A politician’s electoral success often depends on the amount of publicity they get from the media. After all, it determines the circle of people their message will reach. But just as much as the media can increase your visibility, they also expose you to public scrutiny and comments, which aren’t always pleasant. Once your voice is out there, it is laid to both praise and criticism. And as much as it can go to your advantage, it can endanger your reputation to various extents.

💡 Read Media Monitoring: The Ultimate Guide

Working on a political campaign often equates to putting out fires daily, especially with election day approaching. The public has many questions. The competition is eagerly looking to dig out dirt and publish it. The stakes are very high, and the promises are often questioned.

In this context, it is of utmost importance to be ready for a crisis every day and to react immediately. This is where media monitoring tools can be an indispensable asset.

In this blog, we’ll go through different ways media monitoring tools can help manage political reputation and prevent political crises.

What is Political Reputation Management?

Political reputation management refers to efforts to secure a positive sentiment towards a political candidate or party. These efforts include various PR tactics like crafting specific messaging, interactions with an audience online and offline, resolving crises, nurturing relationships with the media, etc.

The ultimate goal of all of these practices is to influence how people feel. Therefore, sentiment is one of the most important metrics to follow within political reputation management. This can quickly be done with the help of media monitoring tools, like Determ.

Read PR in Politics: 5 Key PR Steps to Keep You on the Right Track

obama-political-speech-political reputation-management
Political reputation management depends highly on data

5 Ways Media Monitoring Can Help in Political Reputation Management

Media monitoring is the process of tracking and analyzing desired keywords (mentions) in online or print media, social platforms, forums, etc.

These mentions can refer to your political candidate, competitors, key people, industry trends, or anything you find important to track. Media monitoring reports provide data like the number of mentions of your keyword, the sentiment of these mentions, top locations, influencers, impressions, etc.

Read How to Run a Political Campaign with Media Monitoring

1. Use market research to prepare a crisis communication plan

Well planned is half done, right?

This especially goes for dealing with crises. You can’t predict all the troubles heading your way. But you can group possible crises into topical clusters and have a designated plan for every single one of them.

What kind of topical clusters are we talking about?

Let’s take Herschel Walker, for example. American Senate candidate in Georgia, with pro-life and conservative views, got tangled in a scandal when the information got out that he paid for her ex-girlfriend’s abortion some time ago. As seen on the graph, there was a considerable increase in negative mentions online. This ruined his reputation and pointed out the discrepancies between his views and what he had done. 

sentiment towards Herschel Walker
Sentiment towards Herschel Walker; source: Determ

A situation like this is a great display of how personal matters can provoke a political crisis. These situations include family members, friends, and close personal relationships. Next to personal matters, a crisis can come from competitors spreading fake news. Or it can depend on the current state of affairs in the country, like an economic crisis. 

Before creating a crisis communication plan, checking the public’s voice can be helpful. You can become a direct participant in all online conversations about your candidate through media monitoring. Meaning you can see what people are saying on social media, what kind of comments they leave on forums and websites, find out more demographical data about your audience and learn more about your candidate’s image and reputation. In this way, you can discover what bothers the voters,  what kind of language they use and predict what questions they’ll have for your candidate. 

Read 5 Political PR Metrics to Monitor During a Campaign

What happened with Herschel Walker

As for Mr. Herschel Walker – he and his PR team made some rather questionable choices when dealing with this crisis. At first, he denied everything despite being faced with evidence. Then after a few days, he admitted that he had given this lady money but that he hadn’t known what it was for. This caused another negativity spike (as seen in the graph above), showing the lack of transparency and honesty. And this is not an image you’d like to create a couple of weeks before the elections.

Words most frequently used next to Herschel Walker; source: Determ

2. Use real-time alerts to react on time

When it comes to preserving one’s reputation, there is nothing more important than a timely reaction. Suppose you tackle an issue on time before the frustration, fake news, or something else potentially harming spreads like wildfire. In that case, you can consider your political reputation management techniques very successful.

