This coming week will put an end to an intensive congressional race throughout the country. The campaigning on both sides was said to be some of the most expensive in the history of congressional campaigning. Both parties invested immense amounts, totaling over $185 million for each of the parties. What it indicates is not only the ad spending, which most people associate these budgets with, but also efforts with PR consultants, communication and media managers, digital media strategists, reputation and branding marketers, and political pollsters. Unfortunately, most of this staff will be thanked by the elected officials and asked to come again next time. But, "next time" may come sooner than expected.
Political candidates would never consider running for office without PR, marketing, and advertising services. For some reason, though, they believe running the office they were elected to is an easier job than it actually is, and that it can be managed with minimal strategic planning. This is not the case at as the first mistake in every PR strategy is waiting for a crisis or a mishap to come, instead of working to avoid it all year long.
In a rather cynical and interesting choice of timing, November 5th will be the day the movie "Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer" hits theaters. This is an ideal case of a PR crisis with a call-girl tying former governor of New York, Eliot Spitzer to the story. Nevertheless, the case reminds me of the value of prompt reaction and PR recovery. Who can now even remember the disgraceful scandal? As nowadays Eliot's smile airs every week with co-host Kathleen Parker on a CNN talk show, as if the scandal never happened. The timing of this movie serves as a welcome and orientation session for newly-elected officials.
As this race has brought us the "Banner Year for Political Spending", parties from both sides,' as well as independent groups and committee, money was dedicated to winning. Promises for change were unprecedented and the list of initiatives to embark on still awaits the elected politicians. It would be a shame to see some of this money being washed away as tenures turn to communication mishaps.
Preparedness and communications, strategic planning and ongoing reputation management, and advanced reaction planning will now be tested for each of the candidates. The same pollsters, marketers, communication analysts and PR folks can keep a strong image of their politician and guarantee a smooth political season ahead. We are a country that legitimately scrutinizes its elected officials. In the days of active digital and social participation online it is a matter of single-digit minutes until the next PR crisis can hit a politician all the way down and out from office. It is imperative that elected officials act at least as celebrities do and strive to be on top of their public image. We have passed two years of PR chaos involving celebrities, corporations, executives and even military generals whom all found themselves in the eye of a media storm. A clear PR reactive plan prepared in advance would have made a monumental difference to the careers, profits, reputation and outcomes in all of those cases.
Not all PR crises are justified, not all reputation damages are legitimate, but when it comes to public officials, especially in politically-heated times like ours, one can never be too prepared. There is a reason why this congressional race was one of the most expensive, and it is the same reason why PR should be maintained as a core practice of their office tenures.
Ronn Torossian is president and CEO of 5WPR, one of the 20 largest independent PR agencies in the U.S. Named to the "40 under 40" list of PR Week & Advertising Age, Torossian was a semi-finalist for the Ernst & Young 2010 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and may be reached at 212-999-5585 and followed on twitter @rtorossian5wpr