I have always advised my clients to approach running for office as a respectful, hopeful conversation with voters about their concerns. But there comes a time during any campaign when you have to draw stark distinctions with your opponent.
If you face aggression, you have to defend yourself. Not all candidates want to fight fire with fire. So when those negative ads appear from the other camp, I have a sitdown with my clients.
During these chats, I quote consultant Joe Gaylord. “All political communication,” Gaylord famously said, “is not what is said by candidates, but what is heard by voters.”
Now, if we’ve formed a strong, personal bond with voters, we may be able to ride out an attack without engaging in negative, rebuttal ads. But that’s usually not how it goes. More often than not, we have to sit down and make the call to rebut or define our opponent. And this takes many clients out of their comfort zones.
When approaching these conversations, remember it’s not our face or reputation being scrutinized on broadcast TV -- it’s theirs. Moreover, it’s the candidate's family and friends who'll have to discuss these ads at their local supermarket checkout.