Self-fulfilling PRophecy

      51 Comments on Self-fulfilling PRophecy

Barack ObamaLet’s start with full disclosure: I generally support President Obama and the Democratic Party. I usually avoid politics in this blog, but there are a few public relations lessons to be learned from Election Day 2014.

It’s generally agreed that Democrats suffered significant setbacks, losing several governorships, House seats, and the Senate majority. I believe a combination of tactical errors caused their losses, while a consistent strategy propelled the Republicans. The news media also played a significant role in influencing this election’s outcome.

Let’s look at some PR maxims and how they relate:

1) Accentuate the positive — PR people promote the good stuff. But Democrats never took ownership of significant achievements. Under the party’s president and the Senate majority, the country avoided a depression, has lower unemployment and higher stock prices, millions more have health insurance, the environment is better protected, two wars are over, and Bin Laden is dead. The Dems didn’t run on their positives.

2) Be consistent — PR people understand branding. Republican candidates never strayed from their umbrella theme that President Obama is a failure and, therefore, so is anyone from his party. This relentless messaging helped propel GOP candidates to victory.

3) Support your organization’s leadership — PR folks know it’s never constructive to badmouth the boss. Democrats not only gave in to the constant focus on Obama’s lower approval rating, they ran from him and some actually denied ever supporting him.

4) Understand the media’s hunger for contests — Journalists and pundits know that drama is good for ratings. Because they were highly focused on Obama’s approval numbers and Democrats’ efforts to avoid him, the election’s outcome became a self-fulfilling prophecy. There was little discussion about issues, and few policy questions put to the politicians who have blocked Obama’s every move. Instead, a shift to the GOP was framed as a possible solution to the gridlock that was purposely created.

5) Communicate your successes — I say President Obama has been pretty inadequate at highlighting and articulating the good things he’s done. PR people know that lack of information breeds misinformation.

OK, that’s my election analysis as it relates to PR maxims. Your thoughts?

51 thoughts on “Self-fulfilling PRophecy

  1. Jennifer Im

    It’s always great to learn from others’ mistakes, and as communications professionals, there’s definitely a lot we can take away from the election results. I especially enjoyed this post because it’s a prime example of how classroom lessons translate into real life applications. I will definitely be on the lookout for other applications in the future.

    Reply
  2. kwalker222

    I agree with all the points made here, PR pros can learn a lot from the successful and failed achievements of politicians. I will say though that I think the Republican strategy you mention of “Obama is a failure” is a sad strategy that I’ve seen a lot lately in consumer marketing and PR. By dissing the other side similar to Samsung does to Apple I think it gives the brand an immature and unintelligent image. Although I do realize this is a commonly used strategy in politics.

    Reply
  3. sophia1212

    I usually try to avoid politics, but I do agree with your reasons as to why the Democratic party suffered as many losses as they did. They had the tools to run a better campaign, but did not use them which hurt them a lot.

    Reply
  4. nicole_lombardo

    Politics are not usually my strong suit. I used to be a Political Science major but I quickly ran away from that. However, connecting PR with politics is something I can work with. I strongly agree with being consistent because politics are EXTREMELY public. Everyone knows everything about a politician or party and a public will quickly notice if something changes or is off and that will greatly affect their opinion. If politicians are inconsistent is shows an indecisive side to the public that ruins a reputation for decision making.

    Reply
  5. Gabrielle Furman

    I am not one who particularly follows politics, but to tie into public relations I strongly agree with number one, which is to accentuate the positive. I believe this because if there is a reminder every now and again about the positive the great things that have been done, people will tend to forget or not remember the negatives.

    Reply
  6. agionesi

    Honestly, I know little about politics; however throughout the weeks leading up to the election all I seemed to hear was all of the things Obama did wrong and why Republicans need to take over the senate. States that were primarily democrat were now voting towards Republicans because of all the things they were hearing that Obama did wrong. When it is spelled out as you did though, Obama did make a lot of positive changes during his time as President, and I agree that it definitely was not highlighted.

