I would like to discuss the pubic public relations tactics of the 2008 showdown!
As I’ve mentioned in past posts, there’s this new cool hype on the internet (thank you Al Gore*) called Social Media – also known as web 2.0, new media or interactive media. This media is what some may call the future of communication. I’ll be honest, I use it… and so did both candidates.
Now, there are a plethora of devices candidates used to inform the public of their policies and verbally assault each other. Billions were spent to create the most grandiose campaigns the U.S. of A. has ever seen but in reality, the value far exceeded the mountains of money candidates forked out to tell their stories.
There’s a little ditty called YouTube which both Barack and John used to gain free publicity. Millions of viewers visit YouTube each day to watch videos other people posted for free. B & J both capitalized on this free service to reach viewers and show commercials, ads and share messages that would normally cost thousands of dollars each time they were run on paid TV. Now, it’s kind of hard to assign an actual value to those types of tactics, but not only were these videos shown on YouTube. They were shown on blogs AND ended up getting put on national TV for free.
Wait? Dan, did you say candidates schemed their way into getting free coverage on TV? Are you doing speedballs?
Yes, I did say that but I’m as clean as 2008 Heath Ledger (oops… too early). Some of the more ridiculous or funny ads were picked up by news stations and featured in stories, giving candidates a broader reach than originally planned. A great example of this is John’s ad where he compared Barack to Paris Hilton and Britney Spears. Doing this created an outrage in the media and even forced poor Paris to take matters into her own hands… which carried her daddy’s wallet.
When Paris created her rebuttal ad, that in turn, was picked up by media outlets everywhere. Her video, on www.funnyordie.com, received over 8,000,000 hits in 3 months. That’s not even counting the hits on YouTube. Once people saw Paris’s ad, they had to check out John’s too. This, while unplanned, turned out to provide more of a reach than paid for.
Another great PR tactic used by Barack was using third parties to tell his story. In the biz, we call this third-party credibility. Utah, being one of the reddest states in the country – which was second to only Wyoming by percentages – meant that any one who voted for Barack was throwing their vote in the trash! Okay, not really, but you get what I’m saying. Barack’s campaign strategy for Utah included having supporters bussed to Colorado to knock doors and campaign on behalf of Barack. Oh my gosh, this worked!!!! 54% of Colorado voted for Obama. In addition, they had people call potential Coloradoan supporters by phone to spread the Obamamania.
This is an example of how this works.
Let’s say Nike sends me an ad saying, “Hey Daniel! We have the best golf shoes ever. If you get a pair you’ll be able to show the competition you don’t mess around!” This probably wouldn’t convince me to get a new pair of golf shoes. But let’s say my friend… oh, Tiger Woods, says I should buy them, that would probably be a little more convincing than the company actually making these shoes.
The third, and last, tactic I’d like to address is about differentiation. PR is all about showing potential buyers, clients and customers how you are different – and better – than the competition. Obama had the slogan of “Change.” The word change, itself, calls to listeners telling them something different will happen. Differentiation was easy for Obama. He’s an African-American, Democratic, young, hip guy wanting to change pretty much everything George Bush has been doing for the past eight years.
For McCain, differentiation is a lot more difficult. He’s an older, Caucasian, republican who does want to change some Washington DC practices, but because he’s a republican, a lot of the policies will be the same. A common argument presented by Obama supperters was, “If we vote McCain, we’re going to basically have four more years of Bush.”
It doesn’t take a genius to tell you American moral is a little low; lower than it was 8 years ago. The economy isn’t doing so hot, there is a war going on and Lost doesn’t start until January. People really want things to change; to be different. Republicans and democrats are ready for change. I don’t think any republican could’ve won the presidential election with Barack Obama as the democratic nomination. While I think Mitt Romney would’ve been able to differentiate himself from Bush better than McCain (due to his extensive knowledge of the economy, sweet hairdo and young looks), I DON’T think even he could’ve beat Obama.
So to sum it up, I think it was a pretty intense election. PR is all about telling stories and I think Obama told his story better than McCain. The fact that McCain is just learning how to use the internet doesn't help either. The polls prove that. B & J both did a good job at utilizing social media but Barack definitely did a good job. But hey, John is still learning how to use the internet. Maybe he’ll do better in four years.