Advice for 2016 Presidential Candidates

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I’ve spent the last week on the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire. It seems that the Media Richness Theory aligns with the strategy of candidates that did well in the New Hampshire primaries.

My advice to the candidates is to have as much in-person communication with the voters and when that is not possible, create very personal and rich social media posts that attempt to create personal communication with voters and use anecdotes to deliver campaign messages. I also think candidates must face challenges by communicating with their voters about this issue in personal settings.

I strongly agree with principle of the Media Richness Theory that holds that face-to-face communication is the most efficient form of communication “to reach agreement when diverse goals and reference frames are brought to bear on uncertain problems”(Daft and Lengel, 1983)

Ohio Governor John Kasich came in second place at the New Hampshire primaries which was a surprise to many. However, to political analysts it wasn’t much of a surprise because Kasich had the strongest organization in New Hampshire.

Kasich followed the theory of Information Richness and prioritized meeting with NH locals in person as much as possible, with 106 town hall meetings. I think this one-on-one, in-person communication definitely led to his second place victory. At town hall meetings most candidates take questions from the audience and directly answer them, with 106 town hall meetings Kasich was able to communicate one-on-one with many more people than his competitors.

Trump’s victory may seem to be evidence against the Media richness theory, he held only 11 town hall meetings in NH and won the primary. However, it is important to look at the strategies Trump used to follow the Media Richness Theory and ultimately win the votes of NH. When Trump brings up issues, like many of the candidates, he brings up anecdotes or stories rather than statistics to get the emotions of his audience on his side.

Daft and Lengel present research of other authors that demonstrates case illustrations or, “vivid, concrete examples” have strong impact on people’s judgement (1983). Trump uses ancedotes about San Bernardino and Paris to get his audiences emotional and excited about his strong stance on keep the rights of the second amendment. In addition, though Trump did not try as hard as other candidates to hold personal town hall meetings, he uses his social media to communicate at a more personal level. Trump has the most followers on Twitter than any other candidates and uses this social media platform to communicate with as much media richness as possible. For example, before the NH primary he posted a video on Twitter where he is talking to the people of NH from the personal setting of his desk, in a close up shot, mimicking one-on-one physical communication.

Marco Rubio did worse than initially projected in NH after his arguably poor debate performance. The night that the NH results came in, Rubio took responsibility for his performance and promised the supporters in the room it would never happen again. I was in the room and interviewed people after his speech and everyone I talked to was very satisfied with Rubio taking on the responsibility for his low placing in the polls and admired his honesty. Unfortunately, I don’t think he addressed the people of NH in person about the debate soon enough. I think if he had, he could have prevented such harm to his polls. This personal honesty communicated in-person to his supporters I think satisfied their doubts about his ability to get past his bad debate performance. The personal aspect of his message was evident when national news broadcast the video of his address, thus his in-person communication was evident in social media version of his address.

 

Daft, R. L., & Lengel, R. H. (1983). Information richness: A new approach to managerial behavior and organization design. College Station, TX: Texas A & M University.

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