You're Viewing the Archives
Return to IVN's Frontpage

Advice for Candidates: 6 Things You Should Do to Handle Negative Campaigns

by Tharika Tellicherry, published

No one wants to be around when things go wrong especially in politics.

When the media is saying great things about you, handling the limelight is easy. But bad press can happen to anyone in politics, no matter how much care and planning is involved in an election campaign. It may be a statement taken out of context, or something said by your party member, or family member.

Negative campaigns are a part and parcel of politics, worldwide. They can have a substantial effect on voter impressions. A bad press coverage can drive away your voters. Your success as a political candidate depends on the way you handle the crisis of a bad press. Here is what you can do to handle a bad press.

1) Have a Contingency Plan

Right from the time you start your campaign, plan and be prepared to handle bad media coverage. Start by selecting advisors for your media team who can be entrusted with the task of handling bad press.

Plan ahead on the party’s response to key issues and strategize on ways to tackle any problem that may arise.

Invest in a dependable team to fall back on in times of crisis. A good team will help you in understanding the media issues well and in devising a wise response to minimize the damage caused by the bad news coverage.

2) Dealing with a Negative Campaign by an Opponent

The 2016 US presidential elections witnessed a lot of negative campaigns with both the candidates attacking each other on media. Over 60% of Clinton’s ads attacked Donald Trump.

Such negative campaigns are designed to alienate people from supporting the opponent by questioning their suitability for the office. When attacked by an opponent on media, work on a counter-attack response. Disprove rumors and false data.

If you are dealing with false data, get documents to prove them wrong. Do whatever it takes to safeguard your reputation.

3) Don’t Try to Hide It

One of the worst ways to deal with a bad press is to try to cover it up and not address it. News -- especially bad ones --

don’t die out easily. Not only will you be judged, many will assume that the allegations against you are true if you don’t answer back in time. Ignoring negative campaigns can cost you dearly in elections.

Something that Democrat leader Michael Dukakis learned the hard way after his defeat to Republican George H.W. Bush in the 1988 presidential election. While Dukakis defended most of the negative ads, he chose to ignore the infamous Willie Horton Ad, released by a political committee that supported Bush.

"I thought people were tired of a lot of the polarization that was taking place... and basically just said, 'We're not going to respond to those attacks. It was a terrible mistake," said Dukakis, looking back at his loss at the presidential elections.

People will remember the way you handled the crisis as a leader. When a media story attacks you, act immediately to take stock of the situation with your team and craft your response.

Analyze the issue and its possible impact. Decide on the best course of action and craft a response immediately. Make sure you get your response out there.

4) Respond in the Same Channel Where You Were Attacked

While you can choose any channel to speak up, always respond to an attack on the medium you were attacked. Ensure that the voters can see your response to the attack. Make it clear to readers and viewers about your point of view. Let them know if the media is stretching the truth out of proportion or providing false information.

Additionally, you can pen your views in your own opinion letter to a magazine or newspaper.

5) Drive Attention to Your Campaign

Once you get your response out in public, drive attention of the media towards your campaign and message. Don’t stay on the same topic. Focus on the issues that are most important to your voters. Get people to think about your campaign’s goals and the real issues that will impact them.

6) Continue Promoting Your Good Work

Don’t let negative PR stop you from promoting the good work that you do. Continue releasing pamphlets, and press releases for the positive contributions you have made towards the community. Gain visibility for your good actions. Use media coverage to make your work well known.

Media plays a dominant role in mobilizing common citizens with the information they need to cast their votes. Unchecked negative media campaign can sway voters against you. If the right measures are taken, you can put a positive spin on a negative campaign and influence voters in a positive way.

You just have to keep working towards success in the political race. The key is to not lose hope and keep moving forward against all adversities like an airplane.

“When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it” – Henry Ford

Photo Credit: razorbeam /

About the Author