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Communication innovations shape presidential campaign weaponry

At their most basic level, presidential campaigns are about one thing: communications.

Not the standard formula that involves the stand-up interview that leads to an article that leads to a vote. The communications strategies that campaigns develop every four years are far more dynamic, and far more desperate, than the standard fare. Equally as frenetic are the efforts of journalists and others who seek to chronicle every move and statement candidates make.

Just as the urgencies of war accelerate innovation in weapons development, the pressures of a presidential campaign act as a catalyst for communications change that affects us all.

Let’s look at a few moments in history:

September 26, 1960:  Massachusetts Democratic Senator John F. Kennedy and Republican Vice President Richard M. Nixon faced each other in the first nationally televised debate between major party presidential candidates. Kennedy won based at least in part on the favorable impression he made on voters.

Television continued to play an ever greater role in presidential politics until a new medium appeared. The Internet created new volumes of space for articles and extended journalists’ reach. It also gave rise to political blogs, which are widely credited with the demise of Sen. Trent Lott’s career in 2002.  Blogs were the trendy communications tool until…

Presidential campaign, 2008: A new microblogging site called Twitter.com introduced nearly immediate coverage, 140 characters at a time. Soon, anyone was a journalist, providing real-time reaction to candidates’ statements. Journalists began something called “live tweeting,” and campaign staffers started to follow suit.

Twitter use expanded exponentially with the advent of smart phones, and was one of the most influential and dynamic modes of communication until…

September 17, 2012: During a private fund-raiser in Boca Raton, Fla., Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made controversial statements that were secretly captured on video through the use of a smart phone. It is worth noting that the person who captured the video gave it to Mother Jones magazine, a print and online product, which broke a story that became a critical factor in the election’s final weeks.

The use of video and the Internet continues to develop. In January of this year, In an effort to bypass the media and talk directly to the American people, the White House broke with tradition and released President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address on a website called Medium even before he began his address. The mainstream media were caught off guard.

There was a fair amount of teeth gnashing over this tactic until…

April 12, 2015: Combining a video and Twitter, Hillary Clinton bypassed the media and officially announced her candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.

From TV to Twitter to portable video, innovations have led to more urgent, more volatile and more powerful communications that are quickly adopted by businesses, nonprofits and other organizations.

Prediction: Campaigns leverage social medial tools such as Periscope and Meerkat to broadcast their own live coverage of events and control that all-important first impression.

I’ll monitor the continual communications evolution that unfolds. If you see examples you wish to share, send them along!

 If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send an email or give me a call. I can be reached at dhertz@dix-eaton.com or 216.241.2145.

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