Ditto CEO Trey Ditto's Tips for PR pros to promote their brands during a presidential campaign

Ditto CEO Trey Ditto article originally written for PR Daily

Every four years, brand managers have a fresh opportunity to get involved with the U.S. presidential campaign. Representing brands from Svedka to 7-Eleven, PR pros get their brands in front of the millions of eyeballs closely watching the race to the White House.

In 2016, millions of people will be consumed by the constant publicity surrounding coverage of primaries, debates and conventions. How do you get your brand in front of these people? The answer is very different from what it was the last time around.

Timing

Since I’ve been working in politics, it’s been the outcome of Super Tuesday in March that’s determined who would represent the Republicans and Democrats in the presidential election. Under this timeline, brands would have the following eight months to strategize and launch their campaigns.

This will not be the case in 2016. Coming out of Super Tuesday, a candidate from the Republican Party probably will not have been selected. It could be July—when the party’s national convention will take place—before a candidate finally wins the nomination.

If this is the case, journalists and broadcasters will continue to cover the ups and downs of each campaign and will have the full attention of those millions of people watching or listening at home. This extended timeline gives brand managers full exposure throughout the process.

Issues

Debates or events along the campaign trail aren’t known for their substance. Candidates often reduce big issues to a few talking points or sound bites and then release “policy plans” that pander only to their base. Remember Herman Cain and his "9-9-9 Plan"?

Although the days leading up to the GOP primary will be long, it doesn’t mean that substantive issues won’t be discussed. From the economy to immigration, there will be a handful of topics with which issues-based companies can certainly involve themselves.

Be aware: If you’re sitting around and waiting for your organization’s big issue to have its day in the press, that moment could come and go quickly. Act when the big-ticket issues are hot.

It’s wise to go where the action is, as secondary issues such as education or human rights might be clumped into larger issues getting candidates’ attention. For example, domestic policy—outside of jobs and the economy—tends to not be an issue that voters, and therefore candidates, care about on its own. Brand managers should adjust their marketing campaigns accordingly.

Strategy

To be relevant in 2016, brand managers should create their own windows of opportunity, as traditional PR campaigns are less likely to be effective.

If there is a specific issue you want to elevate, do not go it alone. Companies should create partnerships and make some noise. This could be done through traditional avenues like big ad purchases, as well as through social media and other online channels.

A dozen companies could come together and say: “We want education, student debt and job creation to be addressed in 2016,” and create a campaign that uses a combination of paid, earned, owned and shared channels.

The likability factor

Journalists love to cover the human interest side of the campaign. Some say George W. Bush won his 2004 election because people wanted to have a beer with him; conversely, Hillary Clinton has struggled for years with being liked.

Using the angle of likability, brand managers can create an entire campaign around the personalities of each candidate. Anchor your campaign using a survey on topics such as, “Whom would you rather get a drink with?” or, “What celebrity would make for a better president?”

In pursuing the lighter side of the campaign, brand managers have an opportunity to reach out to members of the press who would not traditionally cover this topic but are always looking to write relevant stories.

In 2016, brand managers have to be creative, think big and put resources behind their ideas.