How to lose a political campaign in five, easy steps


Donald Trump is leading the Republican candidates, but will his rule breaking backfire? (Photo courtesy of Flickr, Gage Skidmore)

A billionaire businessman TV star, democratic socialist, an outspoken feminist and a tea party enthusiast share the ballot this 2016 presidential bid. Needless to say, this election cycle’s group of candidates is unlike any other. Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul is possibly the least likely candidate to run for president. He’s certainly not a likely front-runner, here he is.

Interestingly enough, what catapulted Trump to the head of the field is precisely what could make him fall. After a devastating loss in the Iowa caucus, the Trump campaign staggered away trying to understand what could have caused the unexpected defeat.

Did Trump’s PR team cause this stumble? Possibly. Here are five ways to lose a political campaign through public relations:

1. Forget about interacting through social media

Social media is critical for any political campaign. According to Pew Research Center, 61 percent of Millennials get their political news and updates from Facebook. Social media is so important that Richard A. Viguerie, conservative media expert, says that Mitt Romney lost the 2012 presidential election because of a weak social media campaign.

Trump is more active on social media than most candidates, but it’s not always about how much you use it; how you use it is important. If you would like to lose your chance at winning a political campaign, overlooking your social media would be a good place to start.

2. Offend a large portion of your voters

If you want to lose a presidential election, offend large segments of your voters. Speaking of Mexican immigrants, Donald Trump said, “They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” But he didn’t just target Mexicans. Laziness is a trait in the blacks. … Black guys counting my money! I hate it.” These groups (African Americans and Latino voters) made up over 20 percent of the 2012 presidential election. Alienating minority groups is a great strategy to lose an election.

3. Don’t give any substance about the candidate’s political plan

If you wish to lose a political campaign, consider giving voters vague details about the candidate’s political agenda. Instead, try “mudslinging.” The candidates criticize each other in order to put themselves in a better light. Although common, 72 percent of people say they would rather know the candidates’ stands on issues than hear negative criticisms about other candidates.

Providing a clear, concise place where voters can see a candidate’s stand on the issue might give a candidate an edge. However, if you wish to lose, please continue only providing negative ads about your candidate’s hair.

4. Create a weak brand

In politics, candidates sell themselves. They create a brand associated with their name. A winning public relations team creates a strong, recognizable name for their candidate. If you want to lose an election, create a weak image.

A dull slogan may be a good start. Slogans are critical to the success of a campaign. It should sum up your brand in a few, simple words. That’s why “Jeb!,” “Hilary for America,” “Heal. Inspire. Revive,” just don’t cut it. These slogans are vague. Putting an exclamation mark next to your name doesn’t make it any more noticeable or memorable. Sorry!

5. Throw away your media relations

Presidential campaigns that have good media relations develop trust with journalists. Public relations teams provide newsworthy content to journalists and improve their candidate’s image to that media outlet.

However, if you don’t want to maintain a good relationship with the media, it’s a good way to lose a lot of votes. Donald Trump and Megyn Kelly of Fox News have a rocky relationship. After she moderated the Fox Republican Debate in August, Trump made a controversial comment during an interview with CNN. “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes,” Trump told CNN’s Don Lemon. “Blood coming out of her wherever.” More than five months later, Trump refused to go to the Iowa Fox debate. Projected to win the Iowa caucus, he came in second place to Ted Cruz.

Trump is not the only candidate who targets the media. Sarah Palin, sharing the ticket as the potential VP with John McCain in 2008, blew up at the media. She called the media “impotent,” “limp,” “gutless,” “whack” and “lame-stream.” She lost.

Different can be refreshing. And it can garner success. In the long term, though, candidates can’t rely on breaking the rules to earn victory. After all, it’s hard for a candidate to win with a losing public relations strategy.


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