Advisers to Bill Clinton came up with that phrase during his 1992 Presidential run to remind the candidate and his campaign that the key to winning was to remain focused on one topic. It is widely credited with helping Clinton capture the White House from incumbent George H.W. Bush, who could claim several significant foreign policy victories but was politically hobbled by a slow economy. And with persistently high unemployment, slow GDP growth and struggling businesses, the economy was again supposed to be THE issue in the 2012 Presidential race. But a funny thing happened on the way to the election– foreign policy suddenly emerged as an important topic because of sudden unrest in the Middle East and North Africa, and both President Obama and challenger Mitt Romney quickly switched gears to try to convince voters their international bona fides were better than the other guy.
Why is this important to your media strategy? Because your ability to “shift gears” depending on news flow could be the difference from being relevant…or being left out. For example, let’s say you run a tech startup and have gotten a few interviews because you’re a real whiz at talking about new technology. But the big news of the day is that Congress passes a bill aimed at boosting small business. If you just are selling yourself as a “tech guy,” nobody is going to want to talk to you. Ah, but guess what? You’re not just a tech expert, you’re ALSO a small business owner. You know first-hand what that bill will mean to sales, expansion, hiring, etc. You’re an EXPERT on the topic of the day. But if you don’t recognize that, nobody else will, either. News people don’t have time to consider whether their previous contacts have other skills that might be great for their current stories. That’s up to you. You’re the one who needs to shift gears and put your “other” expertise forward for them to see.
So in the media world, the key phrase is “It’s the news, stupid.” Know what the news is, see if your skills and knowledge make you someone who could comment on it, and “shift gears” to be that person. You may be surprised by how many doors that can open.
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