Political PR in a Presidential Election Year

By David Berezin

In a presidential election year, an already politically charged media landscape intensifies exponentially. News about candidates and their Political PR campaigns are flooding the media, making it much more difficult for reporters to care about your clients—let alone notice them. 

How can you make your clients stand out in this chaos, while also positioning them in the best possible (uncontroversial) light?

Political PR is no joke. It is a very serious endeavor that requires hard work, accuracy, and quick reactions. Even the wrong choice of words can result in a political scandal, and negatively affect the chances of your candidate being elected.

What Are the Key Components of Political PR?

Political public relations include a lot of responsibilities, but perhaps the most important ones are:

  1. Image management. Taking care of public appearances, speeches, and interactions with other political leaders and parties. Your role is to guarantee a positive perception of the candidate. Just remember that transparency is key, especially in the digital era we live in, as any lie that is caught, can quickly become viral, and damage the reputation of the candidate.
  2. Media relations. Developing relationships with journalists, editors, and other media personnel to make sure that the candidate gets positive coverage
  3. Event management. Planning, managing, and executing events that support the exposure of politicians. These include meetings, fundraisers, town hall meetings, online webinars, etc.
  4. Crisis management. Making plans to handle and respond to emergencies that might happen. A crisis can be one of the worst things that can happen to any PR pro, so you should be well-prepared for any scenario. In case of a PR crisis, the golden rule is to take responsibility, and apologize, instead of trying to cover it up.

Political PR: 5 Essential Tips

  1. Consider your client’s values
  2. Take political biases into account
  3. Keep track of the news cycle
  4. Don’t forget about those other elections
  5. Prepare for the aftermath

Consider Your Client’s Values 

With so many hot-button issues in this year’s election, you may feel tempted to capitalize on these controversies by pitching your clients to discuss them. 

But before you go in that direction, you should consider your client’s values and their customer base. How would expressing a political opinion make your client appear to the customers they’re targeting? 

Does your client have any actual expertise about the issue they’re discussing, or are they just in it for a quick win? 

Combining public relations and politics requires a delicate approach. Always make sure to consider the values of your client, and how they would look in the eyes of the public, before you decide to take any kind of approach.

What is more, always try to avoid statements that are full of emotions and excess words, as politicians can sometimes get carried away. 

Instead, put external communication on hold until you have enough time to review the situation, and decide what would be best, since the words of politicians are often used against them.

Take Political Biases Into Account 

Even a pitch you intend to be politically neutral might trigger hostility in certain reporters. With the future of the country at stake, we all can’t help but feel on edge. 

When you’re writing a pitch, it’s helpful to ask yourself: “Does this pitch read like it’s supporting one political viewpoint over another?” 

You should also consider the reporters and outlets where you’re pitching these stories. What are their political biases? How might they read (or misread) your pitch?

Always be prepared for the worst case scenario, while trying to actively prevent it from happening. Having a plan B is crucial for every politician, since keeping their image intact is of significant importance.

Keep Track of the News Cycle 

A presidential election amplifies an already overwhelming news cycle. While it’s impossible to anticipate every single development that may occur during an election, we can focus on what we do know. 

Is there a major campaign event, like a debate or convention, on the horizon? Keep an eye on news about presidential candidates and their campaigns, and when a breaking news story does come up, ask yourself if it’s a story your client should discuss or if they’re better off avoiding.

Don’t Forget About Those Other Elections 

With the massiveness of the presidential election, it’s easy to forget that there are many other elections taking place this year on federal, state, and local levels. 

As Election Day draws near, you should take note of the biggest political races that are occurring in the country—especially the most hotly contested ones. 

If you’re pitching locally, ask yourself if there’s a major political race going on there and whether that election will obscure your client’s story.

Prepare for the Aftermath 

You may assume that once the election is over, it’s back to business as usual. Unfortunately, with constant disputes about voting integrity, along with many elections too close to call, it’s fair to say the rest of the year will be a bumpy ride. 

A bad political public relations move would be to plan major client announcements in the days after Election Day. Sure you should keep monitoring social media, however, it would be much better to let the hype die down before your client enters the limelight again. Later.

In Sum

A presidential election year is always a challenging time for political PR, and public relations pros. 

No matter how prepared you are, there’s guaranteed to be an unexpected political development to toss a wrench in your plans. 

After all, PR and politics are unpredictable and will bring you to the limits of your professional skills. 

But if you pay close attention to the news landscape, the reporters you’re pitching, and your client’s goals and values, 2024 might just be your most successful year yet. Remember our essential tips!

Curious to learn about our work? Check out our case study, and find out how we helped Flocabulary – an educational technology startup, and established them as a top education platform in the country.

And don’t forget to check out our blog for all the latest PR industry trends, tips, and more.

Тhis article was written by David Berezin, the Sr. Content Lead at RLM PR.

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