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Sarah Palin: testing the ability of social media to relaunch a brand

May 31, 2011

When she came on the scene, Sarah Palin was an unknown brand.

A blank slate.

As a brand, she was given one of the largest, most comprehensive launches any brand can be given.

She was named as a potential VP candidate in the first truly digital election. This was the first election with smartphones. The first one where the majority had fast internet connections. The first one with YouTube, Facebook, Twitter. The first one where blogs mattered.

And she launched with a bang. The speech she gave was, as they say, red meat. She held herself composed, well-spoken, and the result was positive across the board.

As a brand, the launch went really, really, well.

Then, it didn’t.

The Katie Couric interview was one of the first chips in the brand. More interviews with the press eroded the brand. Tell all books, gossip, all this impacted the way people looked at the brand. And make no mistake, the branding of a politician is critical. It takes more than just ads. It takes PR, it takes social media, it takes events. It takes positive news from the press.

Or, it did. Because the news of 2011 is that Sarah Palin is on a bus tour:

“Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin rides into a motorcycle rally at the Pentagon wearing black leather and declaring, ‘I love that smell of the emissions!’ It’s an untraditional start for such an event, which is usually highly orchestrated.

Emphasis mine.

Usually, it is ‘highly orchestrated’. Usually, Sarah Palin would call the press and invite them to the event. They would ask questions, she’d answer with talking points, there’d be a sound-byte, and we’d wait for the next stop on the bus. But not this bus tour.

Karl Rove, who knows something about running a campaign, complained:

“Sarah Palin — much different, which is: ‘I’m gonna conduct a bus tour, where I go not to — ‘ I mean, she’s about ready, sometime in the next couple of weeks, to make her first visit to New Hampshire in over two years. That’s, that’s really unusual. And then you’ve got the situation of — you know, she’s going to Antietam and Gettysburg and to Philadelphia. And I’ll bet you a dime to a dollar that those visits to those areas are not preceded by courtesy phone calls to the local Republican Party chairmen and a request that they generate volunteers. She’s just gonna announce her schedule and show up. So that’s what I mean by unconventional.”

Emphasis mine.

Sarah Palin appears to be on a mission to do it differently. Instead of using the press to get out her message, she is getting out her message with Facebook and Twitter. When asked about her campaign, here’s what she said:

“it would definitely be nonconventional and untraditional, yes.”

And just to tidy this all up, that previous quote was reported on Twitter, by the author of a biography on her.

She’s using her website to tell people where she’s going next. She even ditched the press on the tour.

I’m always interested in how politicians use social media, so I’ll be watching where this goes. I was interested in the way Obama used social media. He used it well, and as part of a bigger campaign. Sarah Palin seems to be using social media as the campaign.

If she runs, will she run ads? Or will her messages come as Facebook postings?

My final thought: we know social media can’t launch a brand, but this one was launched. At her height, she was incredibly popular to republicans. In re-launching her brand, and trying to regain that popularity, she is skipping the press. Love her or not, this is going to be interesting to watch.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. September 1, 2013 10:51 am

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