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.

Don’t Flunk Media Training 101

Don’t Flunk Media Training 101

3 Media Training Rules to Prepare You For Primetime

If you haven’t seen Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s viral appearance on “Firing Line” yet, well…it’s a doozy.

Here’s a quick cut of the greatest hits:

It’s hard to know where to even begin critiquing Ocasio-Cortez’s performance (or lack thereof, for that matter). From the long silences, to the stuttering, backpedaling and bad information, to her admission that she has no idea what she’s talking about – not to mention her ludicrous claim that Israel is responsible for “occupying” Palestine and promoting a policy of “massacre” against its people – there’s no way around it: it was a train wreck.

It’s a cliché that “all press is good press,” but when it comes to going viral, not all clicks are good clicks. The reaction to Ocasio-Cortez’s oblivious, unsubstantiated arguments was equal parts swift and scathing – rightfully so. The radical talking points that she regurgitated came off more like a case of Candidate Stockholm Syndrome than like a credible and prepared public servant. This, combined with her inability to defend those tin-foil hat positions have landed her in hot water with her own party and put her campaign on the defensive.

But only a few weeks ago, Ocasio-Cortez was hailed in the press as the Next Great Savior of the American Left. What happened? 

“I’m not an expert on geopolitics on this issue"

– Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

It became clear that Ocasio-Cortez isn’t ready for primetime. She was, very simply, ill-prepared.

No amount of romanticism or charm can insulate America’s next big game-changer from becoming a Capitol Hill punchline in the time it takes to compose a snarky tweet. But preparation can.

Here are three basic media training lessons that, had Ocasio-Cortez kept in mind both before and during her interview, would’ve ensured that she came off as credible, even in places outside of her comfort zone:

  1. Do your research. Margaret Hoover isn’t exactly the hardest-hitting interviewer in Washington – indeed, pretty much every question she asked Ocasio-Cortez gave the young Democratic Socialist the benefit of the doubt, to say the least. But even Hoover’s softball questions weren’t enough to save Ocasio-Cortez from the thoughtlessness of her own answers and her own failure to prepare. Upon being pressed by Hoover to clarify her position on Israel, it became immediately clear from her body language that Ocasio-Cortez had done zero research to back up her accusations – and if it wasn’t immediately clear, she admitted as much only seconds later. Taking some time before the interview to brush up on the facts and key data points – like the fact that the unemployment rate isn’t measured by how many jobs are filled, but by how many people are working – can make all the difference when it comes to conveying confidence and command of an issue when the cameras are on and the lights are up.

  2. Limit your responses. Candidates often struggle with this concept – after all, so much of campaigning involves talking to voters and giving speeches – but the bottom line is that if you don’t say it, they can’t write it. When asked a question, deliver your message with confidence, get your point across, and then stop talking; you don’t need any extra verbiage or examples to make your point, and if they’d like to hear more, they’ll ask. Why risk tripping yourself up and creating the perfect content for an opposition hit ad?

  3. Stay on message. Unlike what should have been Ocasio-Cortez’s soft-landing on PBS’ rebooted, non-ideological “Firing Line,” Republican candidates for office often face a hostile press; liberal reporters, bloggers and talking heads who are more interested in smearing conservative interviewees than asking them meaningful questions in good faith. By sticking to your message, refusing to take the bait and avoiding big partisan food fights, you can use the interview as an opportunity to not just get air time, but to directly deliver your message to potential voters without getting distracted.

Whether you’re a respected elected official preparing for a long interview on Meet the Press or a 27-year-old socialist espousing crackpot talking points on PBS, this is the bottom line: at their very best, media appearances are unique opportunities to deliver your message and connect with regular Americans. At their very worst, unprepared media appearances can be an in-kind contribution to your opponent’s emergency fund for their next hit spot on you.

So do your research, limit your responses, and stay on message, unless you’d like to spend a week or so defending your image and getting laughed at by your opponents.

Jamestown Public Affairs – Advocacy. Strategy. Political Insight.