PR Professionals and Politicians Are Actually Kind of the Same Thing

As a PR professional for nearly two decades and a local politician for just over two years, I’ve started to notice that the two are actually much more similar than I would have thought. It’s a regular occurrence that I find myself instilling the values I’ve learned in PR to my role as a Councilman (and vice versa).

Stick to the Message
In both PR and politics, I’m always mindful of not straying from the key messages and not making any claims that I can’t back up. The last thing I want is to get dinged for misleading my client’s target audience or my constituents. Don’t go off script and start spouting off about something you haven’t looked into already. And, if you do, trust me when I say you will be reminded about it regularly. Hmm… maybe we should have teleprompters in client meetings!

Surround Yourself with Trusted Advisors
Working in Pharma PR has taught me to always have the voices of Legal, Regulatory, Compliance and Medical officers in my ear whenever I’m in the process of planning a communications strategy. It’s all about the message, not making false promises and staying balanced. In politics, I have similar voices in my ear including Legal, our Business Administrator, the Mayor and Council President guiding me through the process.

With both, it’s easy to overreact and want to respond quickly versus going through the motions when you see an article appear online, a social media post from a patient (or resident) or an organization taking aim at your client’s company or product; or you and your colleagues in office.

Create a Game Plan
A friend and fellow politician says all the time that it’s about “getting things done,” but I’ve learned in both PR and politics, that’s not always the case. More importantly, don’t rush it and make sure you go through every possible scenario.

For example, my town is exploring a new traffic light at an intersection known to have its share of accidents – no problem, this should be a no-brainer! Oh wait, how are we going to pay for this? What do we need to have in place before installing the traffic light? How long will this take? Do we need to conduct a study with the engineers? How long before the light turns? Will this create more traffic around the neighborhood? Do we set up a meeting with the residents to discuss?

Be Careful What You Promise
It’s easy to say “yes,” however, there needs to be a process in place and sometimes you need to step back and plan something out before committing. In politics and PR, there’s nothing wrong with doing your due diligence to create a plan you know will work. This way, you know that you’ll be prepared to answer the wave of questions that will follow.

A former PR colleague once told me that I should never promise something that I cannot deliver – and this has rung true in both PR and politics for me. I’ve learned that what you say and do is what people will remember. I never want a client to say I didn’t deliver, and I would never want to hear it as a politician, either. Both have equally negative ramifications – one could lead to a loss of business and the other could lead to a loss in November.

I’m Christopher Vancheri and I approve this message!

Chris Vancheri
Chris Vancheri, Vice President
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