All posts by Dan

Up on the Soap Box: How the Media Portrays Politics

Political intrigue abounds; a private argument turns swiftly into a public scandal. By the close of the first scene, a supporting character faces public scrutiny and a career-ending press conference – all of it machinated by a corrupt politician. When seen through the silver screen, politics is chock-full of nail-biting excitement and sensationalized drama. However, the day-to-day grind of political work falls far short of the Machiavellian epics viewers expect from their television shows. For those of us active in the field, the misconceptions regarding our work can be frustrating to fight against, if not downright damaging. Everyone loves a well-made fictional political drama, but what happens when voters forget the “fictional” modifier and take the toxic machinations they see on-screen as representative of real political action?

 

The political arena’s affiliation with cinema stretches back to the films of the early 20th century. Even then, depicted events were dramatized to appeal to mass audiences – and why wouldn’t they be? Consider a truthful medical show. The idea of watching a doctor work frantically to save someone’s life seems exciting…until you realize that doing so means viewing an hours-long tape of a surgeon poking around in the operating room. Film is inherently escapist; we choose to view movies and television episodes because they take us out of the banalities and stresses of day-to-day life and into an delightful (fictional) world where we ourselves have no stake in a story’s outcome. Film is meant to entertain, so it must be made entertaining. Thus, more accurate depictions of a politician reviewing policy documents or sending fundraising emails are set to the side; replaced by scandalous plot twists meant to entice viewers into watching just one more episode.

 

This isn’t to say that movies can’t tell us something about our political reality. The messages these pieces convey, however, are often more subtle than those we expect from direct political dramas. Think back to just before the Reagan era, in the 1970s and early 80s. As the decade turned, films such as Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind were released with much public acclaim. But wait, you might say – these aren’t political films at all! They both are and aren’t. In his article “Film, Politics, and Ideology: Reflections on Hollywood Film in the Age of Reagan,” film scholar Douglas Kellnes notes that the films rising to popularity in the years before Reagan’s administration increasingly showcased conservative values such as individual initiative and hard work (Star Wars), as well as a vilification of large, corrupt governments (The Parallex View). Interestingly enough, Kellnes finds that an analytical viewer could have predicted Reagan’s emergence as a conservative leader by noting the increased right-leaning principles expressed in the era’s popular films.

 

Where, then, does this leave us as politically-minded viewers? First, we need to keep the fictionality of the shows we watch in mind in order to combat the negative stereotypes created by politically-inspired shows. That way, we can trust in the professionalism our politicians demonstrate without waiting for the next scandal or paying attention to blatant sensationalism in the media. Then, we need to keep our metaphorical fingers on the pulse of American cinema. What are Americans watching? What does popular content tell us about the ideological leanings of our country? A little beyond-the-polls analysis may provide us with unconventional insight into our country’s ever-shifting political leanings.

 

How to Get Kids Excited About Politics

How young is too young for political conversation? Most countries require their citizens to be at least 18 years old before voting, reasoning that by that age, younger voters have the reason and thoughtfulness required to do their part in charting their nation’s future. But what does this limitation mean for those under the age of 18? Should they be encouraged to engage in political discussion even though they haven’t reached the designated age?

 

I would say with absolute certainty, yes.

 

Kids understand more than we give them credit for. Too often, we assume that children won’t be interested in or won’t understand political happenings. However, by acting on our assumptions and cutting interested kids out of the conversation, we potentially handicap their interest and engagement in political action later in life. Think hypothetically for a moment. Two newly-minted voters stand in line to vote; one comes from a politically apathetic family and only bothers to briefly look up which candidate fell within his political party before meandering out to vote. The other grew up discussing politics almost daily with his family and can explain his rationale for choosing his candidate to anyone who asks. Who would you rather have at the ballot box?

 

Political engagement doesn’t have an age restriction. We need to encourage our kids to participate in the political conversation and teach them how to think critically about the candidates they align themselves with. Otherwise, we run the risk of turning our political decisions over to a generation of apathetic voters. Don’t lock kids out of the conversation; bring them in!

 

Bring the Child Into Conversation

Children ask a lot of questions, especially if the adults in their lives are visibly passionate about a subject. Although it might seem tedious to go over basic political ideas, you should do so for the child’s sake. Once they understand the foundation of an issue, they can build on that knowledge and comprehend more complex subjects. Give them a voice! The best way to inspire interest in political conversation is to make a child feel as though their thoughts and opinions are welcome.

