media update’s Nakedi Phala reveals how PR influences the world of politics and how it can help to manage the internal and external affairs of a political organisation.

Since politics concerns the people, communities and the state of the country, one can see why there’s more to politics than what meets the eye. This is especially true when considering that politicians are widely criticised; there’s always a need for damage control measures that need to be set in place.

It’s like the famous Groucho Marx says: “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”

This gives a powerful perspective, right? Well, surprise surprise — those are some elements that we find in persuasive PR tactics.

Here are three roles PR plays in the political landscape:

1. PR helps candidates gain much-needed exposure

A political candidate needs awareness — and what better way to gain exposure than by utilising PR tactics?

A PR team that is used by a political organisation are experts at organising conferences, political debates and relevant organisational conventions.

For example, if you’re a political candidate, you’d need someone to write the speeches that you use in your campaigns. You’d also need a media liaison who has a good rapport with relevant sources and a clever spokesperson by your side — all these go a long way in gaining you much-needed (positive) exposure.

For example, in an eNCA debate between the previous spokesperson of the Economic Freedom Fighters, Myusieni Ndlozi, and political analyst professor Mcebisi Ndletyana, things got heated while discussing whether former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene was fit to hold his position due to allegations against him regarding corruption.

You can view the clip below:

In politics, PR is not just about representing a brand or a famous celebrity; sometimes, the gloves need to come off all in the name of the vote.Thus, as PR pro, you need to be tough, think on your feet, keep watch of your emotions and respond cautiously; otherwise, you could lead the party or individual into distasteful publicity.

Furthermore, a show in South Africa that discusses and debates political affairs is The Big Debate, where parties and organisations bring out their best media liaison officer or spokesperson to represent their party.

To better understand the power of debating for exposure, check out this clip:

2. PR helps to dismantle a political crisis

Using PR tactics is the way to go if a party or individual is in a crisis. And in politics today, every day is a crisis.

PR pros in political parties are like the firefighters waiting for a fireball of crisis to erupt. Why? Because there’s no question that politics is a dirty game, with members of the opposition party looking for dirty laundry to use to distort the image of another politician.

A classic example of a PR campaign gone right would be the ANC’s initiative during the Jacob Zuma era. This was when they were tangled in the Gupta scandals and other corruption affairs, which saw Zuma eventually vacating his seat as leader of the party and president of South Africa. This left a huge task lying ahead for those responsible for the party’s PR.

This is because, following these events, the party internally voted for a new leader. The result was Cyril Ramaphosa taking the position. In an article published under the Daily Maverick it was explained that this was because of a PR campaign dubbed the ‘#CR17’, which outshined the ‘#NDZ’ PR campaign. Ferial Haffajee further writes that the campaign included:
  • rallies and events
  • promotional regalia such as T-shirts, booklets and pamphlets
  • indabas and meetings, and
  • media monitoring efforts and extensive research.
It is evident that spending money on PR campaigns can win you the results — hope alone in politics isn't enough.

3. PR tactics work on social media

Social media is ideal for creating a dialogue and conversation in an attempt to improve engagement with the political party or individual. How does this benefit a political organisation though? Well, the party can share their memorandums, press statements and live broadcasts on platforms such as YouTube directly with the audiences.

But sometimes, sharing too much information on social media could come back to bite you. An example of this are the reports from BBC regarding the United States President Donald Trump declaring victory on Twitter before the conclusion of the election. Twitter reportedly went on to even hide the tweet.

As a PR pro working for a candidate or party organisation, you need to keep a sharp eye on what gets posted on their social media platforms.

Essentially, social media can be used to promote the party’s views and perspectives as well as spark debates with followers, which could be used to create a narrative. PR professionals are needed in this space too, however, to make sure that all communications are well-phrased and less likely to cause unintended offense to others. Social media is a platform that puts you in control of your party’s agenda. So, if your social media strategy is effective, can you influence and win supporters.

Remember, PR pros are trained to manage and administrate information, and since politics are based on what you say and how to say it, wouldn’t you want a PR team to play a gatekeeper role for the organisation’s social media platforms? Food for thought ...

For some, PR is something they don’t realise they need until they’re faced with a crisis. Is it then already too late to call out to your closest PR agency? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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A PR strategy for an individual requires more effort than a brand or service. To find out how to effectively put one together, check out these Four points for creating a public figure's communication strategy.