Sunday, January 12, 2014

Campaign Tools - Help Yourself

Here are some useful campaign tools - help yourself
Ned Barnett

More will be added over time, so be sure to check back for updates.

Campaign Event Scheduling Questionnaire

Event Name:  ________________________




Travel Directions and Details
Street Directions:

Inside Building Directions: 

Event Host Contact Phone Number:
Type of Event

Number of People Expected

Types of People Expected

Candidate’s Role
Length of Address?



Other Dignitaries or Candidates?

Donors Present?

Press Present?

Which Press – Print, Radio, TV?

Press Notified by Campaign?

Press Theme of the Day

Date invitation received

Who sent us the invitation?

Confirmation Letter Sent?

Who is the Event Host?

Follow-up Letter Sent?
Other Significant Factors

Signed/Approved ________________________________   Date approved ______________


Model Release For TV Taping
Campaign Name

I, ______________________________, am 18 years or older, (or, I am the legal guardian of someone under 18 years of age) and I give my permission to (campaign committee name) to use motion picture imagery of me (or the named minor) and sound recording of my (named minor’s) voice in preparation of a commercial. 

I understand and agree that no compensation of  any sort is offered at this time, nor will it be in the future.

Name:                                 ____________________________________________

Address:                            ____________________________________________


Date:                                   ____________________________________________

Shoot Location:               ____________________________________________

Signed:                               ____________________________________________

Witnessed:                       ____________________________________________

Instructions:  Have this form filled out and witnessed, and file with the campaign manager.  If the person signing the release wants a copy, make a copy or fill out a duplicate form.  In the case of a minor, provide a duplicate copy for the parent or adult guardian.  


Campaign News Releases - The New "Online Advertising"

Reaching The World For the Price of A News Release
Ned Barnett

I've been reviewing David Meerman Scott's excellent 4th (2013) edition of his seminal "The New Rules of Marketing & PR" and was impressed by the impact his views can have on a political campaign's media and public outreach efforts.  He maintains that while "press releases" should continue to target campaign and political news media gatekeepers (editors, producers, reporters), "news releases" should be targeted to information users - donors, volunteers, voters - rather than to those traditional news media gatekeepers.

He makes that distinction in naming - "Press Release" (for the press) and "News Release" (for those who want to read the news), and I think it's helpful in understanding, how the role of these releases has changed.

This role- change is at the heart of what I call "Political Campaign PR-Marketing 2.0," and in this (as in most political marketing and Earned Media/PR concepts), David and I are of one accord. For more than 15 years now, I've been encouraging clients to embrace the use of "news releases" - distributed across the Internet into places where real people are really looking for news - as a way of getting "the word" out to potential donors, volunteers and voters - the very lifeblood of any campaign.  Properly handled, news releases can be posted on the many news websites. 

One way of doing this is by using commercial press release placement services, such as BusinessWire (which I usually use, though PR Newswire is the other market-leader).  These services have, under contract, news aggregator sites such as Yahoo, Marketwire and a host of other news (and news release) aggregators. With BusinessWire, you get placement everywhere online from MSN to the Albuquerque daily newspaper - and 293 other sites as well.  In addition to being sent to geographically and topically-selected political news reporters and editors, your news release is sent all over the Internet, where people looking for your news can find it.

Some political news media will occasionally pick up a well-written wire-distributed press release - one which contains real news. They will turn it into an article, or use it to justify an interview-based feature - which, for the campaign, is even better. However, when I want those results, I find I get more placement success by emailing specific editors, reporters and producers directly - or by picking up the phone (if they accept phone calls from campaigns and candidates) and pitching them directly. 
But wire-distributed news releases do get picked up and used by those nearly 300 online news aggregators, and when potential donors, volunteers or voters key-word search, they will find those news releases.

After reading David Meerman Scott's insights, I had one of my own. 
Political, campaign and candidate news releases that are placed over one of the major wire services  are nothing short of a new online advertising medium. Without quite intending to, these wire services have become a fee-based way of getting your news out, through the Internet, to news-reporting places where potential campaign donors, volunteers or voters can find that news.

Here's what I mean. In traditional campaign advertising, your ad-buy guarantees that your message (in print or broadcast form) is placed in a certain medium, generally at a specific time and often in a specific location. However, in traditional campaign Earned Media - better known outside politics as PR - you were not buying a message placement.  Instead, you were buying a means of reaching out to a news media gatekeeper, asking for campaign or candidate coverage, and using the news value of the release as justification for that coverage. If you used a wire service such as BusinessWire, you were increasing your odds of being picked up, but you were not buying placement. 

That was then. This is now.

Today, when you place a release on BusinessWire or one of it's competitors, you are buying the placement of your message - not only in a direct feed to reporters and editors, but also in a direct feed to Yahoo Business and Marketwire and all the other hundreds of news aggregator sites that contractually agree to place releases provided by the wire service - including your campaign's press releases. 
You are, in essence, buying an ad on Yahoo and all 294 of those other sites.

