Time for T-Paw to re-think video strategy?

For the most part, Tim Pawlenty has done a good job of using YouTube.  His team clearly understand the online video medium as a unique communications vehicle, rather than as a place to warehouse TV ads.  Pawlenty and Co. use video often, and the videos are stylistically consistent.

But this video, entitled “Behind-the-scenes at Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s announcement in Des Moines, IA” and posted last week, is a bit disappointing:

That’s not a “Behind the Scenes” video.  Those are actual scenes.  There are clips of the speech and clips from the media coverage of Pawlenty’s announcement, but no candid moments from the candidate.  The best part of the video is a mere ten-second stretch featuring Pawlenty supporters explaining their support.

Now imagine this as the “behind-the-scenes” video” instead:  60 seconds of people in the Pawlenty crowd talking about why they came out to support T-Paw, cut with pictures of homemade signs, and maybe even ten seconds of the candidate talking with supporters in a handshake line.  There would be no music and no voice-overs.

Tim Pawlenty is going to spend the next few months juxtaposed against two incredibly polished professional politicians in Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.  He will need to be able to contrast himself from both.  His videos are not bad, but standing alone they will give the impression that Pawlenty is trying to out-Romney Romney or out-Obama Obama.  If he tries to be someone he is not, Pawlenty will lose his fight for the nomination.

In a campaign where he constantly reiterates the need for honesty and sincerity, Pawlenty would be wise to let some of that come out – and let his videos create a mood rather than a separation between him and the voters.

Newt announces (with theme music by Mike Post)

If Newt Gingrich is trying to frame himself as the anti-Palin – intelligent and thoughtful rather than populist and excitable – this video does the trick.  Mustering all the enthusiasm one would expect from a commercial for reverse mortgages, Gingrich cites his two decades of experience, taking special care to drop the name of GOP saint Ronald Reagan.

This video looks like Newt and Co. were so enamored with the medium of YouTube that they forgot to make a video that was actually compelling.  The talking head presentation featuring no one but Gingrich is simply boring.  With the GOP primary field so often described as “crowded,” this is not the way to stand out.

The GOP Primary Presents: “Answering For Santino” Week

The three front runners for the Republican nomination each have baggage, and since last week we’ve seen their strategies for dealing with it.  Tim Pawlenty is very sorry about signing a cap-and-trade bill while he governed Minnesota; Mitt Romney has some ‘splainin’ to do to get people to quit using the word “Romneycare”; and Newt Gingrich… well, Newt’s got kind of a Cee Lo Green thing going on with his previous support for aggressive environmental action:

“I’d do a commercial with Al Gore,” Gingrich said last May in an interview with the website Human Events. “My point is conservatives ought to be prepared to stand on the same stage and offer a conservative solution.”

Pawlenty’s strategy is probably the best for now (pending Romney’s speech).  It is, appropriately enough, safe and genuine, but Gingrich is at least sort of right, too.  This line of messaging does help to further the idea that he is the Thinking Republican’s Candidate to a degree.  But the audience shouldn’t be conservatives (at least, not quite so obviously).

The past five years are absolutely full of examples of grassroots activists demonstrating that they don’t like to be lectured to.  There was Marco Rubio besting Charlie Crist in Republican primary polls (and eventually the general election), Joe Miller over Lisa Murkowski, and Rand Paul over Trey Grayson in Kentucky’s Senate race.  If you feel like going back farther and crossing the aisle, ask Joe Lieberman how rank and file Democrats felt about him in 2006.

You don’t like being lectured to.  Do you hear me?  You don’t like it.  (You do, however, appreciate irony, I hope.)

The point is, that instead of scolding conservatives that they should be stewards of the environment, Gingrich should be more inclusive.  Consider how his second sentence above would sound with a slightly different perspective:

“My point is that we can stand on the same stage and offer better, more creative solutions that will protect our environment without putting people out of work.”

Wouldn’t that make you feel a little bit better about being on the same side as Gingrich – as if you’re both part of the same winning team?

At least AP saved some money by not showing up

The Associated Press and Reuters joined Mitt Romney in not attending this week’s Republican quasi-Presidential debate.  A story written by the AP covering the AP’s decision quoted an AP official:

The opening stages of an event as important as the presidential selection process should be as accessible as possible to all forms of journalism,” said Michael Oreskes, the AP’s senior managing editor. “These candidates want to lead the country. The country has a right to see them from various angles, not only where the TV cameras are positioned.

Remember, Journalism school students, there’s no reason you can’t quote yourself in a story you write about yourself.  That’s completely fine.

The AP isn’t clear exactly how the rights of the voting public are trampled by Fox News in restricting still photos during the televised event, but not by the AP in refusing to cover the event at all.

The only potential problem is that there will be no embarrassing pictures capturing candidates with their faces scrunched up or with mouths gaping ajar while they pronounce words like “sure” or “capital.” The restriction on pictures would be horrible for the AP if they sold pictures.

Oh, wait, that’s right: they sell pictures.

It is also tough to stomach the spin used by both AP and Reuters in holding up their readers and news consumers like human shields as the aggrieved parties.  In reality it was the news organizations who were slighted by the picture ban.  This isn’t a First Amendment problem; it is similar in that such cases the “public right to know” is used as shorthand for “the news company’s right to publish.”

But luckily for the voters, the AP is pretty much irrelevant as a news gathering organization anyway.  By using their platform for political speech, they become even less so.