Read 5 Political PR Challenges and How to Handle Them

One media monitoring feature that is very important in providing time is real-time alerts. You can get notifications on your email or through Slack the very second your keyword is mentioned somewhere online. In this way, you can check immediately if the mention has the potential to turn into a crisis and plan your communication accordingly. 

Real-time alerts also increase your team’s productivity and save you money. Traditionally, PR specialists searched for mentions manually. You can imagine how time-consuming that might have been. With real-time alerts, your team can easily drift their focus to something more important within the campaign. 

Read How to Get Started with Real-time News Tracking?

3. Communicate with your voters

Political communication is far from what is used to be in the past. It was a one-way street, with the candidates giving speeches on how they would make the world better, and everyone just listening. With the rise in media literacy and a massive increase of alternative platforms where people interact (such as various social media), it has become necessary to adapt and be present where your voters expect you to be.

Not only will this give you extra visibility, but it will also bring you closer to your voters. And it’s not only private candidates’ social media channels we’re talking about. With media monitoring, you can join conversations on forums and public social media pages when your candidate’s name is mentioned. This allows you to explain the candidate’s stand and shed and present them in a positive light. 

Read How to Do Social Media Sentiment Analysis in Politics

One of the first politicians to use the power of social media was Barack Obama in his 2008 presidential campaign. He used social media to mobilize the voters, raise awareness, and to raise financial support for his campaign. 

Obama was one of the first ones to use the power of social media for his political campaign

And how communicating with voters online can have an extremely positive impact is best shown by the example of Andrew Yang in the 2020 US elections. Very few had known his name before he announced his presidential run. But by using social media and talking about contemporary issues, like how technology is changing American society, he managed to reach out to a younger audience, not so interested in politics. In fact, out of all voters naming him the first choice, 71% were younger than 45. 

PR in Politics ebook

4. Track what your competition is doing

Knowing the strategies your competitors are using can help your campaign immensely. With the help of media monitoring, you can:

  • Find out which aspect of their campaign resonates better with the audience
  • Learn how they deal with crises
  • Find out which PR techniques they rely on the most and check immediate results.

In addition to all this data you can get, you can conduct a competitive analysis and see your campaign compared to your competitors. You can compare the number of mentions, the overall impressions, share of voice, sentiment, mentions per channel, etc. A particularly high number of mentions, a much higher number of mentions on a specific channel, and a much more negative sentiment towards your candidate than the opposing ones could signal a crisis brewing. 

Read How to Use Media Monitoring for Competition Analysis

A competitive analysis of Trump vs Biden mentions; source: Determ (ex Mediatoolkit)

5. Check what specific channels are saying about your candidate

Media are an integral part of any political campaign. But it’s essential to track how these media are following your efforts. You can expect that media outlets that share similar views to your opponents might not report on your campaign the way you’d like.

Take, for example, CNN and FOX news and their reporting on Donald Trump. In the same period, CNN, a predominantly liberal media outlet, reported more negatively on Mr. Trump than FOX news, a more conservative platform.

Sentiment of mentions containing Donald Trump on CNN; Source: Determ
Sentiment of mentions containing Donald Trump on FOX; Source: Determ

Seeing your campaign altered to fit certain media, is also a great source of information for your campaign. You can:

  • use this info to prepare your crisis communication plans
  • predict easily the questions coming from these media
  • learn more about the voters following specific media – what makes them happy or mad and which matters they find extremely important. 

Read Liz Truss – Anatomy of UK’s Shortest Tenure

To Conclude

Political reputation management relies heavily on data. PR professionals create and analyze campaigns through various media and on different levels to secure a positive sentiment towards a candidate or a party. Be it to prepare a crisis communication plan, to do market research, or to track the success of specific campaigns or press releases.

All of this relies on gathering enough information from as many sources as possible to get a clearer picture of what works and what doesn’t. And if there is one thing that can provide you with an incredible amount of valuable data, it’s media monitoring. 

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