With the primary just over a day away, we continue to be inundated by negative campaign ads and news stories that both cover and attempt to sort through the mudslinging. Mike Cox had his share of controversy this past week regarding new allegations of his involvement with the fabled Manoogian mansion party. My TV20 came by the Tanner Friedman offices to get our take, as communications consultants, on the situation.
What ended up on the TV station’s cutting room floor from the interview is what we counsel our clients when faced with such adversity: stick to your key messages—in this case, Cox’s campaign platform: ‘As a former marine and attorney general’, his primary message has been, ‘he has what it takes to make the tough decisions (including cutting taxes) to get Michigan on its feet again.’ And though one should never “hide” from particular allegations, how you respond to them is paramount.
Years ago, I worked with a law firm who had a client who was accused of sexual harassment. Though a talented litigator, a first draft of a statement he wrote in his client’s voice left much to be desired from a communicator’s standpoint as it repeated numerous negatives (i.e. “I unequivocably deny that I was involved in any type of sexual misconduct”). We opted instead to focus on the many positives associated with this individual’s numerous years of dedicated service and that the truth would prevail.
Equating this, then, to the realm of political advertising, I am always perplexed as to why politicians run campaign ads that mention the opposition (and their supposed gaffes). Why waste time and dollars on the “other guy (or gal)”? Use it to promote your ideas and your name. Plus, studies show that voters respond negatively to the candidate slinging the mud.
Full circle back to Cox, he fairly adeptly handled the latest ‘revelations’ calling them ‘ludicrous.’ I would have left it at that and moved on. Instead, he suggested political espionage in the news’ timing, and, in additional sound bites, said he ‘did not know Kilpatrick at that time.’ Do you really need to know someone to be at their party? Almost always (and especially here) less is more—lest you raise even more questions and doubts.