I’m a soccer mom (and a swim mom, a basketball mom, a baseball mom, etc., but I digress). When I’m watching my kids’ soccer games, depending on the score, I find myself either wishing away the remaining minutes or wanting more time for the go-ahead goal. Must be like that on the campaign trail these days. Today, the score seems slightly in Obama’s favor. I’m sure his camp is hoping the referee’s whistle comes quickly, while Romney’s team banks on the notion that extra time will help erase a few missteps in recent days and rally a come-from-behind win on Election Day.
It’s interesting to me that the missteps – on all sides – so often come down to off-the- cuff remarks in informal settings rather than misstatements in debates or campaign speeches. Amazingly, as is so often the case in political campaigns and for many people in public life, it’s the candidates’ inability to stay on message that unravels the best game plan.
We coach our clients in the same way that the candidates are coached, I’m sure. Two main points:
Stay on message: Your safe zone is the handful of points you most want to make to your audience. Emphasizing them again and again is a good way to advance your cause. There are lots of different ways to make those messages memorable – choose illustrations, anecdotes, stats, etc. that do so productively. Don’t choose illustrations, anecdotes, stats, etc. that you wouldn’t want to see in print, attributed to you, (or rebroadcast ad nauseum) ever.
You’re always on the record: Did the candidate (or the professional athlete, talk show host, fill in your favorite public persona here) really think that his remarks to a private group wouldn’t go public? Has he seen a newsfeed lately? Everything – especially today – is on the record, immediately. So, at every turn, “elegantly stating” or at least cleanly stating your position is necessary.
Just seven weeks to go to Election Day. It’s still anyone’s game.