THINKPIECE: Ballot lessons: Five PR observations stemming from the historic 2000 presidential election

Whomever becomes our next president, and whatever the academics eventually identify as the PR lessons of this incredible election, here are five interim observations:

Whomever becomes our next president, and whatever the academics eventually identify as the PR lessons of this incredible election, here are five interim observations:

Whomever becomes our next president, and whatever the academics eventually identify as the PR lessons of this incredible election, here are five interim observations:

1. Although the Internet will continue to increase in importance, traditional media and techniques are still most important. The need for television and direct mail advertising required the raising of hundreds of millions of dollars, and the essential nature of one-on-one contacts drove the need for massive door-to-door campaigns.

2. Most PR campaigns should consider using paid advertising. Earned media will always offer credibility, implied endorsements, cost effectiveness and exposure in media in which we can't afford to advertise, or that don't carry advertising. But only paid advertising can guarantee that key messages will appear in essential media, and that they will appear as often as we want them to, in the precise language we have selected. That's why candidates capable of garnering countless inches of free ink and minutes of air time still spend millions on paid spots and ads.

3. We can't just say something and expect to be believed - we have to demonstrate and prove our contentions. Al Gore and his surrogates spent months alleging that he was a living, breathing, warm human being, and the world yawned. Then, with one simple act - the 'convention kiss' on network television - Gore convinced millions of voters that the allegation was true.

4. Beyond pre-testing potential appeals, and post-testing message delivery and effectiveness, polls and other research can reinforce and extend messages and even create momentum regarding positions. According to Steven Hess of the Brookings Institute and Andrew Kohut of the Pew Research Center, the media like polls because they provide fresh stories and are easy to cover. For corporate communicators, industry, 'trend,' product, service and other polls can provide significant publicity opportunities. Research can also help convince regulators and other public officials that a company has convinced their mutual publics of the validity of its requests and programs.

5. Whatever communications activities we employ will be criticized by someone, for some reason. When this happens, we should remember the reaction of composer Max Reger following a scathing newspaper review. Reger wrote the critic a note which read: 'I am sitting in the smallest room in my house. I have your review before me. Soon it will be behind me.'



- John Cook is a former New York public relations and corporate communications executive who now addresses these topics via consulting, writing and speaking.



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