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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Election years: public relations 101

With campaigns for the upcoming presidential election beginning to take full swing, we are about to enter a showcase for great, and, well…not so great PR campaigns.  It is a chance for us to learn not from our own mistakes, but from the mistakes of others.  Some of the campaigns we’re about to see, such as Herman Cain’s infamous “smoking” campaign advertisement, will leave us speechless and downright confused with what these public relations teams are trying to prove.  We are quickly entering a crash course in public relations, free of charge and provided for us by the hopeful leaders of this country.

It will be easy to pick up on the disastrous outcomes of bad PR because it will be all over the news, and unfortunately this is how we enter the public spotlight.  But as professionals we must scrutinize the campaigns; learn from them by adapting what was done correctly and progressing from what was done wrong. 

One of the most prominent questions to be asked is which campaign will use social media most effectively, and which one will fall short?  Videos and dialogues must be revisited before being released to the public, especially what message the video is trying to convey.  Look back again at the Herman Cain video, does smoking and his unusually long smile appeal to his target audience?  These public relations teams need to remember that the message is everything and can make or break your campaign. 

Politics is an extremely volatile arena for a PR professional, making it very entertaining for us on the outside to sit back and observe their blunders and triumphs.  As we enter this election year, try to keep a watchful eye on each political campaign.  Regard which candidate creates positive PR and which one fails, for the amount of experience we can apply to our own practice is astounding when we learn to gain from the mistakes of others.

Jens Heig 
University of Minnesota
Jour 3279
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