 

Allow for Gentle Debate

By and large, children tend to align with their parents’ political beliefs. However, this isn’t a given – and children should never be shot down for airing different beliefs. Talk through both sides of an issue, and gently ask your child to explain why they hold their position. Calm, thoughtful debate is a constructive exercise in critical political thinking.

 

Use Metaphors

Many adults don’t understand the finer points of tax reform – so why would a child? Try to stick to digestible subjects that can be simplified. Opt for metaphors that relate to the child’s experience, such as casting an election as a game or contest. A little reframing can do wonders for a child’s understanding.

 

Next time a child asks for context in a political conversation, give it to them! By bringing them into the conversation, you just might spark a lifelong interest in political thought.

 

Presidential Profile: Ronald Reagan

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

-Ronald Reagan

 

Widely recognized as the driving force behind the nation’s realignment with conservatism in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan’s considerable success in office has cemented him as an icon for conservative-leaning politicians today.

 

Though he is mostly known for his achievements in California and D.C., Ronald Reagan was born in a small town in rural Illinois. Reagan grew up in a working-class family and put himself through school; his childhood experiences inculcated in him a strong belief in the value of dedication and hard work. In 1937, Reagan relocated to California and began working as a sports announcer and actor; years later, he starred in several notable pictures and was elected president of the Screen Actors Guild. In this position, Reagan took strides against the influence of communism in Hollywood and utilized his influence as a significant figure in show business to springboard his entry to political office.

 

As an actor, Reagan was expressly forbidden from involving himself in party-specific politics; in 1945, he was even asked to surrender leadership of an anti-nuclear rally by his employer, Warner Brothers Studios. The restrictions eventually became too much, leading to Reagan’s  decision to drop acting and pursue a career in politics. In 1967, he successfully challenged two-time Governor Edmund Brown for California’s governorship and promptly set about fulfilling his campaign promises to balance the state’s budget and quell student protests. His notable successes in office led to his reelection to office in 1970.

 

But the governorship wasn’t enough for Reagan; he knew that he could do more good from higher ground. In the years following his second term, he expressed his interest in the Presidency and even went so far as to enter a race himself twice. In 1981, he achieved his reach for the Presidency by overcoming incumbent Jimmy Carter. While in office, Reagan espoused a philosophy of creating “Peace through Strength,” and pressed against Soviet influence. His communications abroad eventually led to the INF treaty with the USSR, which effectively ended the Cold War and lessened nuclear stockpiles. Domestically, President Reagan implemented supply-side policies (later called “Reaganomics”) and called for greater economic deregulation and a reduction in government spending. Over the course of his two-term tenure in the Oval Office, inflation dropped from 12.5% to 4.4, while real GDP growth increased to 3.4. Upon leaving the Presidency following his second term, Reagan had a near-unprecedented approval rating of 68%.

 

Ronald Reagan’s past influence on the United States cannot be understated. He lived a long, influential life, passing away in 2004 at the age of 94. However, his standing as a symbol for conservatism and the importance of his achievements remain strong in his absence.

Advice for Primary Elections

Gossip circulates in the months, if not years, leading up to races for prominent seats in government. Sometimes, a single offhand comment from a high-profile politician is all it takes to spark candidacy rumors. As the political hype gains momentum, the question begins to echo across news outlets and social media platforms – who will represent our interests in public office?

 

Primary elections in the United States offer interested party members their first opportunity to officially toss their hats in the ring and present themselves as candidates for office. It further serves to narrow the competition in preparation for the general election. In the primaries, voters are responsible for choosing a single candidate to represent their political party in political races. Each state has its own rules about who can vote for which candidate in the primary; some limit voters to choose only those representatives within their own party, while others allow all voters – regardless of their party registration – to vote for the candidate of their choice. Regardless of state-specific details, though, the primary elections present the first hurdles candidates need to clear in pursuit of public office, and thus require strategies different from those deployed in general elections.

 

Stay Positive

As I’ve written before, there are significant risks to diving into a negative campaign early on. According to statistics provided by the Conversation, a full 76% of television ads run in 2016 were character-based smear ads. The trend towards negativity is inarguable; however, candidates who utilize smear tactics run the risk of alienating otherwise interested voters. Moreover, surveys indicate that attack ads may in some cases drive voters toward the smeared party out of distaste for the attacking candidate and sympathy for the attacked. Candidates participating in primary elections should make an effort to stay positive for as long as possible in order to maintain the moral high ground and voters’ goodwill.

