BY: Roy Hollingsworth
Keith Plunkett is a kayaking political media consultant with a bent towards photography, hard rock music, a stiff drink and a good meal. A self-described “trouble-maker since birth”, Keith has written and blogged his way through many a subject. His list of blogs are extensive and show his varied interest and abilities.
Keith began his first blog in 2006. In the The Flora Harvester he reported and editorialized about goings on in Madison County, Mississippi and whatever other news struck his fancy. He had run the print publication of The Flora Harvester since 2004 and eventually took the entire operation online. Keith took great strides in pointing out inconsistencies among the arguments of public officials and community leaders alike in his hometown of Flora and across Madison County and Mississippi.
“If something is a load of crap, then I think you have to say so,” says Plunkett. “Truth has a lot to do with our perspective to be sure, but we are absolutely called to speak the truth we see. It’s how things get accomplished.”
“Plus,” he jokes, “I am told it will set you free.”
And set him free it did. Keith followed his heart and the opportunities his work provided. This resulted in gigs organizing for political causes and eventually candidates. In 2008, following working on several campaigns locally, he was asked to begin assisting a little know Republican candidate for the U.S. Congress, Gregg Harper. Prognosticators put the candidates chances among the crowded field of seven slightly ahead of a snowballs chance in hell. But, several blisters, brain cells, tears and months later Keith, as part of Harpers team, would help his candidate emerge from the back of the pack to take the nomination and the seat.
Keith worked for the new Congressman assisting constituents with a variety of problems for 3 years before the call to campaign full time pulled him away again, this time for State Senator Billy Hewes of Gulfport. Hewes was running in the Republican primary against a heavily favored candidate in Treasurer Tate Reeves for Lt. Governor. Opponent Reeves not only had name ID due to the fact that he held state-wide elected office, but he also had amassed a fortune in his campaign war-chest. For the Hewes Campaign, the hill was a large one to climb.
Keith joined the Hewes Campaign as Communications Director with less than two months before the election and trailing, according to some estimates, by as much as 35 points. He immediately began an aggressive PR Campaign for his candidate, and in the process began pushing hard to use social media to get out the message. The race went on to be one of the most expensive Lt. Governor’s races in Mississippi and was easily the most heated of the election year as candidates traded punches through the media.
“I was forced to push hard on social media and traditional media alike during Billy’s race because our opponent refused to debate,” said Plunkett. “I had the most knowledgable candidate by far. The problem was that nobody knew it, and the other guy could spout a few rhetorical flourishes about being a watchdog for taxpayers and being a fiscal conservative, and then go feed thousands of people across the state a free meal at a fish fry and shake hands. He avoided discussing issues like the plague, and threw his money around like there was no tomorrow.”
Keith used a variety of methods to get out the message. Video, audio and traditional content was used across several social media platforms and followers were encouraged to share. When the smoke cleared, Keith had helped his candidate gain an amazing 23 points on a much more heavily financed opponent. Although the race was lost, Keith’s communications plan for Hewes cemented his place as a hard working consultant willing to put his all into his cause, and it set into motion what would become his next move into the newly developing world of Social Media Management.
“I’ve just never known any other way to work,” says Plunkett. “If something is worth doing, you just go all out. I can’t do it any other way. We’re always campaigning for something, it hardly matters to me whether it is to be the next Lt. Governor or the next dog catcher. If you want the job you got to work for it. I’ve been lucky enough at this stage to find good people that know technology and can quickly develop tools that help my clients work more efficiently.”
That fast and furious work ethic has served Keith, and his clients and causes, well. An avid kayaker, he paddled thousands of miles of Mississippi rivers and streams to raise money and awareness for Alzheimer’s Disease, raising close to $10,000 in the process. It was an idea he conceptualized, marketed and communicated.
Keith has worked with other candidates in come from behind races, and used his knowledge of social media to help push Get-Out-The-Vote efforts and to organize issue specific messaging across multiple platforms. He volunteers his time and money across a multitude of charities, and assists corporations and small business with message development and communications.
In short, he’s a busy man.
“People who own companies and who run for office have an incredible capacity to create good products,” says Plunkett. “The problem is they’re too close to it to come up with a message that that will resonate with the general public, and they are too busy doing the work to keep up with the hundreds of new ways that exist to implement a successful communications plan. I could never do what some of these people I work for do. It’s just not in me. But, what is in me is the ability to make sure everybody else knows about my clients and their message.”
Plunkett has launched Horizon Media Marketing to do just that.
“People don’t know the power they hold in their own hands with a simple computer,” he says. “I’ve assembled a hell of a team. They know that messaging in today’s market place is about being nimble, and spreading your message using a variety of different tools within hours, not days. It’s a new world out there, and it’s not extremely expensive. But, you have to have somebody that knows how it works, keeps up with new technology and is prepared to make it happen at a moments notice.”