“Everybody Has Something”Joe Pounder
Opposition research came up on a recent episode of Homeland with Carrie Mathison once again trying to get out of a tricky personal situation, fighting over custody of her daughter with her sister. Check out the exchange below:
AGENT: “Maybe a little opposition research?”
CARRIE: “On my sister?”
AGENT: “Or her husband? I’m sensing some moral confusion here. Should I shut up?”
CARRIE: “No, not at all. I-I was just wondering what kind of dirt you could actually dig up on those two.”
AGENT: “Well, you tell me.”
CARRIE: “What, Supermom and Saint Bill? It’s not exactly a laundry list.”
AGENT: “Come on, Carrie. Everybody has something.”
Carrie raises the question many clients do at the beginning of the research process: “What kind of dirt you could actually dig up?” We don’t call it “dirt” because that somehow implies the information our analysts compile is always personally negative. You don’t need “dirt” to win. You do need content to define yourselves and your opponent. And, as the agent says, when it comes to research, “everybody has something.” That couldn’t be more accurate.
Today we have more information at our fingertips on a computer than ever before. News articles, interviews, video, audio, databases, you name it. Andif it ever existed as a link, it most likely can be found. Additionally, compared to other countries, the United States has a pretty open system for getting public records (it can be arduous, but the information that can be obtained from a simple letter or email request is astounding). There is always “something.”
The power that a firm like Definers brings to bear is the ability to distill that “something” into something useful by connecting the many data points that one can find so easily online. Those connections create a greater “something”—whether it be a powerful narrative for a public affairs campaign, a piece of competitive intelligence for a corporate fight, or insight to fuel a lobbying offensive.
Ultimately, campaign-style research is how you can win, even if you’re up against “Supermom and Saint Bill.”