More candidates are now finding themselves suddenly thrust into the glare of the media spotlight. Their experience invites the comparison to another group of aspiring professionals now getting attention: the blue-chip college football players who are joining the ranks of the NFL in the current draft that runs through April 28.
How important is it to handle the sudden attention? Social media and camera phones can sometimes make or break a potential career. Just ask Howard Dean, Beto O’Rourke or Greg Gianforte.
The agents of these soon-to-be superstars are charged with creating the narrative that mirrors most political messaging: Pick me for the long term and you can’t go wrong.
Here’s what consultants can take away from the draft process and how they can apply it to their candidate.
Recognize and fix weaknesses.
Most NFL scouts and general managers see pros and cons with just about any draft pick. And when it comes to quarterbacks, the most demanding position in the game, flaws are amplified for the world to see.
A good agent will get his quarterback to work on his footwork and accuracy the same way a good consultant will get his candidate to work on his debate skills and knowledge of certain hot-button items.
For every quarterback who can heave the ball eighty yards through the air there’s another that doesn’t have the mobility to run away from a 300-pound defensive lineman.
As for candidates on the local and state level, that 300-pound defensive lineman oftentimes takes the form of the media. Candidates would be wise to look to their candidates so they don’t get sacked in the headlines.
Keep the messaging consistent.
Some candidates, like quarterbacks, can be a little hotheaded with an ego to go with it. You can’t change who they are, but you can advise them on what to say.
When asked what team they want to play for, most prospects will give a generic answer like: “I don’t care who picks me. I just want to go in, work hard and win.”
A smart consultant will equip his candidate with answers that say a lot without saying much at all.
If a reporter asks a mayoral candidate about his or lack of political experience, the consultant can advise his candidate to say something along the lines of:
“I believe my experience in helping create the budget for the school system and listening to parent concerns has helped me immensely for this role. I plan on using the valuable skills I learned in the education arena to listen to voter concerns, and respond with innovative solutions.”
Watch the language of coaches, GMs and owners.
An NFL head coach or GM, or both, often tie their long-term success to the draft. If the player or players do well and the team wins, he or she looks like a genius.
If there a bust, a la Ryan Leaf or Johnny Manziel, well, we wish you luck.
But in terms of message consistency, draft day follows a pretty specific formula, as Scott Remley of Superior Blue Strategies points out.
“If you want to see message discipline, watch teams’ comments after they announce their draft choice. Every comment is almost identical: ‘We got the EXACT player we wanted. We couldn’t believe he fell to us at [whatever draft position number they are]. We targeted him, and he’s going to make a major impact right away.’ It’s so predictable, you can set your watch to it.”
The NFL is a brand that most American sports fans love, mostly because of their consistency.
Now, most candidates, unless they’re the president, won’t have a household brand name like the NFL. But they will have personal brand to build.
Consultants need to know all they can to make their candidate the number #1 overall pick.
Josh Womack is the co-founder of Laugh Staff.