    Reply
  7. Brenna Harran

    The Democrats broke several PR basic rules during the 2014 Elections. Always staying true to your client or your position on specific issues and topics is important in PR. The Democrats not supporting Obama or later turning their backs on him saying they never supported him is not a good look or something smart to do in PR. Also, another basic rule of PR is always remembering to promote the good of your client or organization. The Democrats not promoting their positives was most likely a decent reason to why they lost majority of the election.

    Reply
  8. efreit1

    Democrats should definitely have been accentuating the positive aspects of Obama’s presidency and their party . Not doing so allows their image to grow stagnant and leads people to look at the negative aspects more. This also made the Republicans look better and left the democats more venerable to aggressive anti party ads. One should always be cultivating their image with new and posite information.

    Reply
  9. elizah9

    After reading your blog it is extremely clear that you have a profound interest in politics. When I first heard out about the Democrats not supporting Obama. I was very disappointed because although you may not always agree with your leader, you should still show some sort of respect for him or her. I am also surprised that the democratic party didn’t have a well thought out PR plan before or after the election. Overall, this is an embarrassment to all Democrats, which suggest that the Democratic party’s PR team needs to be much stronger for next years election.

    Reply
  10. michaela marano

    In politics and even our own personal careers, it is our responsibility to highlight our best qualities in order to maintain our brand and audience. the fact that the president is not doing that in order to promote himself and leadership really surprises me. Especially in politics, you want people to be aware of the benefits you have done because often times the bad outshines the good. Another thing that truly baffles me is the lack of unity in the democratic party. The fact that the presidents own part is turning on him looks bad and almost guarantees a republican in the 2016 election. Despite good or bad, people like to see unity, people supporting their own despite the situation.

    Reply
  11. Makayla Sapienza

    I feel that it is a real shame that the Democrats didn’t mention anything they have accomplished during Obama’s term, as their goals are simply more positive and progressive in comparison to those of the GOP.

    Reply
  12. Meredith O'Connor

    I feel that the people in Congress and many other people in political positions have opposed and shut down the ideas that Obama would bring, as well as trig to bring him down. I think the public would all like to see more unity but since this is a campaign the PR that he has working for him must really be thinking about how to defend and combat all the bad things the republican party has said. I agree when you say he is inadequate about mentioning the accomplishments, that would be a great counterpoint to a lot of what his opposing party has to say.

    Reply
  13. Danielle

    I couldn’t agree more with the third point of supporting your organization’s leadership. It’s disappointing that Obama’s own party doesn’t support him, and that ultimately lead to his party’s downfall. That’s a good lesson for any organization. If your own PR department doesn’t support you and believe in your leadership, your organization will fail. It teaches leadership to make use of the fifth point of communicating his or her successes so the company and the public believes in you, or in Obama’s case, he earns support and success from his party.

    Reply
  14. liadzayit

    I don’t really follow politics but from what I have read it doesn’t seem like Obama’s administration did such a great job highlighting just a couple of the positive things that have happened while he has been in presidency. One think that hurt the Democrats during the election period was having bad PR and hopefully the party realizes this and takes matters into their own hands and take into consideration not to do it next time elections roll up.

    Reply
  15. Deana Meccariello

    99% of the time the only news you see online in passing perpetuates a negative image of politicians (democratic and republican alike.) Unfortunately I feel this is the nature of the beast. There will always be extremely negative people on both ends of the spectrum. What we need is for the positive news to get shared as much as the negative.

    Reply
  16. Devin Jaffar

    There are always something new to talk about when it comes to politics. Personally, I like to read about politics. President Obama should give himself more credit than he actually does. He helped the economy in so many ways from a recession to the present. The Republicans will always say that he is a failure and have done nothing to help the economy. Key messages are very important, he should use what he has done to help the economy in his key messages. Giving facts are a very important part of public relations. Using key message and supporting it with facts could help him have a better image.

