Although national security and trade agreements with certain countries came under the microscope, it was the US economy that again proved to be at the heart of the debate (as it has for the election itself).

What was interesting is that both President Obama and Presidential candidate Mitt Romney accomplished what we in the PR world refer to as ‘bridging,’ by aligning the issue of foreign policy with their respective positions on domestic economic policy.

When one of our clients is speaking with the media, we coach them to keep their answers short and to the point so that their meaning is clear, to answer the question being asked and, if the question is off target with the main points they want to make, to bridge the conversation with a strong transition that brings the dialogue from the proposed point A to the desired point B. For example, a conversation about catastrophic trading glitches can be bridged to the larger debate about the issue of buying vs. building critical trading technology.

Last night’s Presidential debate provided a good balance of foreign policy discussion, with both candidates proving their skill at bridging foreign policy questions back to the heated issue of the economy.

Romney’s economic recovery plan proposes a five-step process for improving the US economy and strengthening America’s ability to carry a torch of freedom, hope and opportunity around the world. The plan includes details for: North American energy independence, an increase in trade (particularly to Latin America), training programs for workers and schools that put teachers above unions, tax and fiscal policy, and championing small businesses.

Meanwhile, Obama touched on his record on foreign policy as Commander-in-Chief and bridged the conversation from foreign policy to domestic policy, noting that he would bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, make sure we have the best education system in the world, enact plans to control our own energy, and lower the deficit by reducing spending and asking the wealthy to pay more in taxes for future investment in research and technology; all while maintaining the strongest military in the world.

With the eyes and ears of voters focused firmly on the candidates and the key issues, the role of the moderator can easily be overlooked. A good moderator will make sure the candidates answer the questions asked, maintain a sense of order, and keep the conversation focused on the topic at hand.

As PR professionals and communicators, it is often our role to serve as the intermediary between our clients and journalists to make sure that the right questions are being asked and answered as well as to encourage a focused and productive dialogue.

A lot has been said in these Presidential campaigns, but perhaps the most important words to remember on November 6 were left with us by last night’s moderator, Bob Schieffer, who quoted his mom’s words of wisdom about the election: “Go vote, it makes you feel big and strong.”

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