Platform Matters

Political campaigns can be a very difficult territory because politics is an area many people are very passionate about. Feelings get hurt very quickly in political discussion.

Political campaigns are well thought out but can be taken down at any second by one comment. This is why it is so imperative that the public affairs teams for the candidate are well trained, can think quickly, and always speak as one unit.

An impressive political campaign was the one of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in 1960. At the time of his campaign he was the youngest candidate to ever run for president, he was the first Catholic, and he had to win a very tough democratic party vote. Kennedy ultimately won the election, which has been one of the closest in history not capturing the 761st electoral vote for nomination until Wyoming was announced at the very end, and went on to be one of the most renowned presidents of all time.

Kennedy used a very clean cut ads, that utilized red, white, and blue, with black and white images of himself. However, one of the biggest tactics used by the Kennedy party was an untapped source in presidential campaigns.

The Kennedy party challenged Vice-President and Republican candidate Richard Nixon to a series of televised presidential debates. With 88% of American homes owning a television set by 1960 it was the first election were this mode could be used widely.

A young Kennedy used his youth and knowledge of the camera to his advantage. In many discussions his choice to involve the live debates is credited as his victorious act.

In an excerpt from “Campaign of 1960” on the JFK Presidential Library and Museum,

“Kennedy had met the day before with the producer to discuss the design of the set and the placement of the cameras. Nixon, just out of the hospital after a painful knee injury, did not take advantage of this opportunity. Kennedy wore a blue suit and shirt to cut down on glare and appeared sharply focused against the gray studio background. Nixon wore a gray suit and seemed to blend into the set.

Most importantly, JFK spoke directly to the cameras and the national audience. Nixon, in traditional debating style, appeared to be responding to Kennedy. Most Americans watching the debates felt that Kennedy had won. (Most radio listeners seemed to give the edge to Nixon.)

Almost overnight the issues of experience and maturity seemed to fade from the campaign. Studies would later show that of the four million voters who made up their minds as a result of the debates, three million voted for Kennedy. Nixon seemed much more poised and relaxed in the three subsequent debates, but it was the first encounter that reshaped the election.”

The campaign of 1960 proves an excellent point for the public relations and public affairs departments,

Photo Credit: James Vaughan Flickr via Compfight

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