waged on the issue, BarackObama.com has devoted pages and pages of Republican politicians’ quotes which ridicule how they’ve been ridiculing climate change. A small sample includes Sen. Marco Rubio in an interview with CNN this week, saying that the president was “not a meteorologist” and “it’s enormous stretch to say that every weather incident that we now read about–or the majority of them–are attributable to human activity;” and Rep. Dan Benishek. who is also a physician, saying that climate change is “all baloney,” “just some scheme,” and “unproven science stuff.”
Lately, most nightly news reports lead with weather disasters throughout in the country. And as we know, our local weather has been pretty bad in recent years. Scientists with no political agendas say we’ve been hurting the environment for years and we’re starting to pay the price. Climate change is happening and it’s time to get the public to believe it so real action can be taken. Maybe a good PR campaign will help. Your thoughts?
But TIME magazine referred to him as such this week. On the venerable publication’s cover was a shadowy, Hitchcockian profile of New Jersey’s stout governor headlined, “THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM.”
The elephant became the symbol of the Republican Party in 1874 when, according to factmonster.com, cartoonist Thomas Nast drew a donkey (the Democrats’ symbol) clothed in lion’s skin, scaring away animals at the zoo. One of those animals, the elephant, was labeled “The Republican Vote.” “That’s all it took for the elephant to become associated with the Republican Party,” noted the site.
With the Republican Christie re-elected last week in a landslide, TIME published the cover and created controversy–and got lots of publicity. Mary Elizabeth Williams wrote in Salon: “Nobody needs to tiptoe around the reality of what Chris Christie looks like . . . but…you don’t need to call him a pachyderm. And anybody who does is just a big fat jerk.” New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse also tweeted his disappointment: “These cheap shots are decidedly uncool.” And Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren tweeted: “TIME MAGAZINE EDITOR is SLIMY SNAKE!”
TIME Executive Editor Michael Duffy went into full spin mode, telling MSNBC: “Well, he’s obviously a big guy. He’s obviously a big Republican. But he’s also done a really huge thing here this week. He stood astride the Republican Party and said, ‘Stop. We don’t have to make our whole appeal about narrow base issues.’ And that campaign showed it with the demographics you talked about.”
The folks at Business Insider aligned their opinion with Duffy: “The new issue of TIME features a brilliant triple entendre featuring Chris Christie.” And the thick-skinned Christie has made light of his weight on national TV many times.
But comparing a heavy man to an elephant so you can sell more magazines has created a (positive? negative?) public relations “situation” for TIME. Duffy may think it’s worth it if, in fact, all the attention results in selling more magazines this week. Its cover certainly has people talking about TIME, which must have been its editors’ ultimate goal. Your thoughts?
For the Democrats, their supremely well-executed convention was almost marred when it was “discovered” that the party platform had left out any mention of God or the recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. For the Republicans, their top-of-the-ticket candidate made his acceptance speech without a mention of the men and women serving in our Armed Forces. Both faux pas were unforgivable, especially in light of the razor-sharp election taking place just a few weeks from now.
So how could the planners and the political professionals involved have prevented these potential PR disasters?
In public relations, when we work to manage risk and crises, the best practitioners know to plan from the outside in. This means we take the time to step back and ask ourselves, “What will our publics expect us to do or say when it counts the most?” This seems like an obvious approach; after all, don’t people usually consider who they’re talking to before they say what that say? Well, that may be true, but people often do forget to say something they were supposed to say.
We can be quite sure that a lot of attention was paid to the look and the feel of the conventions, and plenty of effort was devoted to the speeches and the platforms. But in all the preparation, a few of the most obvious words went missing. You can’t forget to mention God and the troops when you’re a presidential candidate making a major speech, or a committee writing a significant political position paper for your party. Somehow, both the Democrats and Republicans did just that. Fortunately for both, their faux pas didn’t derail their big parties. Your thoughts?