We’re coming up on that time of the political cycle when the presidential primary is impossible to ignore. If you’re campaigning for a non-presidential office or you’re part of an organization that doesn’t have a direct link to the 2024 primary, it can be tempting and possibly beneficial to wade into the discourse around the Republican candidates.
But depending on your mission, reacting to every horse-race poll or policy statement from Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis might not best course of action. The reality is that if you make the wrong choice on whether to engage or ignore, you can do active harm to your campaign or organization.
My company works with leaders aiming to build movements that last longer than one political cycle, so our clients are planning their moves based on their long-term goals. The big-picture objective influences everything they do, including which news they engage with.
Here are the things I advise my clients to consider as they react to presidential campaign news:
Does your audience care?
There’s a good chance that the most active members of your online community are already inundated with content about the presidential election. If that’s the case, will they actually be interested in your opinion?
If you’re not sure, it might be better to keep your messaging focused on your specific initiatives and what you want to be known for. If you’re trying to build a base and movement that will stick with you regardless of what’s happening in the news, you need to be known for who you are and what you’re going to do, not just your opinion on other candidates.
If you’re thinking about deploying an email, text, post, or ad about the presidential race, make sure it’s aligned with your overall mission and says something about you, not just other campaigns. If it doesn’t, it’s just a distraction and a likely waste of resources.
Is your perspective especially relevant?
If you’re debating whether to fundraise around a topic in the news, consider whether you have something unique or relevant to say. Are you saying something just to say it, or are you providing real value to your audience?
Sometimes this is an easy call. When a presidential campaign makes a local appearance, for instance, you can provide a perspective on whether that candidate’s values align with your community’s values. If you’re campaigning for an office that will be able to check and balance executive power, your perspective on presidential issues is often relevant and important! If you’re known as a leader on certain issues, your supporters will expect you to forcefully come out for or against presidential policy positions in your area of expertise.
Your creative content should amplify your campaign’s unique perspective on the news, not just your gut reaction to it.
Are you chasing attention or attracting it?
There’s no question that there’s a lot of money involved in presidential politics, and if you can develop especially captivating content related to the presidential race, you can certainly make a quick buck. But if you haven’t done the work to build your own brand, you should first spend your resources doing that.
What do you want to be known for? On which topics are you an authority? What issue should your supporters know you’re working on, even when it’s not in the news? Your communications, marketing, and fundraising strategies should all be influenced by your core campaign narrative. Your core campaign narrative will keep you focused so you can stop chasing the latest hot topic and start attracting support based on who you are and what you stand for.
One common mistake I see campaigns make is to repeatedly react to outrageous news and extreme policies without providing an aspirational alternative. Running for office is an inherently hopeful act. The most powerful, memorable campaign and organizational communications paint a picture of what life could look like if we make the necessary changes. It’s a lot easier to do that if you have that aspirational future in your head every time you make a decision.
Alesa Mackool is the founder and president of ACM Strategies, a team of strategists that specializes in helping progressive leaders and organizations build sustainable movements. To read more of her tips about digital campaign strategy, movement building, and workplace culture, connect with her on LinkedIn .