Is political communication a dying art?

These days, politics is so fast paced that some pundits have announced the death of true political communication.

What does that mean? Political communication is a calculated effort to deliver a consistent political message through speeches, media and more. One of Reagan’s great speechwriters said this election cycle is lacking in that art.

“Trump is awkward. He comes at this with his whole raison d’etre being ‘the outsider,’’’ Ken Khachigian, a former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan, told POLITICO California during a recent sit-down at the Reagan Presidential Library. “But there’s a certain conventional wisdom in politics: even if you are an outsider, you communicate in the ways that people expect a president to speak,’’ he said.

Khachigian argues that political communication is dead or dying with the advent of Trump and Clinton. While he says Trump uses no communication strategy, Clinton’s is rather vanilla. But is the Trump team completely devoid of any meaningful communications strategy? And does Clinton’s communications team show no promise for brilliance?

Kellyanne Conway, for the period before hell broke lose on the Trump train, served as a brilliant new-age political communicator and surrogate. Trump’s personal communication strategy, as discussed on this blog a few weeks ago, is different but smart. It utilizes new tools for a brand enhancement, and it’s been effective.

This leads me to my main point. Though political communication may not necessarily be traditional — it’s not gone. Messages are now served differently, but the content isn’t all that different.

And candidates aren’t the only ones who can practice the art of political communication. The 21st century allows for anyone to communicate a political message, even a satirical or extreme one. Might we consider John Oliver, now, an example of political communication? The author of Carreon Thinking calls his show brilliant and beautiful–it communicates a point of view to a persuadable audience of million. I would argue it’s a form of effective messaging.

Political communication will never go away. It’s actually mutated to be more artful, and skillful, than ever. The test of a truly good political communicator will be whether he or she can dodge, dip, dive, and pivot in the fast paced media landscape while maintaining a consistent message.

Additional resources: Politico, the Guardian on Conway.

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3 Comments

  1. First of all, shoutout to Ken Khachigian (an icon who is hailed in the Armenian-American community). Second, I agree with you that political communication has not dissipated. However, I disagree that the content is the same. I strongly feel that in the past, political figures appealed to a larger audience. They appealed using pathos, logos, and ethos. Nowadays, political figures have abandoned lack in the ethos field, pretend to comprehend and relay messages on the pathos level, and almost always make up the logos aspect. Interesting topic and blog!

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  2. I remember reading this article and drawing a similar conclusion. Like any type of communication, political messaging is being forced to navigate a tech-savvy, meticulously-scrutinized and 24-hour landscape – everyone is still adjusting. As for the future of these industries, it’ll be millennial jobs to efficiently work gravitas and Fit For Take Off’s “ethos” back into political rhetoric, where it’s getting lost in 140 characters and 10-second video clips. For one thing, I think the focus on “branding” has upstaged the need for a stirring, substantive message in favor of the attractive persona to front it. There’s also the modern reverence for targeted messaging, where the power of data too usurps a more universal appeal to the electorate’s hopes and fears. The technology that propelled Trump to the White House isn’t going away, so it’s up to us to weld it with Khachigian’s “lost art.”

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  3. Times are changing fast, and politics have to adapt as well. While the days of awe-inspiring speeches and political rhetoric as was seen just a few decades ago may be fading, the new era of instant information and communication makes for an exciting landscape of discourse. World-changing speeches may seem less frequent, but only because the power to express an opinion is being diluted to the masses. Everyone has the opportunity to post online and, potentially, be heard the world over, regardless of who you are or where you come from. Four score and seven years ago presidents were busy crafting the perfect way to address the nation, now we all have the ability do it everyday without leaving our homes. Political discourse is changing, but this is not necessarily a bad thing.

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