PR Tactics That Differed in the 2020 Presidential Campaigns
By: Courtney Viera
This week has been long-awaited by many as we entered our 59th Presidential election in the United States. In the weeks leading up to now, we have been watching both candidates campaign their ways through the country. Both President Trump and Vice President Biden have taken different approaches to how they will get their messages across to the American people.
2020 has been an unconventional year, to say the least, and the classic way we’re used to the candidate’s campaigning has definitely changed. Instead of candidates traveling the nation moving from rally to rally, candidates were asked to find alternative ways to reach their different demographics. When the virus first appeared, I was curious to see how the candidates would follow CDC guidelines while going out to meet civilians. The candidates both continued with having rallies but had contrasting ways of organizing them.
Trump’s campaign decided to continue down the route they always go down: large, packed rallies. These rallies, although outside, did not follow the guidelines presented by the CDC. Many people who participated, both Trump himself, and civilians did not wear masks or abide by the six feet distance rule. This plan worked for those who support Trump. By the President letting it be known that he feels supporters have the freedom to decide whether or not they were to wear masks and continue with rallies how it normally would be pre-Covid, it was found comforting to supporters. He encouraged that although we are in a pandemic and most are panicking, we can still have the normal too.
Biden on the other hand did follow the guidelines set by the CDC and decided to pursue rallies by having them drive-in style. This allowed for people to hear what he had to say while remaining six feet away from other people. Because of all the cars that would attend these rallies, fewer people would be able to attend. For the people who support Biden, this is what they would expect. They understood the virus is as deadly as the scientists say it is, and by having a smaller rally it indicated to them that he took this pandemic seriously. This may have deterred swing voters though, because they may want the personal touch of the candidates going out and meeting with the civilians where they get to hear their stories.
Political ads have been around for a long time. We used to see them only on the television, but as social media has taken over we are seeing more and more ads on various platforms.
Since Trump has taken to the Presidential campaigns in 2016, we have seen a different type of campaign that is more fear and negative emotion-based which is on-brand for Trump. We saw a lot of these ads addressed towards Hillary Clinton calling her crooked and corrupt. These ads continued as Biden ran for this election, this time trading out the words crooked for sleepy and corrupt for dangerous. This campaign implemented using social media as their main way of getting their ads out to their supporters. They also used television ads, but not as many. His ads were dominantly promoted through his personal Twitter page and Facebook.
Biden took more of the old fashion route, still using television ads as his primary way to reach out to supporters. He specifically spent a lot of money on advertising in the swing states. The ads his campaign went for were on-brand for Biden. The campaign went with the angle of what he plans to do in office, while addressing the challenges that we are currently facing as a country.
Apparel and repping your party’s swag has also been around for a long time. Presidential campaigns use this swag as a way to have supporters marketing for them as they are out and about.
The most well-known piece of swag in this Presidential campaign is the Make America Great Again (MAGA) hats. If you haven’t seen this hat in the last four years then you must have been living under a rock. This hat most infamously comes in bright red with white letters, but also comes in many different colors. The way the apparel is designed for this campaign is pretty in your face. Fonts are bolded and large. The colors used are mainly red, white, navy, and army green, extremely patriotic. Most of the apparel is categorized, for example saying Blacks or Latinos for Trump. Another one is Law Enforcement for Trump. Both on-brand for the campaign being run.
For Biden’s campaign, there was a more subtle approach to the design of the apparel. It still used red, white, and navy but also incorporated other colors. The designs had a younger feel to them which could appeal to younger voters. He also had shirts that read Black or Latinos for Biden, while also having shirts that conveyed unity and going out to vote. Similar to his television ads all of this was on-brand for his campaign.
The final difference I noticed was in the campaign's media training.
Over the past four years, we have known that in interviews Trump often takes control of them. He determines where it’s going, what kinds of questions he will or won’t answer, and when he’s had enough. This didn’t change as he campaigned. The debates are one place this was seen. Oftentimes, the President would talk over or interrupt either the moderator or Vice President Biden. He also talked to them rather than the American people and would tend to become emotional and go around the question being asked.
Biden’s training showed he had more control in these types of settings. Going back to the debates, there were times where the President would say something that Biden would disagree with. Rather than going on a tangent of why he feels what was said was wrong, he simply chuckled and nodded. He also was seen addressing the American people by looking into the camera. This helped him because it made people feel that he was for them and talking directly to them rather than at them.