EDITORIAL: The election winner has much work to do to restore the credibility of the American brand

As I wrote this column, just seven days before Americans were to take to the polls, I received an e-mail from a friend in Ireland who was outraged by news reports of tactics employed by both parties to discourage voting in some battleground states.

As I wrote this column, just seven days before Americans were to take to the polls, I received an e-mail from a friend in Ireland who was outraged by news reports of tactics employed by both parties to discourage voting in some battleground states.

Stories like this do not bode well for the US's ability to move past the unpleasant rhetoric that has dominated this campaign season. Exposing the world to the underbelly of our political culture will not help the cause of improving the reputation of the US overseas. It is just one of many unpleasant by-products of this campaign. One can only hope that it is over soon. Whether or not we will even have a clear winner by Wednesday morning is debatable, as teams of lawyers for both of the major parties have been preparing for the truly terrible scenario of contested results in battleground states. While PR consultants and attorneys may reap the benefits of this scenario, in the form of new opportunities, there is no doubt that a replay of the "hanging chad" debates of Election 2000 is not in anyone's best interest. Corporations are forced to wait and see what will happen. According to Tom Galvin, VP of government relations at Verisign, companies are certainly keeping a lid on big news and programs right now - and not only for the usual common-sense reasons of not trying to compete for news at a time like this. Planning for 2005 programs and outreach will be temporarily thwarted, he says, as the differing agendas of each candidate will pose unique issues for corporations to prioritize. Voter turnout this year is expected to be huge, meaning that a large portion of the US population will be profoundly invested in the outcome. The global audience is also highly engaged in watching how this event plays out. And many of us feel enormous apprehension about what's coming next. Party politics aside, whichever candidate triumphs in this election will be challenged to meet the high expectations set during a highly charged campaign. The next President will have to rebuild what has been damaged during this time - namely, the belief that above all, democratic institutions are fair and reflective of the population and that the US is considered a credible and thoughtful player on the global stage. PR measurement continues to gain respect Our sister publication in the UK last week published results of a survey, part of its "Proof" campaign, which was launched in 1998 with the goal of encouraging clients to apportion 10% of budgets to research and evaluation. The survey revealed that almost half of the PR officers, as they are commonly known there, rely on "gut feel" as a primary way of measuring the success of campaigns. However, the study also reveals that formal measurement practices are on the rise, particularly those that examine the impact of campaigns on target audiences, such as surveys, polling, and focus groups. Only 13 % of those surveyed say they believe that PR cannot be measured. Many of our debates neglect the "gut impact" metric, probably unwisely. A profession that relies on the experience and creativity of its teams should not fail to take into account the visceral response of practitioners actually doing the work.

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