Paul Holmes 08 Nov 2023 // 8:47PM GMT
WASHINGTON, DC—With major elections in the United States, the United Kingdom and the European Union—the first election there since Brexit—coming up in the year ahead, companies will have an opportunity to inject themselves into the news and to learn about the use of technology from political campaigns, Politico correspondent Brakkton Booker told attendees at PRovoke Global in Washington, DC, today.
“Without a doubt next year’s elections will be an opportunity for companies and brands, for a couple of reasons,” Booker said. “Journalists love having a calendar, because it tells you where to go to look for trends. And if you are a business that wants to get in front of media folks you know where you have to be. In summer, you have to be in Chicago, you have to be in Milwaukee, which is where the cameras will be.
“I also look at this as an opportunity to look at how presidential campaigns are using technology and digital communications tools. Campaigns are spending big money trying to figure out how to connect with voters at a time when people are cutting the cord. Companies will be looking to see what works so they can play in that lane too.”
Booker was appearing in conversation with John R Bradbury Jr, managing director of crisis and issues management at Ketchum, which sponsored the session on “The Road Ahead: Navigating the 2024 Elections.” Balancing the opportunities Booker talked about, Bradbury asked whether companies also faced threats and might be used as “props for the campaigns to score points.”
Said Booker, “I think consumers still want to know where businesses stand. People are going to say, do these companies share my values. Prior to 2020, I don’t think people cared so deeply. But the public is going to be demanding more.”
Echoing the morning session during which ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt spoke about the corporate response to events in the Middle East, he said: “A lot of people want to see whether companies stand with Israel, for example. They are going to demand that companies take a stand on these issues.”
As someone who does not focus on corporate issues, he said, “I don’t envy companies that are now expected to take on these issues.” Media companies, he said, are very aware of how corporate positions are being evaluated through a political lens. “It’s been fascinating to watch the unforced errors by companies like Budweiser. But it’s a difficult time for companies.
“We’re always looking to how companies are navigating these issues, because business and politics are always intertwined.”
Appearing after a night of special elections on which Democrats racked up a series of victories, enshrining abortion rights in the Ohio constitution, deliver wins to Democrats in Virginia at a time when the Republican Governor was pursuing an aggressively anti-abortion and anti-trans rights agenda.
“The big takeaway is that maybe Biden’s sagging poll numbers are not that big of an issue,” Booker said. “People thought Biden would be a drag on Democrats, but Democrats had a good night. And the other big takeaway is that abortion is going to continue to be a big issue. The Republican push to restrict access to abortion is not resonating in blue or red states.”
Speaking remotely from Florida, where he was covering the GOP debate, he added: “I think we are seeing that when you have had rights it is very difficult to get used to living without them. That issue is not going away. Voters nationally are not in favor of adding more restrictions.”
Similarly, he said, he did not expect to see a lot of discussion around the “woke capitalism” issue that was so important to candidates like Ron DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy. “The salience of the ‘woke capitalism’ issue has been fading. That’s not what voters are looking for right now. I doubt it will even get a mention tonight.”
As for issues that could become more important as the election approaches, he pointed to immigration: “If we see more immigrants showing up in liberal cities, or if we see as real catastrophe at the border, that could force the administration to do something real on the issue.”