Public Relations

Political players gain power primarily through two means: money and people. No matter the success of the Alumni Organization as a fundraising tool, money will never be the source of the Dems' power. As a popular political organization, the Dems gain power through membership and through the respect of other people. Both rely entirely on public relations; a good event is only as good as the number of people who participate and the number of people who hear about it.

The term "public relations" is incredibly broad, but everything that falls under its umbrella must be related. From business cards to press releases, the public message of the organization must be tuned to maximize effectiveness. Several important elements are:

Media relations

Media relations are essential to the Dems. The Dems are entirely dependent on press for the public perception of the organization's effectiveness and professionalism. Communicate professionally with members of the media at all times. Never take media coverage personally. Never verbally attack members of the media. Never publicly criticize members of the media without prior approval by the Executive Board and do so only professionally with that approval.

On campus, the two most important media outlets are the newspaper of record, the Columbia Spectator, and the well-read gossip blog, Bwog. The former is an independent newspaper with a very liberal reputation. The latter is modeled on Manhattan gossip blog Gawker and laces its stories with snarky comments and cynicism.

For more about media coverage, see the pages about the role of the Media Director or the old position of Public Affairs Director.

The Dems website

In 2006-2007, the Dems did not have a working website. As such, for those not immediately affiliated with the organization, they were functionally non-existent. Without an Internet home to introduce the organization to new members, recruitment and public impact are very difficult. Every credible organization has a well-run website in the modern era and the Dems lose credibility without one. A good website has several important elements:

  • Links - Make sure that other people link to the site or it will not show up in Google
  • News - Without up-to-date news, there is no reason for people to visit the site more than once
  • Pictures - People like graphics; professional-looking graphics are essential to a professional appearance
  • Design - The page must look like it was designed only for the Dems; anyone can paste a few custom images into a Blogger template

Letterhead

Letterhead is expensive. It is also essential. Real political organizations use paper with letterhead to communicate officially; faxes and letters are taken more seriously than emails. Anyone can send an email or a piece of paper, but professionals use letterhead. Like all print media used by a club affiliated with the Democratic Party, letterhead MUST be either union-printed with a union bug or printed in house with "printed in house" written at the bottom of each page. Democrats always support labor unions and it will be noticed by anyone accustomed to a political environment if your media do not carry one of these marks.

Business Cards

Business cards are even more expensive than letterhead. They will almost certainly never fit within the Dems budget. Individual board members should purchase their own business cards or a computer-savvy person in the organization should print them in house. Like all print media used by a club affiliated with the Democratic Party, business cards MUST be either union-printed with a union bug or printed in house with "printed in house" written at the bottom of each card. Democrats always support labor unions and it will be noticed by anyone accustomed to a political environment if your media do not carry one of these marks.

Body Emails

The listserv of the Dems is huge, much larger than the active membership will ever be. It is impossible to determine how many members of the listserv actually read the emails or how often they do, but it should be assumed that most of them will skim the body emails at best. Use catchy titles to promote the most important events and organizational news, use bold lettering and spacing to set apart important bits of information, and do not spam the body. One body email per week is a good rule to follow. Send additional emails only in the case of very important, time-sensitive news. For more about emails, see the page about the role of the Membership Director.

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