Public relations plays key role in presidential politics

PAN Media

This post is courtesy of Dave Hogan, APR and originally appeared on ReporterNews.

October 12, 2012

From Twitter to YouTube, President Barack Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney both have skillfully used the latest social media tools to generate publicity and garner more votes during this year’s presidential election campaign.

While social media may be new, using the latest communication techniques has long been a part of presidential politics. A look back at the history of the presidency shows what a pivotal role publicity has played in helping presidents shape public opinion and win votes.

Andrew Jackson, who served in the White House in the early 19th century, owed much of his success to Amos Kendall, a former newspaper editor, who served as a close advisor to the president. Kendall is considered the first presidential press secretary. He conducted public opinion polls, wrote speeches for the president and penned favorable articles about Jackson that many newspapers carried. Kendall also pioneered the use of article reprints, a technique still used today in public relations. When a newspaper wrote a positive story about the president, Kendall reprinted it and circulated it widely, gaining what PR pros call “third-party credibility.”

Toward the end of the 19th century, another newspaper journalist, George F. Parker, managed publicity for President Grover Cleveland. Among other tactics, Parker circulated the president’s speeches in advance to journalists, generating more favorable media coverage.

One president who was a master at managing public opinion was Theodore Roosevelt, who served from 1901 to 1909. Understanding the power of the media to influence the public, Roosevelt regularly conducted news conferences and granted media interviews, one of the first presidents to do so. An early conservationist, he invited reporters and photographers to join him on a trip to Yosemite National Park. The resulting publicity led to the creation of the national parks and forest system we know today.

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