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Election Month Results

November 5th, 2008

The election is over and we can more or less go back to our day jobs that are basically the same as they were yesterday. But there’s one huge thing that has changed for those of us who are PR/marketing: time.

There was a lot said and written about time. How little time had elapsed between when President-elect Barack Obama couldn’t get on the floor of the Democratic Convention and when he became the leader of the Party. How much time had passed between when slaves helped to finish the White House and when the first African America President will inhabit it.

But the most important “time” change for those of us in marketing/PR is how little time matters. From Pete Snyder’s Ad Age article:

More importantly, Obama realized that the defined “time” of the election timetable fundamentally changed. For decades, campaign models were built upon the premise that you raised all of your dollars and put all of your infrastructure — including TV advertising and direct mail — toward a call to action, driving turnout for 12 hours or so on Nov. 4. In 2000, Karl Rove swore that Republicans would never lose the ground game again after the Bush team took a lead into Election Day and were blindsided by the huge surge in voter turnout for Al Gore. Rove changed the election timetable from 12 hours to the last 72 hours, thus creating the effective and much heralded (or reviled, depending on where you sit) “72 hours program” that has dominated the efforts of both parties for the past three campaign cycles.

Really though, the election was much more than 72 hours. It was a good six weeks. Voters in Virginia, Kentucky and Georgia showed up for in-person voting starting on September 22nd. And for the first time, there were long lines even then. Why? Because the Obama campaign recognized the effect DVR, On Demand, and YouTube have had on people for the past four years. They don’t want to vote when they’re told. They want to vote when it’s convenient for them. And Obama’s people empowered and encouraged them to do so.

Many companies think the way to get media attention is to have events to announce something and invite the press. This strategy is less and less successful and this is why: people (even the media) are so busy, so overwhelmed, so independent that they don’t want time constraints if they’re going to do what you ask.

The media doesn’t want to be told when to come to your event. Maybe it’s not convenient for them. Maybe their severe shortage of staff writers, photographers, and camera people restricts them from being there when you want them.

Don’t get mad. There’s something you can do: expand the media window. Make it easy for reporters to cover your “news” whenever and however you can. Yes, this take more planning, more strategizing, and sometimes a little quick thinking – but it can be done. As President-elect Barack Obama likes to say, if he can do something – anyone can.

Posted Under: Media & Journalism
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