Bob Schieffer (via his friend Tom Friedman of The New York Times) recently had an interesting commentary on political branding. Seems an advertising man explained to Friedman why major commercial brands don’t eat each other alive by “going negative” on a competitor in the same industry. Why it isn’t done, the ad man initially explained to Friedman, is because it destroys the industry. Demeaning the competitor demeans everyone.

Schieffer used the ad rule and applied it to politics, posting an interesting political commentary at the end of a recent Sunday’s “Face the Nation” show on CBS.

Schieffer pointed out that parties and candidates that denigrate each other only denigrate the system as a whole. And when a system is denigrated by its own, it certainly doesn’t give any consumer confidence.

So is going negative ever a positive?

There are several types of unsolicited media queries we deal with on a weekly basis:

  • Can your client comment on something going on in the news now but not directly related to your client’s business? (expert spokesperson)
  • Can your client comment about good news/bad news affecting the client’s business directly? (direct spokesperson)
  • Can your client comment about someone else’s bad news if your client is in a similar business? (secondary expert spokesperson)

In one week we declined interviews with Dr. Phil, Inside Edition and Chicago Public Radio because the secondary news was so negative there was no point offering an opinion or observational commentary from our clients.

Of the three requests, one involved a death, the second a lawsuit and the third a criminal act. Clearly, the producers and reporters knew this when calling – but still tried the sweet talk approach to land a secondary voice.

“It will only take three minutes of your time.”

“We can Skype you in from L.A.”

“All we need is someone to address why incidents like this happen and we really want to go to the top on this one and your group really is the best expert.”

Not going to happen. In fact, never going to happen.

Owning your own bad news is tough enough, but throwing your calling card into someone else’s messy business is a fool’s venture.

So is destroying your category.

There’s a difference between silence in an industry that protects malfeasance as opposed to jumping on the bandwagon and becoming the thousandth critic getting 30 seconds of airtime when a brand is under attack.

The sooner politicians learn that, the quicker people will be to participate, respect and engage in the political process.

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