When Should You Publish Branded Content During Election Season?

As public relations professionals and marketers, timing is always important. In the PR world, knowing exactly when to launch a campaign or to publish a new media asset can make the difference between success and a less-than-stellar performance.

But it’s safe to say none of us have had to deal with scheduling situations like the ones we’re in now. Elections seasons are contentious and take up more than just the political sections of news publications. We’ve gone through a pandemic, global unrest, natural disasters, wars in Ukraine and Gaza, impeachment trials, and trying to find your voice in this busy landscape is more than just a puzzle.

[Read More: On Working in Communications During a Global Crisis]

So, how do you know when to publish your branded content campaigns? With the 2024 presidential election on the horizon, I sat down with David Olson, our Senior Vice President at Brandpoint, to get his take on distribution and what PR and communications professionals can do to make sure their brand gets in front of their target audience. Read his answers and thoughts below.

Q: How can I make sure my brand’s message does not get lost in the noise of the 2024 presidential election news cycle?

A: The news cycle surrounding the election is guaranteed to be an impenetrable wall of noise. Collectively, the candidates have crushed all-time records for political donations, which are funding massive ad spends across the spectrum of media channels.

However, omnipresence doesn’t ensure engagement. Remember that many people are turned off by the negative tone of political ads. Commercial-skipping technology is common on most TVs, and ad blockers are popular on all web browsers.

I believe the winning move is to provide an escape from all the noise. And this is where sponsored content becomes relevant for PR agencies. The key is guaranteed results. If you get a chance for guaranteed media placements, audience metrics, clicks and engagement in a saturated media landscape, you take it.

Not all branded content providers offer guarantees, so be sure to do some digging. And search out providers that work with the nation’s biggest media outlets to ensure your reach is as big as possible.

[Read More: Takeaways from PRSA ICON 2023: AI, Misinformation and the Elections]

Q: What is the best timing for media distribution and placements this election season?

A: The election is fast approaching. Keep these tips in mind to give your campaigns the best chance for success:

  • Lower expectations around high-profile dates, including major news events and election night. The opportunity for PR pros to get non-political messaging out is just too limited. Your best move is simply not to play.
  • Pitching earned media — which has already been difficult this year — will only get harder as the election gets closer and media coverage reaches a fever pitch. Your best bet is to focus on paid media to ensure coverage at the timing that best suits your campaign goals.
  • Election fatigue is real. The general public can only take so much political news on TV, radio, Facebook and Twitter. Increased polarization among the electorate doesn’t help. Assuming the election isn’t contested, there will be a news vacuum to fill once it’s over. Generating media placements will continue to get easier as the communal mindset shifts to the upcoming holiday season.

Q: Are newsrooms still looking for branded content right now?

A: Yes, media outlets are actively searching for branded content and Guaranteed Media Placements, like MAT releases. The demand is higher than ever.

The sad reality is that the pandemic made life difficult for media outlets, just as it has for thousands of American businesses. Newsrooms are shedding staff, as thousands of journalists have been laid off or furloughed.

The end result is that media outlets with depleted resources are increasing their use of sponsored content to supplement the news they create in-house. But that doesn’t mean that their quality standards have gone down at all. Brand content needs to be informative, topical and produced by skilled writers.

Looking forward to the end of 2024 and even 2025, I expect more of the same. Political unrest, the lingering pandemic and televised presidential court cases will take up plenty of air time, and that means branded content should continue to thrive.

[Read More:What is Branded Content?]

Q: How do you see AI playing a part in PR, advertising and marketing during election season? 

A: AI has been a hot-button topic in every industry, and the PR and marketing world is no different. While using artificial intelligence can help streamline repetitive processes, help brainstorm and ideate, research and analyze data, and make for a more efficient work process, many people are concerned about misinformation and a lack of human element to review, approve and finesse. 

[Read More: What is Controlled Media?]

  • PR teams should come up with a plan on how they’ll utilize AI in their branded campaigns if they haven’t already. Create rules of engagement, best practices, and how to communicate transparently when content is AI-generated. 
  • Keep an eye on how public figures and brands talk about or use AI and how audiences respond. If you work in a tech industry, there might be a different reaction to the concept compared to speaking directly to lifestyle or heath brands. Your audience is the most important to the success of your campaigns, so remain authentic to their needs and interests. 
  • It might get ugly. Be prepared. Public figures might use AI to spread false information about their opponents, and on the other hand, others might use AI as a “get out of jail free” card when they want to deny something they have done. If your brand somehow gets involved, you’ll be best to have a crisis response plan in place before it’s too late. Work with your PR team on statements, social media posts, sponsored content distribution, and other tactics you can activate if needed. 

Q: How can my brand avoid looking tone-deaf during the elections and other societal issues?

A: The good news is that we’ve seen countless examples of brands communicating effectively in this perfect storm of historical events. Some commonalities in these efforts include:

  • A perspective grounded in empathy. Companies that lack this basic quality in their communication efforts are in for a tough Q4. But those brands that communicate with a sensitivity toward the challenges facing many Americans today have a chance to humanize their public perception.
  • A nuanced understanding of tone. Corporate-speak and jargon appear especially insensitive right now. While it’s important that your tone aligns with your brand voice, consider a softer approach with word choices and phrases in your writing. The right tone helps you relate to your audience’s emotions and can build credibility and trust.
  • An interest in taking a leadership role when faith in politicians is fading. According to Edelman’s Trust Barometer Special Report, 55% of respondents said that brands are responding faster and more effectively than government has to COVID-19.
With Brandpoint’s branded content solutions, companies are able to create and distribute sponsored content with guaranteed placement, reach and engagement. With our Business feature, brands can share the human side of their business, either through Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, DEI programs or thought leadership content that showcases an executive’s values. Learn more about this offering here

We’d love to help you plan, create and distribute your next branded content campaign. Contact us today to learn how we can help you boost awareness and get media placements for your brand.

Note: This post was first published in October 2020 and has been updated for relevancy. 

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