    Reply
  17. Daniel Walsh

    the Dems certainly had an uphill battle from the start to gain more public support from the American people. This was very evident by the fact that many of the candidates dissociated themselves from President Obama all together. The Dem party defiantly could have used better judgment in how they went about that as well as, as you said, highlighting their achievements more.

    Reply
  18. emilyksexton

    Love this. I agree its very easy to forget to communicate your successes. I feel like a lot of PR professionals see this as looking backwards when we are always pushing forwards, forwards toward progress. The results from this election really demonstrate this.

    Reply
  19. Vanessa Felder

    I definitely agree with you that President Obama did not highlight the good he has done for this great nation. He is an excellent speaker, but failed to mention key points. Had he done so, the Dems would have had better election outcomes. I also hate that some Dems “disowned” him based off of his approval ratings. In a way these supporters are “wayward fans” and not people I would want within my organization.

    Reply
  20. Sarah Lopez

    I don’t follow politics very closely but it’s seems like Obama’s administration didn’t do a great job at highlighting some of the positive things that have come out of this particular presidency period. I think Obama’s administration and the Democrats can learn from the sweeping win by Republicans. It’s evident that the Democrats lacked good PR during this election. Bad PR throughout this election period is something that definitely hurt the Democrats and hopefully it’s something the party takes into consideration when an election rolls around again.

    Reply
  21. Anjelica Johnson

    You mentioned a few key points that are easy to forget to do in the PR world. Accentuating the positives specifically stood out because sometimes it’s easy to be modest and not want to seem cocky, so you downplay all of the huge positive accomplishments rather than letting people see what you’ve actually done.

    Reply
  22. laurelroseo

    Being able to communicate calmly, clearly, and effectively with the press is one of the most critical aspects to a government organizations and PR campaigns of course. In this case the Democrats neglected to use their voice to reach the media and therefore the people and it contributed to them losing the elections. These essential Pr tactics are definitely necessary. A background in journalism doesn’t hurt when talking with the press either.

    Reply
  23. bibianabogues

    Although I don’t always understand politics, I find it really interesting how much PR has an impact on it. Specifically the most recent election, the Democrats PR choices made them fall behind. I think unity plays a huge role in many different things and I believe the Democrats were lacking this. The disconnected nature of the Democrats set them back, there were many things they could’ve done from a PR stand point and missing these resulted in less support. I agree with all of your points above.

    Reply
  24. Doug Gillies

    Talking politics is never a strong suit of mine because it’s painful for me to listen to them constantly focus on the negatives. If each candidate put more effort into creating or talking about the positives they have contributed it would be a more bearable profession. President Obama could definitely benefit from having a PR advisor. The lack of information provided makes the media want to dig for information and feed off of the competitive environment that elections form.

    Reply
  25. Natalia Dutt

    I am going to start off by saying I am not a huge fan of politics, I have never been really interested in it so my opinion wouldn’t be completely educate (if that makes sense.) From a PR stand point I can see where you are coming when talking about how the journalists focus too much on the negative. It does seem surprising to me that the PR people don’t try to highlight the positive things that the politicians are doing. Also, it shocks me that the Democrats didn’t support Obama. I would have thought the PR people would have been on top of that.

    Reply
  26. mconno25

    I am actually pretty unfamiliar with politics and right off the bat I noticed that PR lacked for President Obama and the Democratic Party. Even though I’m not Obama’s #1 fan, I don’t believe his party and himself deserves to hold such a bad reputation. After everything he has achieved over the years, that is mentioned above, it seems to be over looked by the negatives. If Obama’s PR did a better job his reputation would be a lot different. They really should of created various ways to accentuate the positive and communicate his successes. Not that the other PR maxims aren’t important and wouldn’t of helped, I believe these two could of made a monumental difference in Election Day 2014. Even if his only success story was that Bin Laden was dead, PR professionals should be able to take that and run. If his PR isn’t highlighting and promoting the good stuff he has done, what’s the point of having any PR. They aren’t doing what they’re supposed to and in return ditched him when he needed his PR team the most.

