Building A Campaign Platform Around Blogs, Position Papers and eBooks
Originally Published in Modified Form in PR News
By Ned Barnett
There is something about being a published author that raises a candidate's credibility with donors, volunteers and voters. Oddly, it also tends to raise credibility with the news media. Perhaps that is because so many reporters, editors, producers and hosts have either written books (or wish they could have). However, any candidate with a topical book credit seems inherently more newsworthy, as
well as more credible.
Most Presidential aspirants have published books, that blend their life's story with their political philosophy - and they do this because it's proven to make good sense. Most purely campaign books don't sell particularly well, but our current President became a millionaire through book sales before he was elected, though arguably those books weren't traditional 'campaign books.'
However, few candidates for lower offices even consider writing books, and that is a mistake. The right book can blend a candidate's life story with her political positions, showing how she evolved these positions and putting a human face on them. Alternately, the candidate's life story - if his life is one of real and measurable achievement - can present him as a born leader, one with real-world experience so often lacking among the professional political class.
Today’s social networks have created an easy and ideal platform for both creating and “pre-selling” an issue-oriented, position-oriented campaign book, making it far easier for a campaign manager or publicist to turn a future candidate - or even a current one - into a respected and credible author. That's a win-win, and sales, if they occur (and they can) just add to the benefit.
As someone who's been both an author in my own right and a ghost-writer for candidates and elected officials - beginning as a speechwriter for two South Carolina governors - I have evolved an approach by which a candidate can create a book by creating a series of blogs, position papers and other social networking "content" that, when strung together, becomes a book. It is really no harder than writing (or having someone who's a professional writer to write) an ongoing series of blogs about political positions and political issues.
Following a pyramid approach (see the graphic) - not a "Pyramid Scheme" but a legitimate and logical way of building content on top of content - this can be accomplished in few easy steps. In the following illustration, created for the PR News version of this article, which did not focus on politics, but on corporate executives, just substitute "position paper" for "white paper" and you'll get the idea.
Here are the steps you need to follow to accomplish this.
1. Plan the book. Come up with a topic and a title for the book, defining the information to share, such as your life story and your positions on critical campaign issues, as well as your target reader market - contributors, volunteers, voters, the news media, etc. Write to the people you want to reach, and influence. Then create a table of contents for the book that is at least seven to nine chapters long. The first chapter will tell the readers what the book is going to cover. The middle chapters will present the real and in-depth content - life examples and how they humanize your position on specific political issues. Finally, the final chapter serves as a summary.
2. Map out the book. Break down each of the middle chapters into a detailed series of sections and sub-sections, an approach that is standard for campaign books and biographies. Having done that, the book is ready to be researched and written.
3. Do research and reporting. If you're working with a ghost writer - and unless you really are a very good writer yourself (most candidates aren't - or even if they are, they don't have the time), you should really use a ghost writer - the process begins when you sit for a series of brief interviews with the book’s ghost-author, then review and edit what has been written. This includes the notes, the blogs, the case studies, the position papers and finally, sections of the book.
4. Take that interview material and adapt it to writing in several different formats. Utilize blogs, video blogs, position papers and human-interest case studies before finally rewriting as a sub-section for the book. Using the same basic material, create at least three blogs for every position paper or human interest case study, and two to three position papers or human-interest case studies for each book section or chapter. Blogs should be relatively short and to the point - they should cover a single, focused topic - while position papers and human-interest case studies can cover several related topics in a single document.
5. Socially promote. For each posted content item (blog, position paper, case study, video blog, etc.) flag it something like this: “Written by John Candidate, author of the forthcoming book, John’s Campaign Book (or, Why You Really Should Vote For Me), and based on material which has been developed for that book.” Then create seven tweets, five Facebook posts, three Linkedin posts - as well as on other social networking platforms - along with a single press release, all to help attract
people to your published material. Before moving on to the next subject, keep re-using the same material, in different formats that suit different audiences. Doing so, each time you will be gaining additional followers and further enhancing your campaign reputation.
Using this approach, you build the content of an eBook via the creation of useful social networking content posts, appropriately promoted using online and traditional PR tools. You (or your candidate) will become known as an author long before the book is completed, and an eager audience will have been primed and prepped for when that book is finally released.
CONTACT: I'm the author of 10 books and more than a dozen ghost-written books, and have worked on campaigns from local and state assembly elections to Congressional, Senatorial and Gubernatorial campaigns - and even three state-level Presidential campaigns. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-561-1167.
It should not surprise you that this blog is part of a forthcoming book I'm writing - a practical, nuts-and-bolts guide on how to run a successful political campaign.