5 Tips for Dealing with Traditional Media on a Political Campaign

As a candidate for elected office you will need to deal with traditional media in some form of fashion.  Most people who have never run for office lack any experience in this are.  That often gets them into trouble as candidates. Here’s five things to know BEFORE you speak to the press.

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First the traditional media landscape has changed much in the last 20 years, even more so in the last 5 years.

Media outlets like newspaper, television and radio have had the impact on political campaigns diluted.  However they are still alive and can play key roles for getting your winning message out to the voters.

If you want to be successful when dealing with the any media, especially the traditional outlets, here’s five tips you need to live by as a candidate.

1. The Media has an Agenda

Often times it’s overlooked that the news is a business.

We may put them in a different category from other business but media companies exist to make money.

When approaching the media with information about your campaign, keep in mind what you are putting out will likely determine if your story will be leading or buried.

They are not covering you or your campaign to help you. Their agenda is to make money.

The best way a media outlet can do this is when a candidate says or does something they shouldn’t.

2. Less is Always More 

In today’s world everyone has an extremely short attention span. Even you’re probably skimming this article instead of reading it in-depth.

News segments are often no longer than 90 seconds and studies show that many readers simply scan the headlines.

When crafting a press release, make sure you grab the attention reporter’s attention right away.

Don’t make your releases more than a page and keep the paragraphs short, as shown in this example.

3. Stay on your Message 

One of the most important aspects of a winning campaign is having a winning message.

You must know your message and stay on it, especially when dealing with reporters or the media.

When speaking with a reporter, candidates can tend to “overshare” and start rambling.

This is horrible trap to fall into. When this happens you wind up talking about things unrelated to your winning message.

Things can even become worse if you deviate too far from your message and wind up discussing items completely irrelevant to your campaign.

As with your mailers and door-to-door canvassing, know your three most important points you wish to convey and stick to them.

4. “Off the Record” is a Lie

I don’t care if your sister is the reporter, never assume that something is off the record! It’s not.

Time and time again a candidate reads a quote in a story that they thought was “off the record” but winds up published.

Typically it’s the most controversial or bizarre thing said the the reporter.

If you have a good relationship with a reporter you can provide background on a story but always remember less is more.

And don’t be surprised if a subject you considered “off the record” today winds up being a story tomorrow you’re asked to comment on.

5.  Reporters Will Try to Trick You

One trick reporters will use to get additional information from a candidate is asking the same question in a different manner.

No matter what the question is, you should simply repeat your talking point to ensure the reporter gets your message into the story.

They will also try to blindside you by calling you up out of the blue for a comment on a story or an issue.

There’s no law saying you have to respond right then and there when it happens. You have the right to call that person back or ask to meet at a different time.

Never feel obligated to answer their question immediately without thinking about your response. Talk to your consultant or your team, then call them back.

Remember, it’s the reporters deadline, not yours.

Candidate Take-Aways

Reporters and the media are not interviewing or covering your campaign because they want to help you get elected.

They’re doing it to make money — and they make more money when you get off script and say something you shouldn’t.

Don’t play the game by the rules the media has set up.

Follow these five tips and use the media to your advantage as much as possible.

That’s how winning candidates do it and that’s exactly how you should too.