Rising Above Election Season Noise.
The constant din of local broadcast attack ads, non-stop political coverage, and charged online chatter during election season can make it challenging for any other issue to reach the public. However, some communications clients have timelines that can’t wait until after the election results are in. When that happens, a savvy earned media plan must include not only ways to ensure your client’s message is heard, but also strategies in which you can use the election itself as a platform to elevate your client’s story.
When working in and around an election, it’s critical to brainstorm ways that issues unrelated to the election can still be effectively communicated during campaign season. Starting at the outset of your planning process, you have to provide clear, insightful guidance for clients who want to generate earned media opportunities against the backdrop of the election. In some ways, it can be helpful to view the election as a counterweight for strong, earned-media pitching.
So with that in mind, here’s three useful strategies we use when pitching during election season:
1. Refine and rethink media lists
During election season, it’s even more important to find journalists focused on the beat that’s most relevant to your work. Instead of aiming for “General Assignment” reporters, think about which reporters at news organizations are not covering the election and consider pitching to them. Also, it’s a great time to cultivate new relationships with, and start reaching out to, reporters from trade publications or other niche outlets that don’t focus on election coverage.
2. Lean into the election cycle where you can
When possible, craft a pitch that connects your announcement to the current moment, and don’t be afraid to lean into the drama of the election with your best material. If you’re comfortable commenting on the election (this is possible without making endorsements!), provide a unique and valuable perspective. One way to do so is connecting with reporters to explain the urgency of the moment in relation to a particular client’s message. For example, our team recently secured media coverage in state outlets for a maternal health client, including The Philadelphia Inquirer and TV stations in North Carolina, South Carolina, Oregon, Missouri, Florida, and more. We offered local reporters the opportunity to speak with local mothers — stories that resonate regardless of electoral dynamics.
3. Follow up on key election milestones
The election cycle follows a predictable timeline. Remember to track important dates such as debates, early voting starts, and the financial reporting disclosures closely and then plan your media outreach accordingly. Thirty days out from the primary is a great time to offer spokespeople and line up interviews before reporters get too swamped. Hear something relevant to your work during a candidate debate? Reach out to a reporter immediately, offering a spokesperson to expand on that very idea. Keep in mind that a phone call can also go a long way when inboxes are flooded as the midterms approach.
At the end of the day, campaign chatter is an inevitable obstacle in today’s media landscape. By having a smart and strategic earned-media plan you can find a way to get past this distracting obstacle — and get your client’s message across despite the noise.