Emerging Trends of Public Relations in Political Campaigns

November 1, 2006 at 8:05 pm 1 comment

In the past, voter interest has often focused on campaign races as opposed to specific issues. This is evident through the effectiveness of negative advertisements and smear campaigns. Over the past few years, however, there seems to be a change in public interest. Voters are now concerned about, and asking questions regarding, policy initiatives and candidate platforms. During the 2006 federal election, Canadian media was responsive to this emerging trend and focused more coverage on the issues. However, not all PR specialists have changed their tactics accordingly. Martin’s negative campaign against Harper was outdated and not receptive to voter interest.

            The internet and the opportunities it offers political campaigns is not being fully utilized by communicators. Campaign websites during the 2006 federal election were used only as a platform for projecting literature. They were often outdated technologically, did not encourage public participation, and were very low on content. For these reasons candidate websites were not used effectively and opportunity for increased competition was missed.

There is often a public resentment towards perceived ‘spin doctors’ during political campaigns. It is a common perception that public relations specialists advocate and enjoy creating negative advertising. Sometimes, this is the case, as in Martin’s election campaign for 2006. This time, however, the tactic failed. This can be encouragement for PR specialists who do not promote smear campaigns, and instead focus on content. Being knowledgeable of voter trends not only helps PR practitioners get their candidates elected, but can also be useful to the field of public relations. Voter interests during political campaigns are prone to change, and PR specialist should embrace the current trend of the public demanding information on issues and policy. It is an opportunity for communicators to portray their work to the general public as ethical, beneficial, and worthy of professional status.

One of the most important aspects of a PR practitioner’s career is to stay current on all forms of social media and mediums. However, during the 2006 federal election, the internet was overlooked as a powerful campaign tool.  The Canadian sites are often unidirectional, with no opportunity for sharing or encouragement of grass roots efforts. In future election campaigns, Canadian communicators should embrace the multitude of opportunities the internet offers. Effective websites can allow campaigns to deliver more detailed content and target niche groups. Also, websites can be used to clearly link the candidate’s political agenda to fundraising contributions. Finally, one mistake commonly made during the federal election was not creating a campaign website separate from the party’s main site. Virtual media is cheap, popular, and can reach mass audiences. There is much room for growth of social media in political campaigns.

Helpful source on this topic are:

http://www.hillwatch.com – political commentary
http://www.onedegree.com – political commentary

http://www.sfu.ca/mediapr/news_releases/archives – Simon Frasier University, Public Affairs and Media Relations

Steph Miller

Edited by Stephanie Harkin


Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

Social Media: The User-Content Revolution the net and the 3rd sector

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Ian Welsh  |  November 2, 2006 at 2:05 am

    With all due respect I think the problem with Martin’s smear campaign is that it was very badly done. There was plenty of material to hang Harper with, instead they tried to act like he was going to declare martial law and send in the troops. People laughed, and once people laugh at you and not with you, you’re sunk – Harper was then immunized from all the other charges.

    The ads were also not very good. That does matter.


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