I’ve been thinking a lot about the presidential election despite my best efforts to do otherwise. It’s not that I don’t care about the direction of our country, don’t get me wrong. I love politics. Washington, D.C. is just about my favorite place to visit. I watch Meet the Press every Sunday, and I watch the White House Correspondents’ Dinner like some people watch the Academy Awards. (OK, you caught me, I watch that too.)
But this election cycle has been so very, very strange. The rhetoric has been getting pretty vile from just about every side. And it seems like everyone has an opinion. Like, EVERYONE. It’s not just that one really boisterous uncle on Facebook anymore.
It got me thinking about what it’s doing to our images. I don’t mean the candidates. I mean all of us.
At some point this election will be over (oh please, oh please, oh please), and our lives will go on. We will still have to, most likely, talk to each other. We will still work together. We will hopefully still like each other.
As public relations/marketing professionals, we should all be extra careful. Unless your job is already in politics or campaigning, it seems professionally unwise to go shouting your political preferences from the rooftops. Especially since the current climate is less than civil.
Clearly, social media has changed the game in terms of elections. Remember when you didn’t know who your old high school English teacher was voting for? Or the only way you knew your neighbor’s beliefs was from an innocuous yard sign as opposed to, I don’t know, several articles posted per day on their candidate of choice? Those were good times.
I know someone who unfollows anyone who posts anything political, regardless of whether she agrees with them or not. She wants her social media feeds to be all vacations and puppies and babies. Those are my favorites too, but I don’t draw that hard of line in the sand.
However, I’ll be honest and say that I think twice about people who are exceedingly vocal right now, particularly those in our field. Would I want them handling PR for me?
So say you want to give money, or volunteer or attend an event for a candidate you believe in. Great. That’s your right. But do it personally. Maybe don’t make that picture of you wearing the t-shirt public and searchable. Still, that’s pretty benign stuff.
I’m more worried about people who make a picture of Donald Trump with swastikas for eyes and Hillary Clinton with dollar signs for eyes as their public profile. I’m looking at you, kid I used to babysit who is still in college. You will be a job seeker in the not-too-distant future.
Really, this is simply another reminder to watch yourself, especially online. Before you get swept up in the fervor of the moment, take a deep breath. You might have a beautifully designed PowerPoint or a 25-page white paper on why you are correct, but there’s a 99 percent chance you aren’t changing anyone’s mind.
We have about SEVEN more months until the election. Let’s try and be respectful, polite and, above all, quiet.
By Annie Gannon, Spokane MarCom President