What we say

Public relations is the backbone of politics 

Nov 9, 2018

Public relations professionals are the unsung heroes of many businesses and organizations, just as political specific PR professionals are the unsung heroes of political campaigns. We get paid to make other people look good, and we’re all about it.  

Because all political campaign strategies contain a robust public relations component, politics is an ideal place to apply PR skills — and to notice good and bad PR work. And we’ll be very clear here – political PR is an art form, and we are not those artists. Our specialty lies in bipartisan/nonpartisan government communications, nonprofits and small businesses. 

But DAMN do we have mad respect for our PR brethren out there busting their asses these past few weeks (months… years…) to make our world a better place. To get out the vote. To put into power candidates who look more like us, think more like us and actually represent the people. 

You don’t have to be an expert in political PR to see the ways in which public relations is the backbone of political communications. For those of you who haven’t spent the past few months immersed in the intense world of election comms, here’s a quick recap of the top three ways PR and politics are intertwined.  

Consider it a Political PR 101: 

1. Awareness 

One of the main roles public relations plays in politics is the generation of knowledge about a candidate client. Unless you are aware that a particular individual is running for office, you likely wouldn’t cast a vote for him. Whether through mass media placement, events or social media efforts like those of fellow Michiganders Nick Hayes and Naomi Burton. Bonus connection: Naomi is an honorary P&G-er and worked with Kate back in their “saving the economy through workforce development” days at Capital Area Michigan Works! Nick and Naomi specialize in high-quality, reasonably priced videos for carefully vetted clients whose views they can accurately portray (read: democratic socialists). Their videos helped Bronx activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win her New York House race against Wall Street-backed incumbent Rep. Joe Crowley, making her the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. Building awareness of the candidate’s name helps solidify it in the minds of the general public. (Also, WE LOVE YOU, NAOMI!) 

2. Education 

Once voters have a general awareness of a candidate, the research begins. A public relations professional keenly focuses on properly educating voters about specifics related to the candidate. Public relations practitioners are responsible for translating elements into easily understood and digestible concepts so voters can sort through the overwhelming amount of information they are bombarded with during campaign season. Planned Parenthood’s communications people, for example, created an easy-to-follow Voter Guide which simplified and highlighted who they were endorsing statewide and locally. This helped voters make a well-informed decision about who championed women's reproductive rights and access to quality and affordable health care. 

3. Persuasion 

Public relations professionals are essential to the process of persuasion. While we all hope for a charismatic and intelligent candidate, some may not come across as polished at all times. Does the name Jon Favreau ring a bell? Yes? Well we’re not talking about THAT Jon Favreau. The OTHER Jon Favreau was the former director of speechwriting for President Barack Obama. Public relations teams work directly with candidates to help them sharpen not only their messaging platforms, but also their presentation skills, body language, tone and tempo of delivery. PR professionals help candidates understand what issues are most important to voters so they can seem to read people’s minds, responding efficiently and making meaningful connections. 

So as we all recover from what has been tense, brutal campaign chaos, we give a huge round of applause to all the political PR pros working long, hard hours this election season. To us, you are the real heroes of the campaigns.  

Thank you for making our world a better place. 

Claire Barkholz

Assistant Strategist

Tags: PR, industry niche