 

Start Early

Waiting to the last moment to declare candidacy may spark headlines, but the media flash a shock announcement makes will not have the same long-term effect that a quieter but more thorough PR job will. Candidates should begin building the foundation for their candidacy as soon as the time for campaigning draws near. If voters cannot recognize a candidate’s name or identify their core positions, that political hopeful is unlikely to succeed in the primaries.

 

Build a significant web presence.

The influence of online media cannot be understated. While traditional in-person events should never be allowed to fall by the wayside, candidates should spend a significant amount of their PR time and attention ensuring a strong online presence that accurately represents their character and politics. Having a sturdy, informative website and active social media profiles will help a candidate engage with voters in a way that isn’t always possible at large events.

 

The importance primary elections hold in our democratic system is considerable. These races challenge would-be candidates to prove themselves more suited to office than their peers and as such, demand careful strategic thought from candidates during a campaign.  Those who aspire to office should consider their plans for voter engagement carefully before leaping into the race.

Keep Campaigning: Why Efforts Don’t Stop After an Election

Months of marathon campaigning have led to this moment. Finally, the polls have closed and the votes cast; the metaphorical chips will fall where they will. There’s little left on the previously overflowing to-do list but sit back and wait for the result. With some luck, the election will lean in your favor, and open the door to additional years of welcomed hard work. But winning a political campaign doesn’t necessarily free a candidate from the burden of campaigning. Active politicians should begin considering their long-term plans for reelection the moment the celebratory balloons are popped and the party hats put away.

 

This isn’t as hasty a strategy as it might seem. If a politician’s goal in running for office is to reach a position where they have the power to enact changes they believe necessary for their constituents, they have to think long-term. After all, a politician’s individual ability to pursue his or her political agenda will be considerably limited if he or she is voted out of office after a single term. This drive for reelection manifests in current events; after only a few months in office, representatives for President Donald Trump have confirmed his intent to campaign for a second term in 2020.

 

Incumbent politicians do hold a structural advantage over their challengers; according to American University historian Ally Lichtman notes in an interview for NPR, those already in office at the start of a campaign have the advantage of national name recognition, government access, campaign experience, and the presumption of success. That said, incumbents face defeat more often than most think; out of 45 presidents, only 14 have successfully served two full terms.

 

Elected politicians accept a plethora of new responsibilities when they take up elected office; however, those new tasks can’t be allowed to entirely overshadow campaigning efforts. In order to govern effectively and plan for reelection, political figures must pay attention to the needs and interests of their constituents, and continue engaging with voters after the votes are cast. The following are a few strategies for doing so.

 

Establish an Online Presence and Mailing List for the Campaign

Campaign websites and social media pages should be regularly updated, maintained separately from the incumbent’s official website, and host the latest news from the campaign. When run effectively, a campaign’s online properties can boost voter engagement and serve as the foundation for online campaign efforts.

 

Seek Out Public Speaking Opportunities

Voters don’t want a representative who works behind a closed door and never communicates. Even incumbents need to be heard! Scheduling high-profile public speeches will ensure that voters increase their familiarity with political figures and candidates.

 

Stay Positive

A single defeat doesn’t mark the end of a political career. Consider Ronald Reagan, who ran twice before successfully achieving the presidency after his third campaign – or even Abraham Lincoln, whose unsuccessful campaigns established him as a political leader and set the groundwork for his presidency. If the votes don’t weigh in your favor on election night, accept the results and plan for the next campaign.

How to Get Involved in Local Politics

Talking about a problem is easy; fixing it is harder. Our current political landscape is rife with division and controversy, with passionate voters taking to social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to express their frustrations. However, an angry post only goes so far in our fast-paced media culture; to make a real impact, voters need to take action by participating in their local politics and building the change they want to see in their communities. For those without personal connections to their local political office, this might seem difficult – how can they step up? Will they be welcome when they do?

 

The answer is a wholehearted yes – more helping hands are always needed during campaigns and at party headquarters. Below, I’ve listed a few ways that interested party members can get involved in local politics.

 

Attend meetings

You can’t make a difference if you don’t show up. Make the effort to sit in on party meetings; by doing so, you’ll make connections with local influencers and learn more about the specific issues facing your community. Most local meetings are open to all members of the party – simply call your local headquarters to find out when and where they will be held.

 

Help out at your local party headquarters

Local offices always need an extra pair of hands. You probably won’t be ushered into important strategy meetings within your first day, week, or month of participation – but you will make connections and set yourself up for greater responsibility down the road! Commit to spending a few hours each week at party headquarters stuffing envelopes and answering phones. It may not be glamorous work, but those at party headquarters will appreciate your time and effort.

