New Media as an Entry Point to Traditional Publicity
No political candidate can survive without positive press in the traditional media sphere. With a new campaign, securing that first piece in the paper is a difficult task, especially in a district that historically receives little or no press.
During the 2010 cycle, our campaign solved this problem by utilizing new media to create a groundswell of support, positioning a routine press release on the radar of the major media players, and receiving a featured write up in the largest newspaper in the state.
From 2009 through 2010, I was the communications director for the Whipple for Kansas House campaign in District 96 of Wichita, Kansas. After month of planning, we officially kicked off the campaign in April of 2010.
The situation our campaign was in was not optimal for receiving free press. Our candidate had little to no name recognition with the general public, the district represents only 3.5% of the metropolitan population, and the election was still seven months away.
To kick off the campaign, I developed a strategy that would complement the traditional press release to increase the odds of obtaining coverage. My eyes were set on a write-up in the Wichita Eagle, the largest and most influential paper in the area.
The process began with a humdrum press release. The release announced the candidate entering the race. It included a short bio, key platforms and information about an upcoming speaking engagement. The release was sent to multiple reporters at the Wichita Eagle (we targeted all political reporters and editors), as well as other papers and non-traditional media sources.
Four days later, the release had been published in its entirety on a few blogs, with a small write up from an online newspaper. But not the Eagle.
This is when the strategy took effect. Our campaign staff consisted of the campaign manager, a handful of interns/volunteers and me. During our weekly campaign meeting, I gave everyone the task of promoting the story on social media, including posting links to the sites that were already covering us. Our goal was to have an endless supply of impressions that would hopefully be seen by the Eagle staff. I also told the rest of the staff to encourage their friends to do the same.
This was followed by the writing of an article that was submitted to ForwardKansas (a defunct blogging community that focused on promoting progressive issues in Kansas), the candidate’s website and other locations. The original release, edited to remove the speaking engagement (as it had already happened by this point), was then posted on the Kansas Democratic Party’s website and on Facebook as a note from the candidate.
This information was then promoted by our network of volunteers and friends.
This massive groundswell not only motivated our base by keeping them involved in the campaign, but it better positioned us on the Eagle’s radar. Their staff uses Facebook, they use Twitter, and they saw the endless stream of posts about the candidate. A week after the initial press release, an article on the candidate appeared on the Wichita Eagle’s blog. The next day, a Tuesday (one of the highest readership days for newspapers), it was featured in both the print edition of the Eagle and on the Eagle’s website.
In conclusion, our campaign was able to utilize new media to create a groundswell of support. That support pushed a humdrum press release, announcing the candidacy of a Kansas Democrat in a small district, into a featured story on one of the best read days of the largest newspaper in the state. We were then able to leverage the Eagle story in funding campaigns and volunteer recruitment.
- Wichita Eagle’s Story (13 April 2010): http://www.kansas.com/2010/04/13/1266762/wichita-democrat-to-seek-state.html
- Wichita Eagle’s Blog Story (12 April 2010): http://blogs.kansas.com/gov/2010/04/12/whipple-files-to-run-against-hermanson-for-legislative-seat/
- Kansas Matters Blog: http://mail.kansasdems.org/blog/brandon-whipple-announces-candidacy-ks-house-district-96