    Reply
  27. danielle32493

    Although I don’t find politics to be the most interesting topic, it certainly proves to be an important one and requires a strong PR team. Accentuating the positive proves to be very important. So often we see politicians bashing the opposing candidate instead of displaying the good they have done. Consistency is also key. You can’t simply change an idea you’ve been supporting midway through the campaign.

    Reply
  28. nikkigyftopoulos

    I really enjoyed this blog post and its analysis of the 2014 election. This just shows how important it is for everyone to understand the purpose of PR and how crucial it can be to a person or company’s reputation and success. I think the biggest lesson learned from all of this is to not be afraid of promoting yourself and the good you are doing. Obama has done a lot of good for this country, but he has not advertised it or promoted it well at all. I believe that he would not have lost so many supporters if they had been hearing a more equal representation of the GOP negativity and the Obama positivity. More people would have stayed by his side if they were hearing of the President’s successes and could hold on to that in their minds.

    Reply
  29. tylercutler

    It’s so interesting looking at this from a PR standpoint. We’ve all been so caught up in the politics of it, but this is all so totally true. Everything we do as PR people was not done successfully by the Democratic party. It’s disheartening to think that maybe if they had hired competent PR people the election would have had a very different outcome – but then again maybe not. Either way, very interesting way to look at the results of the election, I enjoyed this post a lot.

    Reply
  30. Sarah Abuharaz

    This post is so true. All I’ve seen through the past couple years are negatives on President Obama and I am a supporter of him which makes this disheartening. I never realized that it was due to the lack of PR. I feel that since he is the President, the PR people should be on top of things instead of focusing on sectors that are just hurting him.

    Reply
  31. Areanna Rufrano

    As much as I hate to say it, campaign presentation is the main factor that influences the public’s opinion and voting. And it is true that you must focus on your positive accomplishments and qualities to win the public over, but it equally important to accept the negatives and address them when necessary. During this election I observed a very intense and through campaign process from the Republican party that out-shined that of the Democrats. This was also aided by stories and debates on the news.

    Reply
  32. fcolav1

    This post just makes me realize how important PR can be in life for all people. We just read about many things Democrats have accomplished, but because they didn’t express this to public audiences, no one even knew. That’s like going on a job interview with a blank resume; meanwhile, you have completed three internships. My favorite point here is number 5, communicate your success. This is exactly the point I was trying to make with the resume scenario. You can do a million great things, but if you don’t communicate them, no one will ever know.

    Reply
  33. Jessica Vallario

    I would definitely agree that the democratic party has not done a very good job trying to promote their party during this recent election. It seemed like none of the democratic party members were willing to back up the president. This destroyed any opportunity the party had to do well this past election. If employees didn’t support their boss, I would not want to support their boss either. Its just common sense. I think the fickle American population is merely out of hope, especially with all the negative press Obama has been receiving lately. His image is definitely in need of a re-vamp.

    Reply
  34. Brier Davis

    I believe that people with what is going on in the Middle East today with ISIS the end of two wars and the killing of Osama Bun Laden as good as those accomplishments were they are over shadowed by the recent air strikes and executions of Americans. Many people probably having the feeling that even though we are out of two wars we will soon be back in to another one.

    Reply
  35. Laura L.

    I believe one of the most important things you can do in PR is emphasize all the good your client has done. Even during times of harsh criticism, emphasizing the positives is key. Hopefully in the end the good outweighs the bad, and you and your client will achieve the desired end result.

    Reply
  36. Rebecca Costa

    As far as politics go, I believe that people focus too much on the party they support and not as much on the ideas party members bring to the table. I also think that during elections, whichever party has the minority in the House, Senate, etc., tries a little harder to get control back. As far as PR goes, Accentuating the Positive, like you said, is what PR people do and the Democrats should have focused more on this rather than the negative or avoiding certain subjects altogether.

