The Power of “Political Cover” in the Legislative Fight

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By Joe Ferrary, Account Executive

We’ve worked with clients who have had a piece of legislation introduced on their behalf at either the federal or state level, and in every case where the legislation has passed, media relations played a big role in helping to advance the legislation and get it adopted.

During every legislative session, legislators around the country introduce hundreds if not thousands of bills, which they feel will help their constituents back home.  In order to break through the clutter and help advance a piece of legislation through the legislative process, the bill needs to stand out.  Moreover, the greater the constituent support, the greater the chance it will advance.

An effective media relations campaign surrounding a particular issue can help to create buzz around a bill and play a positive role in moving the bill forward.  For example, if a bill is in a particular committee, it is important to identify members on the committee and conduct local media outreach to their district’s media outlets.  Legislators, or someone on their staff, always know what is going on in their district, so it is crucial to generate interest in the bill at the local level, as it will put pressure on a legislator to move the bill forward.

One of the most effective ways to put pressure on a legislator to support a bill as well as provide him/her the “political cover,” or justification for their decision, is to secure a positive editorial with the legislator’s local daily newspaper.  Editorials are the result of a newspaper editorial board meeting where a newspaper’s editorial board staff, which consists of various members of a newspaper including reporters and editors, discuss issues relevant to their coverage area.  During an editorial board meeting, the editorial board will hear both sides of an issue and then make a decision on which side they will favor.  Editorials are an extremely important media relations tool as they are third party endorsements of a particular issue.

While editorials in a particular legislator’s district can help to influence one legislator, positive editorial in regional dailies and/or in the daily newspaper in the state capitol, can help to provide the political cover for more than one legislator.  Editorials can go a long way in helping to move a client’s piece of legislation through the legislative process and help it to get adopted in the process.

Another great way of bringing pressure on a particular legislator is through social media, but that is a subject for a future blog.

–Joe Ferrary, Account Executive, R&J Public Relations

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