For as little as $400 on BusinessWire (and less on some of their competitors - but believe me, in this, you get what you pay for), you get a very controlled, up-to-400-word message placed in some very prestigious and well-traveled websites. So if you're following David Meerman Scott's recommendation to put out campaign or candidate news releases on the Web to reach donors, volunteers and voters directly, then - when you use one of the wire services - you are, in essence, buying a guaranteed placement in specified locations and at specified times. 
In short, advertising. A different kind of advertising (more like an advertorial than a traditional print ad), but still an ad.  You control the content, the timing, the placement.

When you compare the relatively nominal costs of a BusinessWire placement to the relatively astronomical costs of an advertisement in any mainstream medium, even with campaign discounts, this becomes a huge bargain. One ad on an ABC/CNN/Fox News program costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars - even in a local cable market, those can run into the hundreds or thousands of dollars - and those campaign messages are here and gone in 15 or 30 seconds. 
However, a much longer campaign or candidate news message placed via BusinessWire lives on up to 295 news-aggregator websites for 30 days, 90 days or an infinite number of days, where they are there to be found by any Google, Bing or other key-word search.

In the world of Campaign and Candidate Earned Media/PR-Marketing 2.0, a traditional low-cost PR distribution tactic has evolved into an incredibly cost-effective targeted-voter, targeted-donor and targeted-volunteer advertising tactic, making use of the way that press release distribution wire services ensure that their clients generate coverage through their news-feed contracts with Yahoo and hundreds of other other online news aggregators.

If you need help with your campaign's Earned Media (PR), speechwriting, strategy, ghost-writing, or many other campaign-winning services, contact me at - or 702-561-1167

The Seven Deadly Sins of Campaign and Political Public Relations

or ... Why is it We Never Have Time To Do It Right ... 

But We Always Have Time To Do It Over ...?

Ned Barnett

In the promotion of your candidate or campaign through Earned Media - better known as public relations, publicity or PR - there are a number of “fatal” mistakes you can make that will kill or distort your coverage.
Of these, there are the “Seven Deadly Sins of Campaign and Political Public Relations” that will ruin your chances of success, and probably lead to bad press. So do as I say, not as I’ve done …

1. "No Comment"

The worst thing you, your candidate or your campaign can say to a reporter is “No Comment” – that has become a tacit admission of guilt. And while the reporter may not know what you’re guilty of, this is like a red flag in front of a bull … he or she will take this as a personal challenge to find out what you’re hiding (and we’re all hiding something).

Practice saying something like this:

“I’ll have to research that question and get back to you – is next Tuesday soon enough?”

Don't just say you'll get back to them - give them a date/time-certain. That builds credibility and trust - but don't blow that deadline, or you're guilty as charged.  Or give them some other answer that promises a future answer, but isn't a "no comment."

In short, give a “real” answer that doesn’t answer the question, but makes it clear that you are not dodging or dissembling. One important caveat: You must pick an answer that is honest – they will check up, and nothing (not even “No Comment”) is worse than self-aware lying to a reporter. They will crucify you, your candidate, your campaign – and by their professional standards, they are both right and honor-bound to do so.

2. Spin Control

Even professional political spinmeisters are having an increasingly hard time persuading the press that what they think they heard (or read, or saw) isn’t what was really said (or printed or acted out). If your candidate's or Campaign Manager's or chief donor's wife likes to go skinny-dipping in public fountains at 3 a.m., you are not going to spin your way out of the embarrassment – especially if the reporter has witnessed this. Better to have her admitted to Betty Ford, then explain she’s had a rough time recently, but is being helped. That really is better than try to pretend what they “saw” isn’t what was really there.

Once, this approach was so brazen it actually worked, but from over-use, it has become a serious negative.   For instance, in the '50s, Georgia governor Gene Talmadge, father of the late Georgia Senator "Hummun" Talmadge, was caught taking beef cattle from prison farms for his own ranch.  When confronted by the media, he invited them all to a barbecue, where they helped him eat the evidence.  But those days are long gone.

3. Disinformation

This is a favorite government tactic – often manifest by “leaking” information about a political or bureaucratic opponent that isn’t exactly true (or it may be completely false, though if so, it will be impossible to prove it's false). As with spin control, this technique has become increasingly discredited – and a righteously wrathful media actively seeks out and punishes the disinformants (whom they deem no more worthy of fair treatment than politicians caught with their hands in the public till).

