Since the 2008 Presidential Election, my involvement in the politics has grown exponentially. Through the multiple volunteer positions I held and increased awareness of the political world, I saw how marketing influenced decisions and sometimes, the path for many elected officials. In today’s politics, the word politician is synonymous with ‘brand’. Stanley Hainsworth from Huffington Post puts it best when he says, “Everything you do, the way you look, speak, smell, taste, feel and touch are the ingredients of your brand creation [and it cohesively] creates the branded you or the branded corporation.” Since the outburst of social media, people in the public eye have to take everything they do in public or private into consideration. In a politician’s case, let’s imagine a candidate publicly denounced a corporation for their wage policies, then the candidate should never be captured supporting the company. The result, especially if there is documented proof, can be catastrophic to a candidate winning an election. Their brand will no longer be seen as trustworthy or genuine. The shift to social media changed the way politicians communicated with voters, it altered the tone and content of political speech. Nevertheless, because of social media and its extended reach, many politicians rely on any publicity to inflate their brand. In this particular post, I want to highlight the challenges and risks politicians have personifying themselves on social media.
Our current President prefers releasing policies and statements via social media. It almost seems ancient thinking about the times my family and I would gather around the evening news to watch what politicians had to say. In the 2016 Presidential Election, any citizen over the age of 18 years of age had an opportunity to register to vote via text message. The more digitized our society becomes, the more intertwined we become with the political climate. Take President Donald Trump for example, he understands that the best way to dominate the online discussion is not to inform but to provoke. Today, many politicians ignore or misunderstand where the moral line is drawn. By now, many of you have probably heard about Anthony Weiner is some form or another. A promising young Democrat out of New York tweeted a salacious photo of himself on his Twitter account in error. Within 11 months, the congressman went on a denial tour and then soon after, an apology tour. The photo that started it all was removed within minutes, but on social media, everything lasts beyond a lifetime. Chris Schneider, Communications Director for NYS Senator Jack Martins, says, “You don’t have to convince the politicians that it’s important to be on social media today,” he added. “You have to convince them how to use it effectively.” As a fail-safe, many politicians have communications professionals who monitor various incoming and outgoing channels relating to the candidate. It minimizes the risks of possible career-damaging content.
Let’s not forget the challenges of free speech. Many citizens prefer politicians who are more open and speak honestly, but as soon as a politician says anything they risk being attacked on social media. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly one-in-five social media users have changed their minds about a political issue or a candidate for office, because of something they saw on social media. With roughly one-quarter of social media users following political figures, candidates and elected officials need to filter what they say and the tone it’s said in. Social media could be detrimental to some but to other politicians these platforms are a gift. Former President Barack Obama had many successes using social platforms to support and promote his brand. Without it, I am not sure if he would have made the impact he did during his terms. When used correctly, social media is the best outlet for a politician’s brand.