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Sunday, March 26, 2023

HOW TO BE A POLITICAL STAFF: Part 3. Declining or Accepting an Invitation

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“If the tree falls down in the forest, and nobody is around to see it, did the tree fall down?”

In order to be believed, a politician must be seen. Of course, when your principal attends an event, that in itself is an accomplishment in public relation in so far as the attendees of the said event is concerned. But if you see this opportunity as scarce and limited and costly considering the human resource, logistics and foregone opportunities involved, a political office should always seek to maximize publicity and media mileage.

During the event, the political staff should have access to the final draft of the speech to be delivered if any, a carefully drafted Press Release (PR), recorder, and a decent camera. In some political office, there is a separate speechwriter, media relations personnel, transcriber, photographer, and editor. But a political staff should be well-rounded. He/she should be able to transcribe and draft a simple press release, if not the speech itself.

If the event relates to an important, pressing, and relevant issue — in other words, newsworthy —- the political staff should make certain that members of the press or media is aware of the event to be attended by the principal through cordial liaison either with the covering media personnel or the desk editor. The itinerary for the day of the principal may be so arranged to accommodate a few questions from the media.

Why should a political staff have a recorder and be able to make a quick transcription? That’s to have a copy or documentation of what transpired during the interaction of the principal and the media to avoid distortion, considering that the media may not present the incident or interview in a way faithful to what truly occurred or desirable to your principal.

Providing a transcript also makes the job of the media relatively easy and convenient since they will no longer transcribe from their own recording, but make sure to be accurate in your transcription. You would want to present your principal in the best light but you would also want to avoid any reputational damage that will impair your trustworthiness as liaison to the media. In any case, you have your own recording and the media also have their own recording so there is less room for distortion or deviation from what actually occurred.

A press release should be drafted in such a way that closely resembles to what occurred. Considering that it is a press release, the members of the media will take it with a grain of salt anyway. But that doesn’t mean that there should not be a spin. There should always be a spin in a way that puts your principal in good light, but never too drastic to no longer be recognizable as the truth. The construction of sentences should be carefully examined to avoid misquotation or cutting the press release up so that unscrupulous members of the media may put a less than desirable slant to the event or incident.

It may be helpful to publicize the transcript and the press release on your own website, to have a sort of public ledger that that is actually what you released to the members of the media. The metric against which your press release should be measured is the number of its excerpt or quotation appearing on the media. Most news outlet would not reproduce the press release in toto and would more likely weaved it into other development in the same topic or issue.

In terms of photographs, you can exert some control over what kind of photograph of your principal appears by producing photographs of the event yourself, which should be better or at par of what would photographers from media outlet would submit to their editors. Barring other factors, that will be the single reason why a news outlet would use your photograph rather than other submissions. You can also offer a suggested caption, formulated in a way that increases the likelihood that it will be used by the media outlet.

A political staff should have friendly relations with members of the media. They will be more receptive to the push for coverage for your principal. Develop a list of contacts particularly e-mail and mobile number. You can either send your press release indiscriminately to members of the press or only send it to those you know will be receptive to your effort. But the important thing is to have media coverage of your event.

These days, you can also release your press release and other media collaterals through social media, which may also push outlet using the same social media to release it on their own feed, especially if yours have a lot of engagement and traction.

The purpose of post-event public relations effort by the political staff is to maximize media mileage and at the same time, raising the profile of their principal, keeping their constituents engaged through the principal’s visibility and shaping the narrative either around the principal herself or the issue that is close to the principal’s heart. It is even expected for politicians to be visible. Otherwise, their constituents would feel that they are not doing their job. Appearance, for a politician, is performance. #

Atty. Lawrence Villamar worked for a Senator and a Congressman. Presently, he is a consultant to a Board Member and Vice-Governor.

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