October 8, 2020 | Article | by Emily Brown | Public Relations
Marketers & Communicators: What You Need to Know Leading Up to the November Election
The 2020 election season has arrived with what experts are saying may be one of the most hotly contested, controversial, and defining elections that our 243-year-old country has yet to bear witness to. It poses budding reputational risks for businesses, and no industry will be immune.
Even if you do not work in a traditional policy or public affairs setting, the election season will make its presence known and have an impact on your business. Being prepared can make all the difference to your corporate reputation and bottom line.
Here are REQ’s top 5 communications and marketing tips for how best to prepare in the lead-up to and directly following the election:
1. Prepare for an election-centric media landscape.
Presidential elections often monopolize the news cycle. Even media outlets that don’t typically cover politics, will. Even during interviews on different, unrelated topics, journalists may still ask your opinion on the political climate and/or the upcoming election results.
Be prepared to adjust proactive communication campaigns accordingly. Consider the timing of upcoming announcements, planned social posts, advertisement campaigns, and more to ensure your messages are not tone deaf or run the risk of getting lost in the noise. Be sure to factor in dates of the upcoming presidential debates, large rallies, and (of course) election night itself, as these specific moments in time will drive the news cycle.
Lastly, expect the election season’s grasp on the media landscape to extend longer than usual. Many expect the results to be delayed due to the influx of mail-in ballots and/or the results being contested.
2. Evaluate how you play into the narrative.
It’s important to analyze how your company and industry play into the election cycle narrative, what the implications may be, and IF and you want to engage in the discussion. Is it a potential window of opportunity - a media hook that you can leverage to build your foundation as a thought leader and generate more awareness? Or, is it a situation that could force you to evaluate or create a crisis response plan?
For example, election security has been a major storyline this season. This provides cybersecurity professionals with the opportunity to weigh in on the topic and build awareness of themselves and their companies.
3. Get ahead of the game.
Once you’ve evaluated the political climate and how your company might play a role, it is critical to have quotes, commentary, social posts and more prepared in advance for quick activation as needed. Time is of the essence, and the election story will evolve rapidly. You need to be ready to pounce as things change. Be sure to factor in all methods of communication – from traditional media, to social media, to owned channels, and more – and have responses that are adapted to fit the different length, tone, and audiences specific to each channel.
4. Don’t forget internal communications.
Your employees are a critical audience too. 2020 has been an unorthodox year that has already impacted the lives of all and may leave some more vulnerable to the stressors of a polarizing and contentious election like the one we are experiencing. It’s important to consider how – if at all - to communicate with employees around an election and its potential impact on workplace productivity/emotional wellbeing.
Additionally, it’s important to consider how your employees might communicate to your customers about the election and advise them on dos and don’ts, if deemed appropriate.
5. Facilitate alignment internally.
It is critical to consult public affairs and lobbying colleagues before proactively adding your voice to the mix to ensure that you’re all on the same page. Oftentimes, there are broader, nuanced considerations that need to be weighed - and an in-sync team always performs better than those operating in silos.
Elections have the potential to impact your company’s operating environment, and the time leading up to, during, and immediately following are periods of heightened sensitivity. It is critical to stop and evaluate your company’s position and determine the most strategic path forward.