Campaign Communications
A presidential campaign is a vast exercise in communications.  Personal encounters are usually most telling in shaping impressions of a candidate, but a candidate can only meet so many people first-hand and must get his or her message out to a wider audience through an infinite variety of free media opportunities and paid advertising.

Among the possibilities for paid media, depending on its budget, a campaign can run ads on broadcast or cable television, on radio stations with varying formats, it can run print ads in national, local or community newspapers or in magazines, it can put ads on the Internet, it can print up nice, glossy brochures or less expensive flyers, it can do direct mail or robocalls, or it can put up a billboard (or even a virtual billboard as the Obama campaign did in October 2008 on internet video games+).

TV and Radio Ads: Convention to Present  |  Interest Groups
Blog Ads: Democrats  |  Republicans
  |  Interest Groups
Direct Mail: In with all the bills, magazines and catalogs
Robocalls: Ring-Ring
Print Ads: Democrats  |  Interest Groups
TV and Radio Ads: Democrats  |  Republicans  |  Interest Groups  | Anuncios en Español   |  early
Blog Ads: Democrats  |  Republicans
Print Ads: Democrats  |  Republicans  |  Interest Groups
Billboards: Democrats  |  Republicans  |  Interest Groups
Websites: Democrats  | Republicans
Literature: Democrats  |  Republicans

In terms of free media, a candidate may deliver a formal policy speech at a think tank in Washington or New York, hold a town hall meeting outside the Beltway, write a book and do a book tour, make a photo-friendly visit to a significant location such as the border or an energy plant, or even stop in for an impromptu visit to a local cafe.  Some candidates are better communicators than others.  Because the candidate cannot go everywhere, the campaign will sometimes send surrogates, generally family members, elected officials or celebrities.  A candidate's wife can be a particularly effective ambassador for the candidate.  The campaign can generate free media as well, for example by rolling out a coalition, doing a canvass or posting an edgy video on its website.

In determining what the message he or she wishes to convey, a candidate starts with his or her individual experience, intelligence and values and has input from a team of trusted advisors.  Paid consultants may weigh in to determine how the message should be presented, i.e. what medium, what approach (serious and straightforward, humorous, dramatic...)  Consultants at times seem to be ubiquitous and some argue that they have changed campaign discourse for the worse.

The effectiveness of the message depends on such factors as timing (what other events are happening in the world), the medium used, and the receptivity of the audience.1  In contrast to robocalls, which can get annoying a call or visit from a neighbor, supporter or campaign staffer can be effective.2  Even small features such as the logo or typeface a campaign uses or the musical zing at the end of an ad can make a difference.  With more and more Americans using the Internet to obtain news and information about politics3, campaigns are devoting more resources to this medium4, 5Of course, the candidate and the campaign are not the only ones communicating; competing campaigns, interest groups and the political parties are as well, and the media are picking up and reporting these messages.


DNC- "John McCain Resource Center"

RNC-Meet Barack Obama

techPresident - "started by Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry as a new group blog that covers how the 2008 presidential candidates are using the web, and vice versa, how content generated by voters is affecting the campaign." (launched late Jan. 2007)

Pew Research Center: Reports on Election '08

ClickZ News: Campaign '08 - "The ClickZ Network is the largest resource of interactive marketing news, information, commentary, advice, opinion, research, and reference in the world, online or off-."  Note: Kate Kaye, who as senior news editor at ClickZ created the "Campaign '08" section, authored a book: CAMPAIGN '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media.  (CreateSpace/On-Demand Publishing LLC, Feb. 2009)

Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of  - "a nonpartisan, nonprofit, "consumer advocate" for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases."

University of Wisconsin Advertising Project  - "Using data obtained from the TNS Media Intelligence Campaign Media Analysis Group (TNSMI/CMAG), the University of Wisconsin Advertising Project codes and analyzes nearly all of the political advertising that is aired in 2008 federal and gubernatorial races across the country. The Ad Project, considered the single most important and credible source of information on campaign TV advertising, is funded in 2008 by a grant from the Joyce Foundation."

Nielsen Wire - Politics

Stanford University: Political Communication Lab
Museum of the Moving Image: The Living Room Candidate

see also:
YouTube's "You Choose '08" (announced March 1, 2007)

MySpace's "Impact" (announced March 18, 2007)

Conference Calls:
Nielsen, Rasmus Kleis.  Forthcoming [summer 2009].  The Labors of Internet-Assisted Activism: Overcommunication, Miscommunication, and Communicative Overload.  Journal of Information Technology & Politics. >

Politics @ 30 frames per second - blog by J.R.W. of Toledo, OH. (through April 2008). - "a plethora of presidential propaganda, piped promptly and publicly..." (discontinued)

-Opposition Research: Viewing the World Through Mud Colored Glasses
In January 2007, as the field of candidates started to gel, the DNC sent out at least 23 press releases targeting Republican presidential prospects.  Former Gov. Mitt Romney, whom the DNC tagged "smooth talking Mitt," led with seven, followed by McCain with six.  The RNC, perhaps a bit stunned by setbacks in the 2006 mid-term elections, was a bit slower to start, but on Feb. 21, 2007 presented "Meet The Democrat Candidates."  Frontrunner Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for example, is labeled as "A Calculating, Divisive, Lifelong Liberal With Political Baggage.  This kind of activity was going on even earlier, in 2005-06, as state parties kept an eye on and started to label potential candidates from the opposing party. [press releases]  These "first swipes" gave a sense of the potential candidates' vulnerabilities.  With the 2006 midterm elections out of the way the parties have geared up their opposition research offerings.  [another example]
There are many different ways a candidate can announce his or her candidacy.  One approach is to s-t-r-e-t-c-h - i-t - o-u-t.  For example, several presidential prospects went on one or another of the Sunday morning shows and announced they planned to launch an exploratory committee later in the week or the month.  That generated some news.  Then the actual formation of the exploratory committee may generate further news.  Sens. Obama and Clinton and Gov. Richardson announced formation of their exploratory committees in January 2007 via videos on their websites.  An exploratory committee is itself a non-essential step since it basically functions as a campaign committee.  Sen. Dodd, for example, skipped the exploratory committee and announced his candidacy, curiously, on "Imus in the Morning."  Once the candidate finishes the exploratory phase, his or her formal announcement will generate more news.  Candidates' formal announcement speeches can significant events, delivered in symbolic locations, with the family on the stage and friends and acquaintances from childhood days in the audience, wherein a candidate sets the tone and themes of the campaign. >>   

Supporters and Opponents on the Web: Early Activity

2006 Commencement Addresses by Potential 2008 candidates (May 2006).
2005 Commencement Addresses by Potential 2008 candidates (May 2005).

Several Creative Communications from 2005

Democratic Prospects' Statements on the Nomination of Judge John Roberts (Sept. 2005).

Copyright © 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action