All Politics (and Media!) is Local

By Hanni Itah
Hanni is a PR strategist who builds creative, integrated campaigns that grow measurable business results for her clients. When not helping companies fine-tune their stories, she's usually making one up for her two boys.

In a world of journalism and marketing majors, many are surprised to learn that I actually graduated from college with a degree in political science. Though I may not use my coursework in international peacekeeping or political theory on a day-to-day basis, I’ve found one principle has rung true throughout my career: all politics, and now all media, is local.

Coined by House Speaker Tip O’Neill, the phrase refers to the need of politicians to consider the wants and needs of their constituents when making legislative decisions. The principle rings true as we watch presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks on immigration in border states, while Hillary Clinton speaks to job creation amongst millennials. People are passionate about that which hits closest to home.

Now before I lose you to fear of yet another political piece, there are lessons in politics for the business world. I recommend the following for anyone looking to win over voters or customers this coming year.

All Media is Local

No, this does not mean you need to spin your enterprise security product for a reporter at your neighborhood newspaper. However, know that whenever you take a story to a publication, they care about why your story is applicable to them and their readers. While they may be impressed by your award-winning, first-on-the-market tool, if it has no impact to their readership, it’s not likely to be something they can cover. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is a lost cause. You just need to tell the story correctly. Perhaps there is a customer or local use case?

In the PR world, we use this most frequently with clients that want to get in front of specialty markets.  Sure they may know they want to speak with hospitals or universities or banks, but if you don’t have a message applicable to that audience, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Know Your Talking Points 

It’s rare to watch a political interview or debate and feel that the candidate answered any of the interviewer’s actual questions. And why? Because those candidates know their talking points and they are sticking to them (hopefully).

While I am certainly not condoning you go rogue on a reporter during an interview, the more prepared you are, the better the relationship you’ll build with a reporter. The more concisely you can tell your story (certainly not a trait of many politicians), the more respectful you’ll be of their time and attractive you’ll be as a future resource.

Trust, but Verify

Easiest way to ruin a relationship with a reporter? Give them inaccurate information. Reporters tend to go into interviews trusting the information provided to them by sources. However, if they find something was incorrect or misleading, you won’t likely receive a call from them again. Their professional reputations are at stake. Just as pundits are ready to pounce on every mistake spoken during a political debate, the internet has provided millions of readers ready to fact check every point in an article. So the next time you are ready to rattle off some growth numbers or a statistic heard at a recent conference, be ready to back it up.



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