 

Volunteer your skills during campaigns

Campaigns are perpetually in need of volunteers with social media, verbal, and written communication skills. Figure out what you do well, and offer your services! Reach out to those you know in your local political community and make a case for why you would be of use to the campaign. If you don’t have personal connections to the political milieu, don’t give up hope; write a brief cover letter and resume and visit the party office to submit your application. In all likelihood, the campaign will have something for someone with your skill set to do.

 

Build a network

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone and make connections! Introduce yourself to local influencers and start conversations about relevant political issues. Establish yourself as a dedicated, knowledgeable party member by staying informed on local political happenings. For information on your regional elected officials, search through USA.gov’s index.

 

Breaking into political life can be difficult if you lack personal connections to local influencers; however, every community member has the potential to become a leader with enough will and effort. Change can’t be made on a message board – so get involved! You might find yourself running for office one day.

 

The Electoral College System, Decoded

The Electoral College falls into a nebulous area of public knowledge – everyone knows that it exists, but many are hard-pressed to give a description of how it works. In most cases, the question yields a few stammered sentences and ends with a sheepish admission of uncertainty. Despite the general confusion surrounding it and its purpose, the Electoral College system is easy enough to appreciate with a little reading. Below, I’ve included a few of the most commonly asked questions about the mechanics of the system – but for more detailed information, I highly recommend browsing the research offerings on the National Archives and Records Administration’s website.

 

What is the Electoral College?

The electoral college is the apparatus by which the president of the United States is elected. When the college convenes, its 538 electors, or members, vote on behalf of their constituents to determine which of the candidates will become president.

 

How does it work?

Chosen electors from all 50 states and the District of Columbia cast their vote for president on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December during a presidential election year. The College does not physically convene in the same space; instead, electors gather in their state capitals to cast their votes. Then, their ballot choices are sent to the president of the Senate for counting. Once the votes are tallied, the Senate president is responsible for announcing the election verdict before the gathered House and Senate.

 

Why do we need it?

The electoral college solves a number of problems posed by a purely popular vote.

 

Firstly, it prevents majority interests from tyrannizing those of the minority during an election since the electors are trusted to ensure candidates will fairly represent national interests and not special interests that may malign their underrepresented fellow citizens.

 

Secondly, the electoral college encourages coalition-building. Think of it this way: Significantly more people (i.e., voters) live in cities than rural communities; thus, candidates focused solely on winning the popular vote might choose to dedicate their time to prioritize urban interests over rural ones. By removing the political incentive to hold some communities above others, the electoral college system forces candidates to build effective coalitions of voters and pay equal attention to the needs of all constituencies.

 

Additionally, the college mitigates the impact of voter fraud by making it harder for would-be manipulators to predict which precincts to target for malicious activities that can  skew electoral results. In a purely democratic system, any vote stolen – regardless of region or place of origin – could potentially throw the outcome of an election.

 

How are states’ electoral votes distributed?

Excepting Maine and Nebraska, the states and the District of Columbia submit their electoral votes in favor of the candidate who won the most votes within their jurisdiction.

 

What happens if the electoral college doesn’t have a clear winner?

Candidates must have at least 270 votes – a clear majority – to win the election via the electoral college system. If neither candidate manages to gather the required number of votes, the decision is passed over to the House of Representative. There, each state is allotted a single vote regardless of its size and number of representatives, and the presidency goes to whichever candidate receives the most votes. However, the House is not responsible for selecting a vice president – that task remains with the Senate. Given this, an election decided within the House could potentially leave the new administration with a president and vice president from differing parties.   

 

Who can be an elector?

While the details of the system used to choosing electors vary from state to state, the general process remains the same. Selecting electors begins at state party conventions, where potential electors are chosen from a pool of elected officials, party leaders, and political affiliates of the party’s presidential candidate. Once voting closes within the state, the prospectives affiliated with the winning candidate begin their roles as the state’s Electors.

 

If I’m technically voting for an elector, why are the candidates’ names on my ballot?

When citizens cast their votes for a presidential candidate, they aren’t voting for the candidate per se, but rather for the slated electors expected to vote for that candidate. While electors can technically vote for whoever they like, they are trusted to vote for a certain person before casting their votes – moreover, 29 states have laws specifically forbidding electors from voting for a candidate other than the one they pledged to select. For that reason, most ballots simply list the names of the candidates the electors have sworn to vote for, rather than the names of the electors themselves.

 

If the electoral college technically decides the presidency, does my vote matter?

