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Paul Novak 15 Tips on Political Communications

by Paul Novak , Novak Media Inc

September 2006

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Occasionally a young professional in the business will approach me--without meaning to be unkind--and say, “Gee…you’re over 50. After 25 years in the business of political communications, what are the hard truths you’ve learned just by virtue of real-world experience?”

In fact, I'm delighted at the question. There’s a certain discomfort that comes with the onset of AARP eligibility, but also a calm confidence derived from knowing what you know, not from book learning, but experientially.

So here’s my list of “lessons learned” wandering down the path of umpteen political campaigns. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the corporate advertising world, I am amazed at how similar the rules are across client categories.

15 Real World Tips on Political Communications

  • Every campaign needs a rationale.
  • Most campaigns overstate their case. Keep it simple.
  • Pay attention to production values and creative concepts. Tactics matter.
  • Your job is to figure out what you want to say.
    Our job is to figure out how to say it.
  • Media weight matters. If money is the mother’s milk, critical mass is the nutritional value.
  • When it comes to electronic media, a small group of key decision makers is more effective than a large, “democratic” process.
  • Figure out who's with you, and who's against you.
    Voters not in either group are your primary target audience.
  • Good campaign verbs: listen, compromise, respect, differentiate.
  • Cost-efficiency drives the choice of media.
  • Great Campaign Plans grow out of the question, “What does it take to win?”
  • The 200 people you know are a terrible focus group.
  • Never let your media consultant mystify with jargon.
    Ask questions.
  • Polling sometimes obscures as many truths as it illuminates.
  • Table-pounders aren’t necessarily smarter operatives.
  • There’s a time and place for every other medium, but nothing works quite like television.


Paul Novak is President of Novak Media in Rochester. He earned his professional credentials creating advertising for 'win or die' political campaigns. The lessons proved invaluable and for the last 20 years he's been refining and applying them to advertising for businesses, non-profits and yes, politics.

A native of New York's Hudson Valley, Paul is a graduate of the University of Buffalo. He worked for the state legislature and then-Governor Mario Cuomo, before veering into the advertising business. He's been an executive board member for the Rochester Boys and Girls Club and the Coalition for Common Sense in Education, as well as a trustee at Geneseo State College.

A member of the American Association of Political Consultants, Paul regularly guest lectures at colleges and universities on advertising in the public and political arena. For some reason, he can recite the name of every American President, in order, in less than 20 seconds. Call for a demo.

Email: paul@novakmedia.net
Company Profile: Novak Media Inc
Company URL: http://www.novakmedia.net

 

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