A PR lesson from watching our political candidates: Think twice about people in the background

This morning, the front page of the Battle Creek Enquirer showed a picture of Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, during a campaign stop in Albion, Michigan. The photo of Romney included several people standing behind him and one of those people, standing to his right, was a guy who was busy checking his phone. There are probably good reasons that he might have been looking at his phone and we all know a camera only catches an instance, but it still looks bad. The guy is cropped out of the photo on the online version of the story, but the other people who aren’t cropped out of the photo aren’t much better. They don’t look happy to be there at all.

The photo reminded me of a similar incident in 2010 when President Barack Obama was speaking at Kalamazoo Central High School’s commencement ceremony and there was a student that fell asleep behind him.

Having people stationed behind the candidates communicates a lot for them and usually it’s positive. It shows that they are with the people they are wanting to represent, it shows that they are out meeting people, it shows that people are supporting them, and it gives the ambiance of a large crowd in a single camera shot. But, the two instances should also sever as a PR lesson and precaution to communications professionals on the risks of asking people to stand with or behind someone giving a speech. It may or may deliver the effect that we are looking for.

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