With Deval Patrick leaving office after two terms as governor and at least nine declared candidates (including such Bay State notables as Steve Grossman, Martha Coakley and Charlie Baker) hot on his heels vying for the Corner Office, this race, and subsequent election, is sure to be one for the ages.
The Rappaport Center for Law and Public Service at Suffolk University’s School of Law is already at the forefront of the action by hosting an ongoing series of roundtable gubernatorial discussions and Q&A sessions with all declared candidates. From a public relations standpoint, Regan Communications Group has also dove head-first into the race by drafting releases and advisories announcing each candidate’s appearance, encouraging media to attend each event, staffing each Rappaport Roundtable, and live tweeting key policy points coming straight from the candidates’ mouths.
My primary role in this series is the same as my previous occupation – reporter. With my laptop and tape recorder in tow, I type the candidate’s thoughts and stances on specific policy issues ferociously to quickly turn around a news story for the Rappaport Center. The story goes up on the law center’s website, and serves as a template for a post-event press release distributed by RCG.
Even after five years spent at the Boston Herald meeting tight deadlines and churning out continuous copy, the pressure is still on. There’s 90 minutes of material to sift through and condense into an organized story and a two-and-a-half hour window to do it in. No easy task, but fortunately one I’ve gotten used to over time, especially if research is done beforehand.
Huddled at a desk inside the Suffolk Law Library, I get to work making sure the product I send over makes total and complete sense. As my team leader Paula says to me after each event, “Godspeed!”
If you find yourself in a similar PR/journalism situation involving the gubernatorial candidates, here’s a few helpful pointers when it comes to writing materials about your event:
- DO YOUR RESEARCH – Most candidates are well-known to the public but there’s always a few whose names haven’t seeped into the public consciousness. If you have the time, you need to read up on each candidate’s core beliefs regarding the major issues affecting the state – healthcare, education, casinos, etc. That way you’ll be able to catch immediately whether they stick to these same principles during your event or change their views entirely.
- DRAFT A TEMPLATE – It’s difficult to tell what the core point of your article/release will be before the event has happened but if you have at least the basic facts handy – some background information about the candidate, venue, tone of the election – you can start shaping your overall piece and plug key items in as they develop.
- REMAIN UNBIASED – Traditional media tends to reflect two sides of an argument in their respective stories about a candidate but when you are writing a story for a specific institution (like a college or university), your words have to reflect what comes solely out of the speakers’ mouths. Let the newspapers and TV stations challenge the candidate’s points, your job is to report what was said during the event. Period.
- HUMANIZE THE CANDIDATE – At events like these, you’ll be listening closely for core points to include in your article but don’t forget to include some personal information about them as well. If a candidate ran in last year’s Boston Marathon (a la Jeff McCormick) or is advocating for greater mental health services after a family member’s suicide (Martha Coakley), media is more likely apt to include that tidbit in their own stories.
- LISTEN FOR REPETITION – If a candidate makes the same point repeatedly, chances are high that will directly play into the headline, lede or nut graph of your article/release. Anything that can be summed up with quotation marks (example – “Jeff for Jobs”) epitomizes a candidate’s main platform as a gubernatorial candidate.
To access previous articles from the Rappaport Roundtable Gubernatorial Series, visit: http://www.suffolk.edu/law/knowledge/rappaport-center/27695.php.
-Ira Kantor, Team Paula