    Reply
  37. Jessica Braveman

    I think the first (Accentuate the positive) and the fifth points (communicate your success) are two of the most important factors in political PR, especially in this election. The Democratic Party really struggled with both of these strategies, and I truly believe that if they had successfully implemented both, they could have retained seats in congress. Obama has done some wonderful things for the people of this country, but instead of parading those facts around, the Democrats let the Republicans shout about all of their failures.

    Reply
  38. Gia Palomo

    I think PR can be used to better yourself in anything but more so within Politics where your image is so important. It was interesting to see politics that way, with a PR standpoint. I never realized the lack of Democrats to highlight the successes they’ve done. It just goes to show how something as simple as that can go a long way.

    Reply
  39. aschil2

    Reading the other comments on this post, I noticed that most PR student, myself included, don’t view politics as a field that we would want to take part in. I think that has to do with us seeing the field as uninteresting and slow paced but in actually I think it is one of the harder fields to succeed in. You have to be on top of so many people, know everything about the bills trying to be passed and know all the player in the game, which there are a ton of.

    Reply
  40. Ashley P.

    I agree that it is very important to properly utilize PR in politics. However, I do think that because of all the different issues, situations, and opinions that surround politics and the general public, it can become hard to properly convey one’s true message(s) to the public. This is where a skilled PR professional would come in handy.

    Reply
  41. Whitney Shepherd (@WhitneyPRGirl)

    I am not too big on politics however, I do agree with the points made in this blog. Part of the purpose of public relations is to represent the client to the best of your ability. In some cases that might mean humbly bragging about the good the client has done, but also being consistent in the message and image you want to portray to the public. If the Democratic party cannot all be on the same agenda and support one another and have great internal communication than the party cannot survive and with the result of the election they have begun to notice this. Hopefully the Democratic party will learn from this and step their PR game up!

    Reply
  42. Courtney Zanosky

    i definitely agree that the PR of the Democrats was very lacking in this election. For all the reasons you pointed out, the Republicans were able to take over. In order to succeed in the future, good PR must be presented by the party.

    Reply
  43. jheiden1

    I think utilizing PR in politics is vital. Good image creates high ratings. Still, some leaders don’t seem to put much emphasis on good PR. The individuals that do emphasize it seem to do consistently well.

    Reply
  44. maxeisenberg8

    The problem with politics is that many politicians are concerned with their personal image as well as the state of their party, which is why a lot of Obama’s supporters and congressional members did not want anything to do with him. In PR, it is unprofessional to badmouth your company, so I don’t understand why politicians feel it is okay to do so. PR in politics is a tricky subject because American politics are riddled in controversy and argument so it will always be difficult to win the support of all Americans.

    Reply
  45. nixablevins

    It is interesting to look at politics with a PR point of view.. I don’t focus my PR skills on politics very often because it is not the area of PR that I want to go into.. However, I can see how certain situations and issues could easily be avoided or fixed if the right PR Pro was behind it.

    Reply
  46. kcormi2

    PR strategy is so important in the political world. Both parties have positive and negative traits as well as successes and failures in their various endeavors. Elections can undoubtedly be determined by the quality of the PR plan for each party or individual candidate. When it comes to politics, the outcome is all about what is highlighted in a campaign.

    Reply
  47. Ashley Iadanza

    These are things I’ve been trying to tell people from the beginning. I’m glad to see Im not the only one feeling this way. This post also means a lot because I am able to see what I am learning in the classroom being applied to the real world at yet another level.

    Reply
  48. Lyndi Catania

    I don’t often study public relations in regards to politics, but throughout this blog and the election, it’s obvious that these same PR tactics are absolutely necessary. Be consistent and communicate your successes are two of the PR maxims that stand out to me. Branding is so important, and the lack of information will only bring the wrong information.

    Reply
  49. jonolan

    There were few real positives for the Dems to put forth. Even the ones you stated are mostly either lies or were so riddled with negative outcomes that it’d be hard to spin them into real positives.

    Reply

Leave a Reply