Will the Democrats Get the Final Rose?

Will the Democrats Get the Final Rose?

There’s no doubt Tuesday night will make for must-watch TV; the question is, what will you be watching?

The ten Democratic candidates taking the debate stage Tuesday night in Detroit hope viewers will be tuning into CNN at 8:00 p.m. and not ABC’s popular reality show The Bachelorette, whose much-anticipated finale will air at the same time. The candidates are aiming to secure a key demographic that overlaps with The Bachelorette: women voters. They hope that support from women voters, who comprised nearly 57% of Democratic primary voters in 2018, can help guarantee their party’s nomination. They’re also playing a long game – they believe that having the support of women voters will help Democrats defeat President Donald Trump in 2020.

The first night of the July debates, whose headliners are Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, will likely draw more viewers than night one in June. But it will be hard to attract the key female voters who watch The Bachelorette for several reasons. The Bacheloretteis heading into the two-part conclusion fresh off the season’s highest viewership, also the highest for the series in the last four years. The finale for this dramatic and popular season will almost certainly see increased viewership from last week’s 6.6 million people tuning in. But that’s not the only thing working against the CNN debate – most Bachelorette viewers watch the show live, and many fans even gather with friends and wine to have watch parties.

The second Democratic primary debate night in June broke the record for the largest TV audience for a Democratic primary debate with 18.1 million viewers. It featured frontrunner Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Kamala Harris; three of the four top-tier candidates. Tuesday’s debate does provide an interesting storyline with the two most progressive candidates – Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren – squaring off for the first time. Sanders is a lively and bombastic personality, whereas Warren is regarded as being more wonkish and policy-oriented – dynamics that hardly guarantee explosive drama at the debate, especially compared to the must-see TV that The Bachelorette promises.

Another challenge for the Tuesday debate? It is lacking the candidate most likely to appeal to moderate Democratic female voters who will be choosing between The Bachelorette and the debates – former VP Joe Biden. This prediction is backed by the numbers – a whopping 33% of women support Biden, which is significant in a field of 20 candidates. Sanders and Warren, the stars of Tuesday night, garner 29% – combined – of women’s support.

The Tuesday debate also lacks two key points of tension that Wednesday will possess – the competition between Biden and Kamala Harris, and between Biden and Cory Booker. Harris went viral and received a bump in the polls after her recent attacks on Biden, and Booker has been consistently outspoken against Biden’s civil rights record. All three are entertaining and lively debaters, and there’s no question that both Harris and Booker believe that knocking down Biden is a crucial element to getting the keys to the White House.

It seems unlikely a debate that does not feature the frontrunner with Democratic primary women voters will drag women voters away from The Bachelorette on Tuesday night. It will be interesting to see which of the candidates on stage that evening understand that fact, and how they adjust their respective debate strategy to earn support from viewers and make headlines.

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.

The Art of the Tweet

The Art of the Tweet

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How should political and public affairs issue advertisers craft their messages to best navigate the new social media landscape?Today, consumers are awash in content, and it’s harder than ever to grab their attention with a compelling message.

But when it comes to the political and public affairs space, perhaps no single individual has taken more advantage of social media messaging than President Trump. His trademark tweets drive the conversation, and they offer advertisers and communicators some important and useful lessons when it comes to composing social media communications and targeting key audiences. Here are three simple Trump-inspired rules for social media success:

  1. Stay on brand.Everyone knows a Trump tweet when they see one, and that’s no accident. With the oversaturation of today’s online world, it’s more important than ever to remain consistent in both messaging and branding. Organizations that hone their voice and deliver relevant, focused, social media content that stays true to their brand have a greater chance at developing relationships with consumers and standing out in their newsfeeds.

  2. Be bold.Consumers are constantly scrolling. Political and public affairs issue advertisers must grab their attention with big, bold messaging as quickly as they can to keep them from scrolling past their content. Organizations that communicate boldly, clearly, and forcefully with audiences have a far greater likelihood of capturing consumers’ attention and driving the conversation.

  3. Know your audience. The savviest communicators know their intended audiences inside and out – what their social media activity looks like, the type of content they engage with, and the platforms they frequent. Having a clear understanding of the target consumer audience gives advertisers a significant leg up in both crafting and distributing social media content and increases the likelihood that the target audience will engage. You can write the perfect tweet or produce the perfect video – but if you’re not crafting and releasing it with the right audiences in mind, it’ll be just another drop in the ocean of content. 

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Snapchat. Reddit. The list of social media platforms goes on and on, with new apps being designed every day and new opportunities for advertisers to get their message in front of intended audiences. Keeping in mind these simple Trump-inspired messaging guidelines can make all the difference when planning a social media campaign in today’s oversaturated communications environment. 

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.

KISS and Tell: What the U.S. Navy knows about effective communication

KISS and Tell: What the U.S. Navy knows about effective communication

“Keep it simple, stupid.”

Pretty straightforward. In the 1960s, the U.S. Navy coined the term to describe their goal in designing aircraft. They cautioned that their planes should be repairable by the average mechanic, in combat conditions, with ordinary tools, keeping things as simple as possible. 

But “KISS” is a useful and important principle off the battlefield, too. In fact, when it comes to political and public affairs advertising, “KISS” is maybe the most important principle of all; the easier it is for the audience to grasp an advertiser’s message, the more likely it is that that audience will engage with it.

