One of the most important things in Public Relations is that you stay out in front of problems. Make sure that you’re the first one to define your brand, the competition’s brand and the debate. When trouble strikes, make sure you’re the one who is out there first explaining things. In general, make sure YOU’RE the one who creates the first impression in the minds of consumers, because it makes it much easier to keep customers on your side.
This is particularly true in politics. And it’s playing out in Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate election.
This week, Republican Pat Toomey, a former Congressman from the Lehigh Valley region of the state and President of the Club for Growth, ran these ads on Philadelphia television defining himself, Democratic nominee Joe Sestak and the debate in terms favorable to him:
There were no ads in response from Sestak. Why not?
This is not the same situation that Sestak had in the primary, where he held off on a TV ad blitz (including one very devastating ad) until the very end and still easily won. Incumbent Arlen Specter was very unpopular already and primary voters were simply waiting for Sestak to give them a reason to vote for him.
Other than Republicans (Toomey narrowly lost the GOP Primary for Senate to Specter in 2004) and his former constituents, most Pennsylvanians don’t know Toomey. And even fewer Pennsylvanians know Sestak, a two-term Congressman from Delaware County. A big part of this race is going to be which candidate can paint the other one as least mainstream in his views. Toomey has beaten Sestak to the punch on this. And it means that Sestak is going to be fighting an uphill battle to redefine both he and his opponent in a favorable manner.
That’s no easy task, especially for a Democratic candidate this year.