Want to Win PR War? Follow the Research

Never mind what mom said, winning is everything.

In the political world of public relations, the path to winning swings dangerously between the candidate following media-guided discussion (not good) and the research-based message (very good).

Candidates who want to win listen to consultants backed up with research; if polling says stay away from the hot pot of water, do it.

But recently, the entire GOP slate of presidential candidates got veered off into the Badlands talking about issues in the opposition’s quadrant – birth control and reproductive rights.

Candidates and their strategists alike got caught up in a long news-cycle web.

Unfortunately, you can’t just walk away from a hot topic, especially one that could alienate a large and important voting population across the idealogical spectrum.

That’s where being clever comes into play, but the candidates lacked in “clever” moments during the “war on women” debate. Instead, Republicans came across as stodgy, old-fashioned and out-of-touch.

Former Gov. Mitt Romney didn’t roll around too much in the mud on the reproductive issues, while former Sen. Rick Santorum dove right in as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Ron Paul stuck in a jab on occassion.

Chalk it up as a win for the Democrats. They took the Republicans into unsafe territory on social issues and managed to keep them there for a long time.

It sucked up all the oxygen on other, more pressing concerns related to the economy, playing to the Democrats’ comfort zone and forcing an all-out fisticuffs between the Republicans.

But Illinois provided a much-needed break in the clouds.

Yesterday, Romney won the Illinois primary and by all accounts, took the majority of female voters.

In my BlogHer post, I noted Romney’s noticeably revamped stump speech which zeroed in on women and economic issues – an issue polling well with that audience.

Finally, research-based messaging directed at a key demographic. A strategist’s dream.

After spending millions upon millions of dollars and taking your share of smack-downs, a concession speech at the end of the tunnel will stick in your throat like a sharp Dorito.

Though you can’t always make research central to every decision, it’s the peace of mind you can bank on knowing that if you follow the road map – you’ll greatly improve odds of winning.

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