PR lessons from the campaign trail

Presidential campaigns serve as ideal laboratories for public relations. What’s coming out of the lab this time around?

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On Nov. 7, 2012, we will know who will reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for the following four years. For that reason, it may be the quintessential laboratory for understanding how public perceptions change.

I grant you that everything is exaggerated in a political campaign—it plays out over a much shorter period of time—but that is how laboratories work. In hyperbole, we may find a modicum of truth.

The 2012 election is in full swing, so now is a good time for skeptical business executives to tune in if they want to understand how good or bad PR moves affect public perception.

External events that you cannot control are a threat.

In all the chaos of political ads, speeches, bus tours, and press conferences, there will be a moment or two that historians will point to years from now as crucial junctures.

Watch the polls. President Obama and Mitt Romney are currently neck-and-neck, but when those numbers begin to change, pay attention to the pundits and their analysis. It is possible one event could change the race, and it may be something that neither campaign is anticipating. Consider 2008 when the economy tanked and McCain temporarily suspended his campaign. Most politicos cite that as the moment he began to lose.

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