In a time when crisis seems to be a constant state of nature (think data breaches and the airlines), campaign operatives need to know now more than ever how to minimize any long-lasting effects that can tarnish your reputation. Damage control experts, Chuck Adams (New Media NW), Sue Evans, (NW Media Allies), Sandeep Kaushik (Sound View Strategies), and Mary Lane Strow (Washington Research Council) discussed how to maintain your client’s credibility and get ahead of the media aftermath that follows a PR nightmare during AAPC’s latest webinar.
Check out speaker tips & takeaways below!
1. It’s important to define ‘crisis’ to all involved in a campaign. A crisis is any event that can derail a campaign that originally had the chance to be victorious.
2. The first question you need to ask your candidate is if there is anything in their past that will be embarrassing or that will require explanation during their campaign. You’ll need to make sure to get all of the information from your client before the heat of the race.
3. Do your opposition research. You want to create crises for your opponents in order to throw them off their strategy.
4. Social media has a life of its own. Comments posted online cannot ever truly be deleted even if they are not currently visible. Keep this is mind as you do your research on your opponent, but also for your own candidate.
5. Perception is critical during campaigns. Managing those perceptions is the key to a positive outcome.
About Chuck: Chuck Adams has been a professional in politics for 39 years. Chuck’s firm, New Media NW is one of the go-to firms to run elections for legislative, statewide, county commission, county executive and bond measures throughout the northwest.
1. Always have your candidate explain themselves to the public. You can’t assume that all voters will agree with you or be on your side, so make sure your campaign does not get too defensive when handling an issue.
2. Don’t always let the candidate lead. Trust your own experience and take the side of the skeptical public or a reporter to feel how the story will come across in the media.
3. Tell the whole story when disclosing something from a candidate’s background. It’s only a true disaster when it appears that a candidate lied about their past.
4. Something to keep in mind from the Trump administration is that a candidate cannot rely only on an opponent’s downfall. Your candidate needs to focus heavily on getting their own message out there.
5. It is important to discuss self-awareness with your candidates. Are they willing to admit mistakes?
About Mary: Mary has 20 years of communications and public policy experience in Washington State. She started her career working as a staff writer for former U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton in Washington, D.C., where she collaborated with congressional staff and stakeholders to produce speeches and other materials on issues including the federal budget, tax policy, trade and natural resources.
1. Frame your own story–don’t let your opponent frame the negative situation if it arises.
2. Stick to your plan and your message. You always need to be in campaign mode in order to maintain that message when an issue is brought up.
3. Identify trusted third-party validators early on to tell your client’s story in case it becomes necessary.
4. Your candidate needs to be the adult in the room, even when everyone else might be acting irrational.
5. You want to respond quickly, but accurately during a crisis. Getting the message right the first time is more important than having the quickest reaction time.
About Sue: Sue specializes in building media campaigns and communications strategies that guide clients through crisis, issue advocacy, legislative policy, political campaigns, and high-stakes litigation. Most recently, Sue served as the lead media strategist for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their global campaign against the Dakota Access Pipeline. She is the owner of Northwest Media Allies and leverages more than 25 years of communications experience to deliver a record of proven results for her clients. She also serves as “of counsel” at Pyramid Communications in Seattle.
1. Always get ahead of negative information; this will minimize and mitigate the issue at hand.
2. Trump is changing how we are communicating with the public. He has found a way to get people’s attention, for good or bad.
3. Having an upfront relationship with a candidate is key.
4. Make sure you have a protocol when a crisis arises. Everyone on your campaign needs to know how to answer the phones and what to say (or what not to say) during a media firestorm.
5. You need to be brutally honest with your candidate based on your own experiences—that is why they hired you in the first place.
About Sandeep: Sandeep Kaushik, Partner at Sound View Strategies is a political and public affairs consultant based in Seattle, WA. In addition to his extensive public relations and strategic advisory work for elected officials and civic leaders, governments and non-profits, he has worked on multiple political campaigns in the Northwest, including numerous issue and ballot measure campaigns.
A huge thank you to our speakers for sharing their expertise with the AAPC membership!