What’s the role of a PR professional in a political campaign?
Well, primarily to present a political candidate/option in the best possible way, connect with the right people from the media, and produce press releases.
You also need to answer all questions, think 3 steps ahead, and mitigate crises. On top of that, your job is to formulate messages that resonate with the wider audience, follow up with journalists, and report regularly to your client.
Do you see a challenge or two already?
The job of a political PR specialist, or any PR professional working on a publicity campaign for that matter, can be quite challenging. Still, there is a range of tools and techniques you can use to turn the challenges to your advantage.
#1 Challenge: Getting Media Attention
When it comes to politics, there are never enough media contacts you can have. And sure, you probably have your trusted favorites that will cover you in any scenario, but what happens when you need to find new sources? How do you break through the noise and find specific media outlets that haven’t covered your campaign, especially when the election day approaches?
In these cases stepping up your game is a must. You can invest in buying a contact database. Use a part of your team to focus on journalists’ work in general, and try to identify those who might be willing to cover your story. Try searching for media outlets based on geographic location.
Or you can invest in a media monitoring tool and identify influencers, specific media outlets, that you don’t work with and that speak extremely positively about your candidate. The other way around works well, too; you can find the media outlets that share rather negative views about your opponents, and try to use this to your advantage.
Whichever option you choose, remember one thing – when you’re in the political arena fighting for the attention of journalists, having more contacts is always much better.
Solution: Track the mentions of your political candidate as well as your opponents’
Tracking mentions of your political candidate as well as your opponents pushes you a few huge steps ahead of everyone you’re competing against. The reason? You are constantly in the loop on any conversation, discussion or debate going around your candidate, their views or anything in addition you might be tracking.
You can track mentions the hard way – manually, by hiring a team of people who’d google and scroll through everything they can find, copy-pasting anything you’d like to track. Or you can use a media monitoring tool that will not only do this entire work for you, but it will also provide a range of statistics and reports you can use to analyze the mentions it gatherered.
Let’s look at the mentions gathered for Joe Biden. In this case we’ve divided his mentions on earned (coming from sources other than his own website and social media) and owned (his own channels).
Every mention has a range of metrics below saying more about its reach, engagement, influence and interactions as well as its virality, which is great if you’re looking to find media with a higher reach. But what is more, you can find all this data sumarized in a media monitoring report:
And when you click on Advanced report, you can easily see a whole range of information on media influencers based on different metrics:
Just by taking a look at these lists, you can easily find media outlets and individuals who could be your next parters on your campaign.
#2 Challenge: Managing the Public Perception
When we talk about politics, digging the dirt on political opponents and exposing it to the public is something like a sports discipline. Therefore keeping an eye on online conversations, social media, and traditional media outlets to identify any shifts in public sentiment is a must.
To successfully shape and manage public perception, it is essential to keep a consistent and authentic brand image for the political candidate. This includes emphasizing their values, policies, and accomplishments. All the time.
Additionally, responding swiftly to negative or inaccurate information, using fact-based communication, can help correct misunerstandings and build trust with the public.
Transparency is the key, so communicating openly with the public through various platforms, including town hall meetings, interviews, and online forums, can also foster a positive public perception and demonstrate accessibility. Effective reputation management strategies can help ensure that the political campaign’s message aligns with the desired public perception and can endure the political PR challenges and controversies that often come up in the heat of campaigns.
Solution: Use sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis is the process of analyzing text to determine the emotional tone of the message. It can be positive, negative or neutral. And it’s one of the functions a good media monitoring tool can also offer.
It works rather simple – media monitoring software connects mentions, and based on specific keywords determines the sentiment of a specific mention. In the end you can get an overview of all mentions through reports, where you can see the ratio of positive vs negative vs neutral mentions, as well as their distribution on different channels and how they changed through time.
Let’s take a look at Joe Biden’s mentions again.
As we can see, the prevailing sentiment of his mentions is negative, and most of them come from different websites, though if we look at specific channels it looks that on all channels the negative mentions outnumber the other two by a lot.
If we track the sentiment over time, we can see that there was a considerable increase in negative mentions on the 19th October. The tool enables us to see what these mentions are about, which is a huge help – that can determine the course of your further campaign. You can dig deeper, think why the audience reacted that way and adjust your messaging and strategy to avoid outbreaks of negativity in the future.
#3 Challenge: Tracking Competition
Political landscapes are dynamic, and knowing what opposing candidates are doing, saying, and planning is essential to staying ahead in the race. Your job is to keep an eye on the rival campaign’s messaging, events, and strategies and actively assess their strengths and weaknesses. This involves continuous monitoring of public statements, social media activities, and advertising campaigns.
Again – you can do this manually. But this is one more thing a good media monitoring tool can help you with. Because you can get a ton of info for your campaign by tracking your candidate, but you can get the same thing for all of your opponents.