Political and public affairs advertisers are often attempting to communicate complex ideas about complicated subject matters. To keep audiences’ eyes from glazing over, the messaging needs to be simple enough to be understood by the average consumer – likely while they’re distracted – and communicated in plain language. The simpler the message, the greater the likelihood of advertising success. Political and public affairs messages excel when they’re crafted with the “KISS” principle in mind: audiences – whether regular, everyday people or Washington influencers and decision makers – are often focusing on something else, and the advertising window of opportunity is often only open for 30 seconds. 

By remembering to “KISS,” political and public affairs advertisers can capitalize on their opportunities to communicate with target audiences, holding their attention for as long as possible and maximizing the likelihood of advertising success. 

So, the next time you’re thinking through how to connect with your target audience – “KISS” and tell: Tell your story, and keep it simple…because overcomplicating your message is just not smart.

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.

Razor Burned

Razor Burned

Should Brands Virtue Signal?

The days of companies like Gillette highlighting “millions of big, strong-limbed super-men” in their advertisements are long gone. 

Source: https://www.campaignlive.com/article/history-advertising-no-100-ads-great-war/1293991

In January, Gillette released a polarizing short film titled, “We Believe: The Best That We Can Be.” The ad – which highlighted a number of issues related to “toxic masculinity,” a current buzzword, especially on the political left – instantly went viral, earning criticism and praise across the political spectrum.

But Gillette’s now-(in)famous ad is only the latest controversial example of companies embracing divisive political “virtue signaling” as a means of communicating with their customers. In a market that is growing more competitive by the day, should companies like Gillette try to stand out by experimenting with political messaging?

The short answer? Only with extreme caution.

Like Gillette’s short film, Nike’s viral 30th Anniversary ad featuring Colin Kaepernick also touched off a firestorm of controversy, earning praise and criticism in equal measure. By embracing Kaepernick, Nike made a deliberate decision to associate its brand with a controversial figure, effectively risking the alienation of potential customers who disagree with Kaepernick’s message of protest.

For Nike, the calculated move paid off: following the boost in free media and the subsequent backlash, Nike’s stock wobbled only before climbing to an all-time high a few days later. It was a risky decision, but it worked; polling has found that although Nike’s overall favorability may have dropped, the brand’s relationship with its most loyal customers only grew stronger.

That doesn’t mean that every brand should jump into the political fray, however. Brands who fail to spend the right amount of time and resources properly calculating the decision can pay a price: Pepsi was forced to apologize to pretty much everyone when they released an almost unbelievably off-the-mark politically themed ad that “united the internet” in disgust, and Starbucks drew the ire of customers when the company launched an engagement campaign encouraging baristas to strike up unprompted conversations about race relations.

As Michael Jordan once said, “Republicans buy sneakers, too.” For most brands, virtue signaling is a risk that won’t payoff unless proper caution is taken to maximize impact and mitigate – or at least anticipate – the backlash. Brands that fail to take the right steps before jumping into the political debate are in for a close shave with public relations disaster. 

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.

Are Democrats Blowing the Branding Battle?

Are Democrats Blowing the Branding Battle?

Last month, Democratic Party leaders in Washington announced that a new slogan, “For the People,” will be replacing “A Better Deal,” their 2017 rebranding campaign.

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“A Better Deal” is largely regarded by pundits and partisans alike as a milquetoast failure. But by trying to replace it with the just-as-milquetoast “For the People,” Democrats are demonstrating in real time an important political axiom for our social media age: branding matters now more than ever, and publicly struggling to do it well can lead to excruciating public relations issues.

It’s not hard to tell what Democratic voters want from their party – they’ve been producing snappy, memorable slogans entirely on their own since President Trump took office.

Photo Attributed to Rhododendrites.

Photo Attributed to Rhododendrites.

They may be ludicrous ideas, but there’s no denying that “Impeach Trump,” “Abolish ICE,” and “Medicare for All” are all two of the most important things a slogan can be: strong and communicative – regardless of how unpopular and objectionable they are.

Neither “A Better Deal” nor “For the People” hits those critical marks. Both are bland, meaningless, hackneyed appeals to populism – a political style that demands authenticity – and while shoddy branding alone isn’t likely to sink a political operation (President Obama managed to get reelected in 2012 despite his empty slogan, “Forward”) voters know inauthenticity when they see it. Boring, half-baked clichés repurposed as party brands aren’t likely to help the cause. 

Effective, inspired brand messaging, however, can do wonders for a campaign. 

While countless skeptical pundits mocked, criticized, or outright insulted President Trump’s now-iconic “Make America Great Again!” slogan, they were wrong to do so – not just because Trump’s message proved to be more enticing than his competitor’s, but because unlike “I’m With Her” and the Democrats’ more recent slogans, President Trump’s brand engaged with voters, encouraging them to map their hopes onto President Trump’s candidacy and proposed agenda. In contrast, Clinton’s slogan mirrored many criticisms of the candidate herself: egotistical, uninspiring, and Hillary-centric.

During and after the election, “Make America Great Again!” as a brand took on a life of its own, proving its staying power and its resonance with voters as it evolved into “#MAGA” on Twitter and in conservative circles around the country. This is the social media era, and a brand that can be condensed, shared, and widely understood – a brand the size of a hashtag – can make all the difference.

The Democrats' failure to effectively brand themselves won’t be the most singular cause if they come up empty handed in November, but it’ll certainly be a contributing one. The fact that they’ve been so publicly trying and failing to rebrand demonstrates that they know the importance of a strong central message – and that they know they haven’t been able to come up with one yet.

Photo Attributed to Gage Skidmore.

Photo Attributed to Gage Skidmore.

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.