Controversy is a good thing

Controversy is a good thing

By Ray Hanania

A lot of candidate’s fear controversy. They shouldn’t. What’s important about controversy?

Most controversy is acceptable controversy. People say there is no such thing as “bad publicity.”

Well, short o being convicted for pedophilia, robbing a convenience store, or beating your wife in public in front of multiple witnesses, most “bad publicity” is actually good publicity.

You define “Good.” You take control of the word “Bad” and redefine that, too.

Usually, the controversy is driven by the mainstream news media, which is a political organization in-and-of-itself, rather than by your challenger, opponent or your adversary.

The media will frequently take sides and push one candidate or another. That’s how they make money. If there is no controversy or political battle, they don’t “sell newspapers.” The dirtier and uglier the battle, the better it is for the mainstream news media.

But when you are attacked in the media, it’s an opportunity to take charge.

Controversy immediately puts you centerstage. It puts you in the spotlight.

In many election campaigns, candidates can’t get media coverage, unless it is controversial. The news media doesn’t spend a lot of ink on positive things. “If it bleeds, it leads” is the media mantra. Meaning, the more controversial, the more it is pushed to the front of the media steam engine.

The controversy is what the media uses to “sell newspapers.” It is also what good politicians and candidates use to put themselves in the public’s eye.

Of course, when you are in the public’s eye, you have to be ready to take charge. And taking charge involves many of the things I have been writing about on this website. Pivoting. Brevity, Clarity. Simplicity. Commonsense issues.

You are accused of taking a bribe. Of course you deny it. You can’t allow the accusation to go without a response. The public assumes that silence is guilt.

But, in denying the accusation, you also control the moment when you are in the media’s spotlight and you offer something that advances the story in your own favor.

This is where brainstorming comes in and having a good group of strategists and issues-driven advisors. As a group, you determine what the controlling issue response will be.

1 – Deny the accusation

2 – Provide a reasonable, commonsense response to the accusation that is believable. And, easy to understand. Simplicity.

3 – Pivot to another issue that segues off of the accusation, or spins off the accusation.

Give the news media a better controversy to take the story back to your critic.

Don’t just sit there and focus on your opponent’s accusation. If you do, you have lost and the opponent has won this moments. Don’t play in your opponents backyard or baseball field. Bring it to your backyard and your baseball field. Turn the away game into a home game. Home field advantage is critical.

Throw the new issue at the media and give the media and the public the facts they need to believe it.

And of curse, in every encounter with the news media, don’t rely on the media to write the story. Don’t allow the news media to decide what’s important and what’s not. Don’t let the reporters determine what the lede of the story will be. You define the lede by writing your own press release. Write the press release the way you would want to see it published.

That requires having someone who knows the media (a former professional reporter like myself, of course) and understands how the media thinks and writes.

Write the release. Make enough copies. Hand it out to reporters. Email it to the reporters. Then distribute it widely. Put it on the Internet on your website. make sure to post it on Google+ where it will automatically get showcased at the top of search engines for the key words you define for the topic.

Take photos and distribute the photos.

Create your own blog and post the information there. Then post the link to your blog post on your campaign Facebook Page and Twitter page so people can click the link and go to your story.

Don’t let the mainstream news media control you. You can control the news media.