One common (but largely unrecognized) way of putting forth disinformation is to talk about your competitors. You cannot be objective (who could) – and the more bitter the rivalry, the more your honest emotional outrage will color anything you say … however, unless it’s scrupulously honest and easily proven, reporters will assume (generally correctly) that it’s disinformation. They’ll lose respect for you while assuming the competitor is the “good guy …”

Bottom line - if you're bound and determined that you're going to leak something about an opponent, make sure that it's honest - and also make sure that it doesn't come back to bite you.  Better not to do it, but that's like telling a college kid that it's better to study than to go to a kegger.  Good luck.

4. "Baffle them with BS"

This is sadly familiar in sports and in politics, governance and campaigns. When information about a law or regulation or issue is technical or hard for a layman to follow, it is easy to use jargon or inside-the-beltway techno-babble to confuse the reporter. This is also done to try to make the techno-babbler appear larger-than-life and far more knowledgeable than he likely is. This is a poor strategy with a huge potential for boomeranging - just ask Al Gore. The full quote is “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with B.S.” – and in PR, that’s an inside joke, but it's also a measure of contempt for those who cannot present brilliance and who have to resort to confusion.

Don’t go there.

5. Playing (media) Favorites

This may seem harmless, right? One reporter’s been good to you. One has been stern-but-fair (or maybe not quite so fair). You’d rather feed a good story to the nice guy/gal, right? Short-term, that’s a good idea. But long-term (and long-term can be pretty short in this day of instant communications), it is a campaign or candidate suicide pact. Despite playing favorites, you're probably not going to be able to really curry favor with your favorite reporter. However, you can bet your pension and your wife's inheritance that you will earn the disfavor and disrespect – and in many cases, the active enmity – of the reporters you snub.
One of the first lessons in PR school, one that especially applies in politics and political campaigning is this: “Never pick a fight with anyone who buys ink by the barrel.” Reporters and editors ALWAYS get the last word. So respect them all (at least outwardly) and play no favorites.

OK, some campaign PR people can do this and seem to get away with it – they do it by juggling, and they succeed (sometimes) because a professional who really knows the rules can sometimes break or bend them. Others do it because their candidate is so "big" that the media really wants to earn a few favors.  Some pros can get away with this - at least in the short term – by knowing the risks and rewards, and by playing the game with skill and finesse. This is another game you don’t want to play at home, or in your campaign. Play it straight with reporters, and more often than not, they’ll play straight with you.

If they don’t, write a letter to the editor (really – it often works).

6. Demanding Coverage

This is one of the worst failings of amateurs, and of self-important candidates who have more power in their mind than they do in reality. They somehow think, perhaps by the divine right of kings (and candidates) that they actually do deserve favorable coverage because:

• Their parents raised such wonderful children

• It's their turn – hey, the other candidate was covered last month, and fair’s fair, right?

• Their story is devastatingly important (or, it’s vital to help launch their campaign, or turn a corner, or steal a march on an opponent, etc.)

• The big boss (the candidate's spouse) is demanding it

There are other excuses – pick yours. Then understand this. While reporters and editors need stories and news, they almost never need yours, no matter how important you think your candidate or campaign might be. They have what is called “editorial judgment” – which means that absent libel and slander, they can write and publish (or ignore) just about anything they want – and they do not have to answer to anybody.

If you must know why your story didn’t run, you can ask – if you do it right. Here’s what I do.

“Sir (or ma’am), apparently I did something wrong – I thought it was a good story, but clearly it wasn’t good enough. If you have a minute, I’d appreciate it if you could tell me what I could have done different or better to make this worth your time and interest.” In this case, the fault is yours (probably true – it is with PR professionals, so why not with candidates or campaign professionals … good as we are, we can miss some big point or subtle nuance). But it’s better not to ask – some editors get real defensive. And if you “demand,” kiss your future positive press coverage, and maybe even your campaign, goodbye.

7. "I was only following orders ..." (doing what you are told, rather than what is right)

This only works if you're not the candidate yourself - unless you can persuade someone that you were following your Campaign Manager's edict.  If you are doing your campaign's or candidate’s PR and are answering to someone else, you may find that the candidate or the Campaign Manager is asking or expecting you to do things that your gut instincts say avoid, and these brief lessons tell you to steer clear of. Do not be tempted to follow bad advice - or worse, bad orders - just because it comes from the top. However, if you do as your told (and it blows up in your face with the reporters or editors), take the heat with integrity. Don’t blame others (or cop out with “I was only following orders …”) – its amazing how little damage comes from admitting you were wrong – and moving on. Almost all reporters and editors respect that, if only because it’s so rare.


OK, so you’ve seen the Seven Deadly Sins – and you know what your candidate or campaign should avoid. You’ve seen how to choose between targeted and broadside distribution of releases, as well as how to prepare and distribute a pitch. Now, let’s go out there and get us some good, solid campaign Earned Media PR, OK?

The reporters are waiting for you … Good Luck!

And if you need help with campaign Earned Media relations, PR, speechwriting, strategy, or ghost-writing/speechwriting - give me a holler - or 702-561-1167