Millions and millions of dollars are funneled into accounts funding presidential campaigns. Literally an incomprehensible amount of dough; I’m talking “Scrooge McDuck diving into a swimming pool full of gold” level of cash. In spite of this monolithic monetary investment, seemingly every four years a fringe element or associate of a candidate comes to light and threatens to derail the entire operation. This week we learned of Rick Perry and his errant (and frankly, abhorrent) judgment regarding namesakes of his personal property; in 2008 the upheaval surrounding Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers jeopardized Barack Obama’s historic campaign. When investing multiple lifesavings in such a massive undertaking as public office, why wouldn’t you properly vet your constituents? The same principles apply in publicity, and they can make or break your career.
The old adage, ‘guilty by association’ is the most succinct and accurate way to convey this point. The people around you can sink you just as quickly as they can lift you up, and the media’s magnifying glass intended to promote you can easily turn you into a mere sidewalk ant on a sweltering summer day. Before you embark on a public relations campaign and place your name (and finances) under the microscope for the masses to scrutinize, ensure you have your proverbial ducks in a row, including those you align yourself with.
In our instant-update, smartphone-dominated society, one casual misstep or verbal gaffe can send a burgeoning career into a tailspin within minutes. The funds allotted to promote your image become your financial lifeboat designed to defend it. Suffice to say, it’s not an enviable position to find yourself in.
When Howard Dean went on his infamous vocal rant in 2004 describing his Sherman-esque scorched-earth march to the White House, he only had to stare into the mirror to view the arbiter of his political unraveling. After adorning a Kevlar helmet and resembling a mystified child playing tank gunner in 1988, Michael Dukakis’ first step should’ve been to eliminate every handler who felt this harebrained photo-op was a good idea. Although juxtaposing instances, they share a common thread: ultimately, at the end of the day: you possess the final word in the decision making process, and if faulty, you will be the one who takes the loss.
To avoid potential public relations landmines, meticulously evaluate every nuance of your campaign – from the semantics of a prepared statement to rogue former alliances – which may contribute to your downfall. Communicate the importance of brand and name stability to your inner circle, and keep a tight lead on any extraneous variables that may denigrate your marketability: your career and bank account depend on it.
PR/PR Public Relations