After Tampa, Democrats Practice Reactive PR for Charlotte

Battle of the Conventions: Round 2

Now that the presidential spotlight has moved from the Republicans in Tampa to the Democrats in Charlotte, N.C.,  you can bet that the communications team on the Democratic side is studying the Republican event with a microscope.

Why? The tradition of the incumbent party going last with its convention sets up the practice of "reactive PR" perfectly. As reporter Ron Elving of NPR puts it,  "Any sandlot ballplayer knows the value of batting last in baseball, but what is the value of doing the same when you're running for president of the United States?"

For the Democrats the value could be high.

A Gallup poll released Monday, Sept. 2 shows Romney trailing Obama 46% to 47%, the same numbers before the Republican event began. So, the convention was a PR wash for Romney.

The poll also found just 38% of the public say Mitt Romney's speech was "excellent" or "good," (the lowest percentage since Gallup started asking the question in 1996. Thus, the tepid reaction to Romney's speech will be all the more reason to make sure Obama—famous for his oratorical skills--hits his speech out of the park.

Another place where the Democrats can score a PR victory is on the hot button issue of diversity. If you will recall, the Tampa gathering drew criticism from a diversity and inclusion standpoint. While the Republicans ensured women and minorities--particularly Hispanics--were represented on the stage, the lack of diversity among the delegates was noticeable, prompting a snarky Twitter handle crafted by singer Clay Aiken. There was also the horrific incident involving a CNN camera person: reportedly two attendees threw peanuts at the African American woman and said "this is how we feed the animals."

You can bet Democratic Party planners will make every effort to put inclusion and diversity front and center in Charlotte.

Finally, there was Clint Eastwood, who just may have stole Romney's thunder with his long and rambling speech. How will the Democrats respond?

A group of activists have set up a petition on to draft 90-year-old comedienne Betty White to be the Democrats' "mystery" guest. So far there are nearly 8,000 supporters of the proposal, and 28,500 likes on the "Bring Betty White to the DNC" page.

Whether or not to put the "Golden Girl" up on the Democratic stage has plenty of arguments on both sides. As Elving points out in his NPR piece, "batting last is no more a guarantee of victory in national politics than it is in the national pastime." But you can't help but think that Betty White looking into the camera and asking, "Do you feel lucky, punk?" would be a perfect example of reactive PR in action. A game winner, so to speak.

Follow Scott Van Camp: @svancamp01

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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