YES! The Electoral College may determine the outcome of the presidential election, but ordinary voters have a tremendous collective influence on its decision. Voters in every state need to turn out on election day to select electors who will represent their political interests to the College.

 

Your voice matters. Back your beliefs and support your political candidates by heading to the polls on election days!

 

Clean the PR Room: How to Straighten a Social Media Mess

Think of social media missteps as icebergs, and a campaign as a sturdily-built boat. A good PR team stands watch for potential dangers, peering down at the dangerous caps and steering the ship in wide curves around the dangers they see. But in the furor and heat of a political campaign, even the most dedicated watchers can tire and accidentally allow the campaign to graze the ice. Suddenly, an unfortunately-worded tweet from the candidate’s account appears in newspaper articles, television pieces, social media posts, and the PR team finds itself sheepishly standing in the campaign manager’s office, promising to fix the problem at hand. Apparently, they already fired the intern who sent the ill-advised tweet.

The problem is, firing an overtired intern isn’t going to solve the issue at hand. At the busiest, most frenetic point of a campaign, even the most experienced PR manager could potentially make an embarrassing slip out of stress or exhaustion. Punishing the person who made a sloppy social media choice won’t make it go away; a PR team would be much better served by turning a thoughtful eye towards the situation, and calmly gauging the team’s next steps. Here, I outline the basic steps a PR team should take when developing a strategy for social media missteps.

 

Set up a better daily system.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the best social media mistakes are those that never take place. Have a system for checking future social media activities in place: designate specific post scheduling services (Hootsuite, Buffer, etc.) for each social media property and assign a staffer to review all scheduled posts prior to posting. Careful scrutiny will catch any potentially embarrassing mistakes, and save time and trouble later.

That said, if social media missteps do occur…

 

Consider the situation.

How long ago did the post go public? Have many people seen it? Is it a minor mistake such as a typo, or is it an issue-based controversy?

These are the questions you need to ask and answer before developing a recovery strategy. If the post was scheduled, rather than posted, you can simply delete it from the social queue before anyone sees it. If it was posted the day before, however, and has since been picked up by news outlets and scores of social media followers, you may make your viewers think you’re avoiding responsibility by deleting the problematic post. Remember, followers may still have screenshots of your tweet even after you delete it.

 

Put a temporary hold on all scheduled social media activity.

Ignoring – or appearing to ignore – an issue will not make it disappear. Make sure to cancel all of a candidate’s scheduled posts following a major social media misstep in order to avoid the appearance of not caring about the controversy at hand.

 

Gauge the room.

Decide whether you need to respond. If your problem is a simple misspelling, you likely won’t need to do more than correct the mistake and move on. However, if the problem sparked considerable conversation, the PR team should consult with the campaign manager and candidate to develop a thoughtful response.

 

Respond and move on.

Consider the campaign’s response carefully. If a real, honest mistake was made, apologize for it. Reacting defensively or with anger will only inflame the issue, and lead to greater PR problems down the road. Consider the issue carefully, and deliver a well-thought-out, crafted response that reflects well upon the candidate.

 

The best social media missteps are the ones that never occur; but even in the best-run campaigns, mistakes are bound to happen. When they do, the campaign’s PR team must be prepared to react appropriately and handle the situation.  

 

Camera Ready: How to Prep for a Televised Interview

The day is September 28, 1960, and depending on how you tuned in, Richard Nixon just won a historic debate against John F. Kennedy. Most historical sources name JFK as the winner of that debate in September – but had it not been for the onset of broadcast television in politics, Nixon may well have been listed as the winner. According to TIME magazine, those surveyed after the debate fell into two remarkably disparate camps: those who had heard the debate over radio broadcast and believed Nixon had won handily, and those who had watched the debate on live television and thought that JFK had snatched a victory.

 

This particular event was a turning point for politicians and the media. Prior to that day, coverage for political events were confined to radio broadcasts. The onset of television coverage allowed the American people to see the politicians they had previously only heard – and the televised Nixon, who was still pale and recovering from a recent hospitalization, appeared frail against the younger and more vital-looking JFK.

 

From a standpoint of logical debate, Nixon may have been the winner of the night – but under the harsh gaze of a camera, he was left disadvantaged. When broadcasted across radio waves, a candidate’s points are boiled down to the bare arguments and policies.  Television, in contrast, pushes the viewers to make additional judgements based on a candidate’s body language, wardrobe, and expression.

