Last month, my colleagues and I traveled to the Granite State for the first in the nation primary, just eight days after the Iowa caucuses. Downtown Manchester was bustling with reporters and supporters eager to see the results and the impact they would have on the rest of the country.
Hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops were filled with campaign staff, reporters, camera crews, and of course, the candidates themselves. Throughout the days leading up to the primary, the presidential candidates hosted events across the state amid New Hampshire’s picturesque, snowy conditions. Reporters spent their days driving from one event to the next, but if you were looking to find the press in one place – Manchester was the place to be.
Throughout our time in New Hampshire, one thing that became clear to us was the need to influence the press, and the need to do it quickly.
In the twenty-four-hour news cycle, information can change by the minute. With limited time before Election Day, you have to think about how you are going to get your intended message out to as many reporters as possible in the quickest amount of time to influence and change narratives.
One of our most effective strategies was blanketing the press with any tactic possible. We were consistently speaking with reporters – on the record, off the record, and on background – day in and day out. We were calling the producers and hosts of shows that were going live at candidate events. We were hosting press calls and press conferences. We were sending out press releases and rapid response emails reacting to news in real time. It was an all hands on deck effort that effectively helped to shape campaign messaging.
This approach doesn’t just apply to presidential campaigns. These communications skills and tactics can be used at the local, state, and federal level, and even within the nonpolitical world to shape narratives. The bottomline is: you can’t sit back and wait for news to happen. Sometimes you have to pick up the phone and get your surrogates, strategists, or principals in front of the right people to drive the news home and change a narrative or get your point across.
It was no easy feat, but in the end, we effectively shaped narratives, spun the press, and helped voters learn more about each of the respective candidates before heading to the ballot box.