Additionally, conducting in-depth research into the competition’s policies and positions helps to craft effective counter-narratives and position the candidate as a compelling alternative. By gathering valuable insights and staying on top of the opposition’s moves, PR professionals can fine-tune their strategies, respond effectively to the competition, and adapt their campaign’s messaging and tactics to remain competitive in a constantly evolving political landscape.
Solution: Conduct a competitive analysis
Media monitoring tool Determ offers a pre-set report called Competitive analysis. You can set up all your political opponents on tracking, and simply add them all to the report and wait for the magic to happen. Let’s look at the example of the current political situation in the Republican Party in the USA, a couple of months before the presidential elections.
If we take Trump out from the equation (since he’s mentioned for a lot more than just politics), here’s the share of voice measured on 7 presidential candidates:
RonDeSantis takes the upper hand (with 30.6%), but he’s closely followed by Nikki Haley (28.8%). Still if we take a look at the impressions per source, Nikki Haley is way above RonDeSantis on Twitter and she’s present on both YouTube and Instagram, which might be a good call for his PR team to take a look at.
#4 Challenge: Crisis Management
Political campaigns are arenas where the stakes are high, and the potential for controversy is ever-present. As a PR professional, you need to be prepared to address a wide range of issues, from unexpected scandals and negative press coverage to public relations emergencies that can damage a candidate’s reputation. To tackle this political PR challenge, it is essential to develop a well-structured crisis management plan in advance, outlining key roles and responsibilities. This plan should also include clear communication strategies that address potential crises promptly and transparently.
Speed can save the day, because swift responses can help mitigate the impact of a crisis. PR professionals should also leverage social media and other communication channels to control the narrative and provide factual, balanced information. Building and maintaining strong relationships with key media outlets and opinion leaders is critical for effective crisis communication, as it can help shape public perception during challenging times. Ultimately, a well-executed crisis management strategy can not only minimize reputational damage but also provide an opportunity to demonstrate the candidate’s leadership and ability to handle adversity, which can resonate positively with the public.
Solution: Use real-time alerts
Time is the most important aspect when we talk about political crises. If you get valuable information on time, you can react promptly, avoid reputational risks and save your candidate’s image. This is where media monitoring option of real-time alerts comes in really handy.
Determ offers 2 options of alerts – smart and spike alerts. Smart alerts are set if you want to receive an email or Slack notification for ever mention of your desired keyword. And spike alerts come to your email when there is an increase in the amount of mentions for a certain topic.
When you’re running a campaign, you might need both. You should take a look at every mention of your candidate and its context, just to be sure that it’s aligned with your campaign plan. And you’d definitely want to know when there is a significant increase of the mentions of your candidate or their opponents, since it may signify a crisis brewing on a certain channel that you might want to take a look at.
#5 Challenge: Reporting
Reporting is a crucial aspect of PR in political campaigns since it provides the foundation for informed decision-making and accountability. PR professionals need to compile and analyze a multitude of data and insights to gauge the effectiveness of their strategies and tactics. This includes tracking media coverage, monitoring social media engagement, and assessing public sentiment through surveys and feedback mechanisms. Timely and accurate reporting enables campaign teams to adjust their communication efforts, allocate resources more efficiently, and identify areas that require improvement.
Additionally, transparent reporting ensures that campaign stakeholders and the public are well-informed about the campaign’s progress and performance, which fosters trust and credibility. PR professionals need to be skilled at presenting data in a clear and easily understandable manner to facilitate collaboration among campaign team members and, when necessary, to provide the public with insights into the campaign’s impact and objectives.
Solution: Use the help of AI
The most time-consuming process of the entire campaign is usually collecting data and providing interpretations. With the rise of AI in 2022/23 there are several extremely convenient options to save some time and use AI to help you draw some conclusions.
Determ offers a virtual PR assistant called Synthia. It’s power by ChatGPT and it automates the analysis of collected data, identifies sentiment and tone of voice and gives tips on your next steps.
What is more, it’s integrated in every graph with Reports so you can easily let it analyze spikes in the number of mentions or spikes of mentions with a specific sentiment, etc. This can be taken as a basis or a starting point for the final report you need to present to your client or the public. And it can give you ideas for your next steps that you can go through with your team.
To succeed in the world of political PR, a specialist needs to be adaptable, vigilant, and strategic. Crafting compelling narratives, managing public perception, monitoring the competition, adeptly handling crises, and providing insightful reporting are not only political PR challenges, but also opportunities to drive a successful political campaign.
Building authentic connections with the public and media, staying one step ahead of the competition, and maintaining transparency and accountability in reporting are essential components of a winning campaign strategy. In this demanding and ever-changing environment, PR professionals play a pivotal role in shaping the course of political campaigns, and their ability to tackle these challenges head-on can make all the difference in the pursuit of electoral success. By understanding and addressing these challenges with skill and determination, PR professionals can contribute to the creation of a powerful and resonant political narrative that captures the hearts and minds of the voting public.
If you’d like to see how Determ can help you overcome different political PR challenges, reach out to our experts, and we’d be happy to help you out.