Local Election Coverage: Media & Your Political Campaign

We’ve covered the topic of earned media in local elections before, and I’d like to focus more on what kind of expectations you should have for election coverage if you’re a candidate in a smaller, local political campaign.

The unfortunate truth is that most candidates in local political campaigns are only going to get election coverage twice from the local newspapers and media: once when they toss their hat in the ring, and once when the election results are announced.

local election coverageA lot of local candidates take it personally that the newspapers, radio stations and television networks won’t cover their events or press releases. Some candidates even go so far as to form conspiracy theories about editors and reporters having a personal vendetta against them. In the vast majorities of cases, this simply isn’t the case.

Remember: as candidates, we always think that are own political campaigns are much more important than anyone else does . . . especially the media. Local reporters and editors have dozens of races to cover each election season, and they just don’t often have the time to give each campaign the attention that the respective candidates would like to have.

Regardless of whether the local media has something against you or not, it’s really counterproductive to spend any time brooding about your lack of election coverage. If you aren’t getting the amount of media attention that you would like, there is only one thing you can do: campaign harder, raise more money, and get your name out there using good old-fashioned hard work and shoe leather.

It’s important that the new local political candidate fully understands the real value of election media coverage, as well. While it’s great to have your name in the paper on a regular basis if your running for office (as long as it’s not for your arrest record), earned media won’t win a campaign by itself.

I’ve seen many prospective candidates focus way too much effort on getting their name in the newspapers in the months leading up to the election, only to lose badly when the votes are tallied up.

Don’t get me wrong: earned election coverage is great to have, but only if it is in conjunction with a well-run, comprehensive campaign effort. In other words, people aren’t going to vote for you just because your name is in the paper. They need to see you in their neighborhood, shake your hand, read your literature, understand your platform, and feel that you’re working hard for their vote.

And believe me: most voters are savvy enough to know when you are making up issues just to get your name in the paper so you can run for office. If you become too much of a publicity hound, or chase after too many “causes” that demand media coverage, then the voters will see through your game pretty quickly.

So don’t get too upset if the local papers, radio stations and TV channels don’t do a story about your press release or event; it probably isn’t because they have something against you, but rather because they just don’t have the resources to cover it.

Look at it as a gift: their lack of election coverage should make you work even harder in the field, which will help guarantee victory on election day.