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The Great Debate and New Media

The Great DebateSeptember 26th will be the 50th anniversary of one of the most famous debates in history. On that evening in 1960, Senator John Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon squared off in the first televised presidential debate.

Seventy million viewers – over sixty percent of all adults in the U.S. at that time – tuned in to their TV sets, the new medium. A much smaller audience listened to the established medium, radio.

You know the story – Kennedy held his own against the more-experienced Nixon. And Kennedy looked better than Nixon.

So, while Nixon won by a small margin with the radio listeners, Kennedy won by a large margin among television viewers.

John Kennedy was a new media master! 

Television, radio and newspapers are yesterday’s news. You don’t have to rely on these intermediaries any longer.

Today, you are the media!

You can write articles, post photos, create videos, host your own podcast and much more. Like John Kennedy, you can build your brand by mastering new media.

We can look back to the Great Debate for some tips on how to do that:

Let the sun shine
In the weeks leading up to the Great Debate, Nixon injured his knee on a car door. When he kept pushing himself, the knee became infected and Nixon ended up in the hospital.

Meanwhile, Kennedy campaigned in sunny California. He was mingling with his community, sharpening his message and getting a tan.

Before you launch online, shed some light on your goals and strategy. Talk with your customers. Test some messages. See what your competitors are doing. 

Don’t try to do too much
On the day of the Great Debate, Nixon campaigned hard. He had to – his strategy called for hitting all 50 states before the election.

Kennedy relaxed and prepared. He focused on one thing on that day – the debate itself.

Nixon’s strategy may have cost him his goal. He was tired while Kennedy was rested.

If you try to do too much in too many places online, you’ll get tired as well. Stay focused on one place at a time. Then intelligently expand from there. 

Stand out
Not only was Nixon pale because of his knee, he refused to wear make-up. He also wore a gray suit, the same color as the backdrop. 

Kennedy, of course, was tanned from his trip through California. His aides also admitted that he wore some make up.

So Kennedy stood out in front of the cameras while Nixon blended in with the background.

So stand out. Take a fresh approach. Be bold. Test something new. Do something – anything – different so you don’t blend in.  

Don’t sweat it
Nixon was seen wiping the beads of sweat off his forehead. Kennedy appeared cool and confident.

Don’t be afraid to state your opinions. Take a stand when it’s appropriate. Be a thought leader.

Speak directly to your audience
Kennedy spoke directly to the camera instead of the person who had asked the question. So the audience felt like he was talking directly to them.

Know your audience. Then speak directly to them to build trust. It will lead to BIGG success!

Subscribe to our bi-weekly newsletter to get the tips and tools you need to be a BIGG success. In the most recent edition, we explored three little things that made a BIGG difference in the election of 1960.

(Image in today's post by WikiMedia Commons)