“It’s for you…”

Stractical would like to stay away from the cavalcade of slung communication tactics known as the Presidential primaries/election. Not because the Hillary vs. Obama vs. McCain vs. talk radio topic is uninteresting or doesn’t illustrate sound communications lessons. It’s just that, well… once you dive into the deep end of political communication, you may not be able to swim back to the ledge.

But.

Piggybacking on the last post, we just couldn’t help ourselves from talking about the flipside of earned-media-from-paid-media strategy. The Toronto Star reports on Hillary’s new attack ad playing in Ohio and Texas. The premise of the Cold War-style ad is that a phone is ringing and its an emergency (red phones = serious)…

“It’s 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep, but there’s a phone in the White House and it’s ringing,” says the narrator in Clinton’s ad.

“Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call, whether it’s someone who already knows the world’s leaders, knows the military – someone tested and ready to lead in a dangerous world.”

The commercial plays up Sen. Clinton’s experience but in a way that can only be described as heavy-handed. And while getting her commercial picked up by credible, unpaid news outlets should be a coup for Hillary, a controversial attack ad was bound to be cut to pieces by the media. In political reporting, anytime there is an attack, they assign space for a rebuttal. And since attack ads play out as unpopular (even if they might sway voters in the end) Obama gets ample earned media space to deride the tactic. Her media money = his good press.

The lesson? Be prepared to defend your advertising to the media. If there’s controversy, you’ll rarely get the last word so make sure the first words are powerful. And ensure that your integrated strategies are similar in tone and message. If you’re going to release an aggressive ad, pro-actively communicate why it’s aggressive. Using paid media for PR purposes can be a terrific strategy, especially when trying to create news value where there is little. But remember that any paid-media exposure can stir up media coverage, positive or negative.

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