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Political Marketing – Lessons from the Weiner Scandal

What Can Anthony Weiner Teach Us About Political Marketing

The web and social media are still in stages of youth, and given the freshness of age there are still many people who don’t have a complete grasp of the reach or power of the web when it comes topolitical marketing.  A fair number of candidates, especially those on the local circuit, often don’t put thought to their online presence until after a campaign has begun.  That’s when they hit the online news and blogs looking for coverage on their campaign.

What many candidates fail to realize is that they more than likely already have an online presence attached to their name – they’re branded well before they start pushing for any kind of office.  With that said, do you know what the web has to say about you?  Do you know what people can see when they do a search for you?

Do you know what kind of results occur once you’re rocked by scandal?

I have no intention of rehashing everything that has taken place involving Anthony Weiner, a U.S. Representative for New York’s 9th congressional district, but it makes a great example of how the landscape of the web can dramatically change when scandals arise.

Personal branding is a big deal when it comes to political candidates, and a scandal can make it extremely easy for dirty to rise to the surface.  Look at the search results for Anthony Weiner that we drummed up just hours after he announced his resignation:

weiner Political Marketing   Lessons from the Weiner Scandal

Political Marketing in the News

The first section of the image is the news box from Google, delivering the most relevant and current news.  For any kind of a political issue or scandal there’s really nothing you can do about the information that’s displayed in this area from other sources.  Even if you were to carefully craft your personal branding online in order to boost the positive information people find you would have a difficult time manipulating the search results.

For smaller areas of coverage and more local elections, issuing press releases and other media could allow for improvement over the information that’s displayed but when a lot of news sources get hold of a story their feeds can often overwhelm one or two press releases issues by a campaign for political marketing.

Political Marketing in Wikipedia

The first organic listing under the news is the Wikipedia page for Weiner.  Not every individual is going to have a Wikipedia page.  Weiner, however, has had a long running political career and has left his mark as a U.S. representative.  It didn’t take long or the Wikipedia entry to be updated with information on the scandal as well as the resignation.  Can this info be changed?  Not likely.  As an encyclopedic source, it’s based on fact and if a candidate or their staff continue to try to alter data in order to hide fact that can only spell disaster and more negative PR and bad political marketing.

Controlled Political Marketing

Just beneath the Wikipedia listing we can see several sites/accounts that are controlled in some way by the Weiner campaign and office.  While the negative events have certainly taken over the first page, having a strong and lasting presence online that is regularly updated has allowed Weiner’s office to maintain some neutral/positive presence on the primary page of Google.

Unfortunately that’s only a small portion of the results.  As you can see above the negativity continues on.

Underutilized Political Marketing

Given the size of the scandal it’s no wonder that the information is dominating the search space but had Weiner’s office worked harder over time to continue the political marketing of his brand well after he had taken his seat then there may have been far more difficulty in getting these stories to show front page for his name.  Unfortunately this is just the first page – if you continue deeper into the search results you’ll find additional stories from sites like TMZ, Gawker and Politico whom all paint an extremely negative picture of the candidate based on the events.  Given the presence of these sites on the web, the clean up effort for his name will be extremely difficult whether he decides to run for another office later or not.

Combating the Negativity with Political Marketing

Given the resignation, the scandal was too hot and too difficult for Anthony Weiner to recover from, but other candidates and politicians have been in situations that required little more than an apology before returning to their work.  Rep. Weiner did very little to try to combat the negativity but a candidate in this position should make a staggering effort to retain the positive branding they’ve built online.  Any additional material that’s dispersed on the web could help create a more flattering slant on the issues that arise.

It’s important to remember that your campaign and your personal brand doesn’t start after the press begins talking.  It starts now and it started over 15 years ago when the web entered mainstream use among voters.  You might think that you’re safe because you don’t stoop to the levels of some politicians but you can almost rest assured that unflattering information is going to surface about you or your family during a political raise.  Negative political marketing is a common tactic, and you will want to ensure that when doing your political web site design, you have a place for latest news and blog where you can comment on news about you.

That negative information can arise in a number of ways; newspaper articles, an opponent website, a blog, a community forum post, a Facebook fan page, Twitter posts.  The goal of your political marketing campaign and the staff supporting you is to work hard to keep that material out of plain sight.  By focusing on quality content in your political marketing on the web you can push down the negative or unflattering information and squash a good deal of bad publicity before it even arises.

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