Not exactly a controversial statement. You already know the media in Minnesota and especially in the Twin Cities is biased and liberal.
So what does that mean to our campaigns? Here are some tips for dealing with the media as a candidate.
Never talk about strategy
First, your strategy is no one’s business. Why tell your opponent what you are doing? You don’t see Coke talking about their strategy to gain market share from Pepsi in the Wall Street Journal, especially while that strategy is being implemented.
Second, when a candidate talks about strategy or the “horse race” they sound like a campaign hack. Your job is to talk about your vision for governing and how it’s connecting with voters. Discussion of polling or other campaign tactics are better coming from a campaign manager, or not at all (see above).
Develop relationships with the press
If there is a small town newspaper or suburban paper covering your race, figure out who the main reporter will be and develop a relationship. Invite them to coffee to talk about your campaign. Ask them what they need from you to do their job. We take a “customer service” approach to the media at the Senate Republican Caucus and it serves us very well.
Go around the press
Ronald Reagan was the first to figure this out. When he realized the media wasn’t representing his message correctly, he went around them and spoke directly to the American public, a tactic that gained him the ‘Great Communicator” nickname.
With the advent of social media (especially Facebook) candidates can get their message to thousands of voters instantly (and free) without having to go through the filter of the mainstream press. The most common form of media bias occurs when reporters and editors decide what to cover and what to ignore. A good social media strategy can overcome this bias.
Stay on your message
One of the most important aspects of a winning campaign is having a winning message. Prepare for an interview with the goal of getting that winning message across to the reporter. Look for opportunities to pivot to your message.
Example: Your message is keeping communities safe and not defunding the police.
Reporter asks about concerns over the COVID-19 virus. You answer saying “Yes, people are concerned about the virus but what I’m really hearing at the doors is a concern about the lawlessness that’s been allowed to grow and the weakness of our current leaders (such as my opponent) to stand against it.”
You have no obligation to answer any question thrown at you by a reporter. Always stay in control of your message.
Sometimes repeating yourself is the best tactic. By the time a reporter asks the same question three different times, you can disarm them by joking “You can keep asking that and I will keep answering the same way.”
There’s no such thing as “off the record”
It’s not that I don’t trust reporters, it’s just that I don’t trust them. There is never a reason to go off the record. Assume everything you’re saying will show up in the story. We often provide background information to reporters but assume everything said about the information will be on the record.
Speaking of off the record, when doing a TV interview, assume the camera is always recording (it is) and the microphone is always on. The banter before or after an interview with a reporter often makes it into the story and rarely makes you look good.
Bottom line, the press is not your friend so just go around them using social media, digital ads and direct mail.
Speaking of message, speaking out against lawlessness and defunding the police is the best message for Republican candidates right now. It solidifies our base and attracts independents. Stay on it!
Another message that works right now is getting our kids back in school this fall in a safe manner. Always add safety to your message on opening schools. Senate Democrats voted last week against giving local school districts the flexibility to open and Gov. Walz will announce his plans at the end of the week.
The politics of COVID-19 do not provide good messaging opportunities for Republican candidates. Minnesotans support the mask mandate and are predisposed to the fear coming from Gov. Walz and other leaders. Wish it wasn’t true but it is. Our advice is to pivot back to lawlessness every chance you get.
Sunday marks 100 days until the election! How hard can you work for 100 days? You can’t control the national mood on elections, and it will likely swing back and forth at least three more times. You can control how hard you work.