Yesterday, Ted Cruz announced he was running for President in front of a crowd of students at Liberty University, who were required to attend. Several students wore Rand Paul for President shirts and were in the line of sight for every TV camera covering the event.
Planned or unplanned, this was a brilliant PR move on the part of Rand Paul supporters. for the cost of, nothing (if they already owed the shirts), these students generated millions of dollars of PR for the Paul campaign. Virtually all of the newscasts I saw, from ABC News to the Daily show, gave prominent mention to the Rand Paul supporters and their ability to get the Paul name, logo and colors into all the news on what was supposed to be Ted Cruz’ big day.
As much as I and other professional communicators like to talk about sound bites and messaging and rehearsing speeches, there is still a big role for the well-thought out visual, especially when you can worm your way into someone else’s event when the other person has done all the heavy lifting of generating news coverage. And I don’t say that as a criticism of these students; they were required to attend the speech otherwise they would have had to pay a $10 fine.
Ted Cruz is someone who pays close attention to details and was photographed practicing his speech the night before, down to the details of practicing kissing his wife (believe it or not). But the Cruz people made a tactical decision of going for a large, ready-made crowd versus one made up exclusively of Ted Cruz supporters. And with that decision came the inevitable loss of control.
Ted Cruz did get a lot of good publicity on his announcement day, but the Rand Paul supporters generated a fair amount too, and for zero effort or expense. That’s why they deserve the PR play of the day award.
TJ Walker advises candidates and businesses on PR strategy. You can reach him at Media Training Worldwide 2212.764.4955.