 

If Nixon’s hardship with television teaches aspiring politicians anything, it is that candidates should be prepared to face the media in all of its forms. Readying for an interview requires considerable thought and dedicated preparation time. Here few steps a candidate should complete before a broadcast interview.

 

Set the interview context.

Where will the interview take place? How long will it be expected to continue for? Which topics will you be discussing?

 

All of these questions need to be answered in detail before a candidate tapes on a mic. An interview at a campaign office has a different context and requires different in-office preparation than an interview recorded at a studio. A candidate who walks in without proper knowledge of what the interview will be focused on risks appearing confused, disorganized, or even uninformed on-camera.

 

Walk in prepared! Set expectations well before the interview date, and arrange accordingly.

 

Do your research.

“Winging it” may have been a useful strategy during college finals, but it should never be included in a candidate’s toolbox. The last thing aspiring political figures want is to appear out-of-touch with current political events – or worse, with their own policies.

 

Make sure to review national and local current events as well as your held campaign policies and the opposition’s arguments against them. Have snappy quotes and statistics in hand to support your position, and consider running a few recorded practice interviews. This will not only help you prepare, but it will also help you find body language or tics that translate poorly on screen.

 

Prepare your staff.

Most reporters won’t be satisfied with simply talking to a candidate – to get a full picture, they may wander around the office in search of a talkative campaign aide. Remember, everything is on the record unless a specific agreement is made to prohibit recorded comment – so talk to your staff! Warn them of the reporter’s visit well in advance, and then again on the day of the interview. Circulate a memo with official talking points to avoid confusion, and consider appointing a media-savvy staffer to act as a guide for the reporter.  

 

Finally, remember to clean up the campaign office before the visit! No candidate wants to be known as the politician who can’t keep their own house in order.

 

Stay clear, concise, and on-message.

Speakers will do nearly anything to avoid awkward silences – and reporters know it! In fact, many use long pauses as a means to encourage the interviewee to talk more. Left unchecked, a nervous interviewee might break off onto a rambling tangent, and drop their well-thought-out talking points.


Stay concise and directed! Answer questions, but remember not to wander off onto conversational paths that will land you in hot political water later. Prepare clear talking points, and stick to them!

 

Building positive rapport with the media is a must for all candidates – so prepare for interviews accordingly! Without proper care, eager candidates may well end find themselves in Nixon’s position, and lose their logical edges under a camera’s superficial gaze.

Is Television Falling From Political Favor?

Televised campaign ads just aren’t what they used to be. In our increasingly Internet-bound culture, more and more voters are turning to social media sites and other web-based platforms for their daily news. Recent surveys show that while Baby Boomers rely primarily on televised programming for news, Millennials prefer to check their apps. According to statistics from the Pew Research Center, a full 61% of millennials check their Facebook feeds to stay updated on current events in any given week, while only 37% report turning to their televisions for information.

 

Campaigns have long spent incredible amounts of money on televised ads in attempts to sway voters to their sides – but will those tactics lose their efficacy if current trends continue, and younger viewers opt not to tune in?

 

The answer is complicated.

 

In the 2016 election, President Trump spent considerably less than Hillary Clinton on his campaign. Estimates from the Washington Post put his expenditures at 956.7 million, against Clinton’s 1.4 billion. This isn’t a simple matter of spending less – it’s a matter of not needing to spend as much.

 

Unlike most traditional candidates, Trump received a remarkable amount of (free) social media engagement, and depended heavily on his existing base of followers to disseminate and engage with his messages. Moreover, because of the traditional media coverage allotted to candidates, his social media reach was actually extended by conventional coverage as his social presence fed into his political persona. The key to the Trump campaign was its effective utilization of both traditional and social media platforms. According to Adam Broder of FTI Consulting, Trump may have “earned” as much as $5 billion in free media coverage through his unconventional melding of social and traditional media campaigns.

 

But is this to say that television ads will cease to be relevant in upcoming years?

 

Not necessarily.

 

Television ads still reach a considerable number of people, and studies have shown that television ads have a significant impact on late-deciders. It is worth noting that Trump, despite his comparatively low spending in the months prior, poured money into television ad buys in the last few weeks of the election – increasing his spending from roughly $23,000 per electoral vote per week to over $91,000 per electoral vote per week in the final weeks of the campaign.

 

There’s no doubt that social media sites have begun to dominate as platforms for political news, particularly for younger voters. However, television will always serve as a valuable space for campaigners, and hold a place in strategy. As we move forward, the best campaigns will need to merge social media engagement with traditional coverage in order to build a strong and widely promoted candidate presence.