Political Playbook: How PR Professionals Can Approach the 2022 Midterms
In a world where it can sometimes feel like there’s an “Us vs. Them” mentality that rules the day, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant shouting wars. Like many Americans, you might find yourself tuning out politics for the majority of the year, just to make things a little less hectic.
But no matter how good your blinders or ear plugs may be, the upcoming midterm elections have probably managed to creep into your purview as we reach the home stretch towards Tuesday, November 8th.
History suggests that the party that holds the executive branch will lose seats to the opposing party in the legislative branch—meaning that there’s a strong possibility that the Democrats will lose seats in the House and Senate in November. Whichever way the political pendulum sways this year, the issues that the new Congress will be tasked with tackling will remain the same.
In a time when anything can happen, PR professionals should be flexible—and we should make sure to prepare our clients for a multitude of possible outcomes from this year’s elections.
Where We Stand Ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections
Given the direction in which politics have gone throughout the past decade, preparing for all possible scenarios (rather than planning solely for certain situations), is the best route to take.
As we’ve seen in the past few election cycles, polling and predictions don’t always come to fruition. “Safe-seats,” which are districts consistently held by the same party, aren’t what they used to be. Due to the rise of non-traditional voters and other influences that polls and data-collecting services simply cannot measure, these elections are no longer a forgone conclusion.
But if we were to look ahead to predictions, according to model and predicting tool 538; It appears (as of the date that this article was published) that the Senate will stay either at a 50/50 split or the Democrats will gain seats, and the House of Representatives will flip to being controlled by the Republican Party.
One major metric coming out of elections that we can turn to that’s more conclusive, is exit polling data. This information is normally provided live on news networks, and it’s also published to outlets’ websites as voters leave election sites and describe the issues that drove them to go vote. For those who want to learn about the issues that matter to Americans most before the polling data starts trickling in, I recommend looking at this great tracking tool from Axios.
So what does all of this mean for PR professionals?
PR people would greatly benefit from digging through the data before the big day arrives. Now is a prime opportunity to get an understanding of the sentiments held by average Americans towards industry specific topics and broader societal issues. Having a strong handle on what the public is thinking, can help PR folks spur new ideas and better advise clients on the approaches that they should take on today’s most pressing issues.
On and following election day, exit polling data can serve as a vital, almost feedback, survey that can provide insights on the issues, especially from a macro-economics POV, that Americans – and, consequently today’s corporate leaders – are considering most. Those issues could range from supply chain woes, to unpredictable gas prices, regulations around climate or cryptocurrencies, inflation and recession concerns, and more. Once the data is available and analyzed post-midterms, PR professionals can use the findings to craft strategic, nuanced solutions and media campaigns for clients.
Also, PR folks would be wise to monitor for specific results that may affect clients. To do so, we should be asking ourselves questions such as:
- Are there any policies or principles that are now threatened by an election’s outcome, maybe regarding crypto, ESG or other financial institutional reforms?
- Are there new opportunities to pursue policy-wise that were previously off-the-table?
- Are any of my clients’ business practices going to be challenged and/or positively impacted due to a change in a district or state?
- Are there any new public affairs opportunities worth seizing based on the results?
Looking ahead, forecasts suggest that a divided government might be the outcome of Decision Day 2022. As such, PR professionals should expect a slowdown in new legislation, more partisan political commentary, and (possibly) a market that may stabilize in the short term due to increased government gridlock.
Addressing the Midterm Elections Outside of Work
Advising our clients is important as PR people, but looking at the election from a personal perspective is equally as important as well. We shouldn’t just be encouraging our clients to care about the election; we should also be invested in it ourselves. As individuals living in the United States, it’s crucial that we don’t take our foundational right to vote for granted.
As PR professionals, we do a ton of reading and researching already, so doing some background on candidates and their policies to make informed decisions when you go to exercise your right to vote should be easy.
Check out vote.org to learn if you’re registered and to learn how you can either vote by mail or cast your ballot in-person at your local polling.