Knowing What to Say: A Practical Guide to Political PR Campaigns

by Sandra Harris

In a year with such a crazy presidential election, it is easy to get caught up in the spectacle of it all. But as PR pre-professionals, it is a great opportunity to look at what goes on behind the scenes. What makes a successful political campaign?

In this year’s election, we are reminded that every election cycle introduces a new PR technique. In 2008, Barack Obama’s campaign introduced a use of social media that we have never seen before. You can be sure that this year’s campaign will change how future campaigns are run.

With an industry that changes every year, we cannot rely solely on studying the specifics of past campaigns to develop our skills. We have to rely on unchanging aspects of the campaigns and work to create new paths to success.

At the PRSSA 2016 National Conference, students from across the country had a chance to listen to two political campaign workers from Hathaway Strategies, wherein they shared their knowledge and insight. Anne Hathaway, founder and owner of Hathaway Strategies, and Jane Jankowski, media and public relations consultant, discussed some rules to live by.

  • Tell the truth: Know that everything comes back around. The more publicity a candidate receives, the more attention your campaign is going to get. Just take a look at Donald Trump and his locker room comments.
  • Pay attention to timing: It is your job to know what else is going on in the world. You do not want to release something defending the second amendment on an anniversary of a shooting.
  • Know when to say nothing: Sometimes you have to let the story tell itself. Hathaway reminds us that no comment means something. At times, the best thing you can say is nothing.
  • Know when you can have a little fun: There is no serious way to say your candidate got stitches after walking into a door. And there is no reason to. Sometimes you can have a little fun!
  • Although, these rules are not just political, they are practical. Whether you are running a campaign for the next president of the United States, or helping a non-profit avoid a media scandal, these tips can guide a public practitioner through the crazy media driven world we live in.

Sandra Harris 16-17

About The Author: 

As this year’s editor-in-chief, Sandra oversees the collecting, arranging and editing content for the Salute publication each semester. she is currently a senior whose major is Public Relations and minor is New Media. Outside of PR, Sandra is passionate about cheerleading, theater and Detroit sports.