11.07.2012 | Heather Campbell
I recently participated in Ragan PRDaily’s Webinar, “10 Lessons Learned from the Campaign,“ hosted by Brad Phillips. Phillips is the president of Phillips Media Relations and writes “the world’s most-visited media training blog”, Mr. Media Training. In the webinar, Phillips offered a list of 10 media lessons learned during the 2012 presidential campaign. Here are four favorites:
1.) Use straightforward language.
Since CNN went on air in 1980, voters have subsequently spent more time listening to candidates speak. It appears that consequently, the candidate with greater intellectual appeal tends to not win the election.
Communicating in everyday language is essential, Phillips notes. The example from the campaign that Phillips used to this end is Bill Clinton’s acclaimed speech at the Democratic National Convention. Obama referred to Clinton as “our nation’s explainer-in-chief,” because he was able to convey complicated policy issues in an easy-to-understand format.
With a sound bite averaging 10-30 words, clarity and simplicity are key.
2.) Nothing said in public is ever private.
In today’s media landscape, you never know who is filming or recording your statements — and this information can be instantly broadcast. For this lesson, Phillips referred to the now infamous “47% video” of candidate Mitt Romney. This gaffe was widely broadcast, and referred to by Romney’s opponent in the official presidential debate. The lesson here? Stay on message, no matter what, when you’re in any type of public setting.
3.) Don’t leave anything to chance.
Phillips used the example of Clint Eastwood’s speech on the Republican National Convention, which Eastwood admitted was not planned out well in advance. In moments where the media is going to be carefully analyzing each aspect of a speech or presentation, don’t leave anything to chance. Gaffes happen even in the most planned and rehearsed media actions—don’t leave additional room for error. The media and the public have a high standard for pre-planned presentations; it’s not worth the risk of not incorporating detailed event planning into your strategy.
4.) Have a plan for brain freezes.
However, even if you carefully plan media engagements, you stick with clear language, and you are consistently on message, moments of confusion still happen—it’s human nature. Whether someone is a candidate or an executive, even intelligent, well-spoken individuals are still susceptible to “brain freezes.”
Phillips gave several examples of brain freezes along the 2012 campaign trail, including the Republican primary debate in which Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, proposed to cut three agencies from government support—but could not name all three. While the gaffe was almost laughable, instances like this can be seriously detrimental to images, brands and campaigns alike.
Unfortunately, when under pressure and while running on intense schedules, brain freezes like this can be a side effect. The solution? Think through a few general talking points that will minimize the impact of drawing a blank, and that remain on message/ brand.
The 2012 U.S. presidential campaign was unprecedented in media coverage and engagement. The high- stress, high-stakes nature of the campaign provided a few vivid examples of why media training and preparation is essential for anyone in a highly visible position.
A big thank you to Brad Phillips and Ragan’s PR Daily for the excellent webinar. Make sure to check out Phillips’ blog, Mr. Media Training, for more tips.
For more on the 2012 presidential campaign from Communique, look to: