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Hey Scott Walker, love the Harley, but wear a suit and tie

Media consultant Mark Macias has offered up his analysis of the 2016 presidential candidates, including Donald Trump, Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and Bernie Sanders. Here, he offers advice to Scott Walker.

Election 2016 is stacking up as the race where it is most presidential to appear unpresidential. Toss out the dark suit and tie. Now, it seems every presidential candidate wants to look like your neighbor.

Jeb Bush wore a casual shirt, sans suit and tie for his presidential announcement. Sure, Donald Trump still wears a suit and tie, but his hat — "Make America Great Again" — looks like something your neighbor would wear while mowing the lawn. And it's not just the front-runners projecting a commoner image. Watch the other candidates on TV and you'll notice a fashion sense that is trending more casual.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rides a motorcycle near Boone, Iowa in June.
Getty Images
Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker rides a motorcycle near Boone, Iowa in June.

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But give Scott Walker extra credit for effectively promoting his biker image with the media. Walker loves being photographed in his leather jacket and boots on his Harley Davidson. He stands out on TV — and print reporters are writing stories about his love for his Harley.

The problem is it's not extending into any significant name recognition. A Reuters story this week suggested "HOG" lovers still can't identify Walker from the rest of the GOP pack.

Yes, it's contentious to say Walker isn't well known when he leads in some state polls, but outside of the Midwest and excluding political junkies, Walker doesn't have the name recognition of Trump, Bush or Clinton. (Don't worry, Walker fans, that's not necessarily a bad thing. He can use that to his advantage as he introduces his policies, credentials and persona to new voters).

New Yorkers frequently get a bad rap from the rest of the country for believing the world revolves around them, but look at the demographics, and you'll see nearly 20 million people live in the New York City metropolitan area, according to the Census Department. And close to 50 percent of the population is on Eastern time. What does that have to do with Walker? The news media is heavily driven by ad dollars, which, in turn, is driven by eyeballs. It's a lot harder to lead a national newscast with a story that comes out of the Midwest because Americans watch news that is relevant to their daily lives. Fair or not, pure numbers show more people know Chris Christieand Marco Rubio over Walker solely based on their states population and the national news cycle.

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While that observation is based on my experience in the media (in the Southwest, Southeast and Northeast), here comes the controversial conjecture: Many people in the Northeast have their perceptions about people in the Midwest. I won't elaborate on that here — ask your own friends — but if I were advising Walker, I would tell him to dress more presidentially. Ignore the casual trend and dress the part. You want to be leader of the free world. Image and perception are crucial in politics, especially in a crowded field. Yes, policy trumps branding and experience trumps image, but voters will listen to their stereotypes when they don't know anything about your policy or experience.

Every politician needs to be comfortable in his own skin and that applies to business. If you're looking to raise the profile of your business via the media, you need to be authentic. Want proof? Look to Donald Trump. Love or despise him, he is authentic to the bone both as a businessman and politician. I'm not telling Walker to change who he is. Keep the Midwestern twang. Don't trade in the Harley for a sedan. If you feel more comfortable in boots, wear them like The Gipper, Ronald Reagan, did.

But when it comes to the national stage, don't try to be a neighbor on a Harley. Put on a suit, starch the shirt, and make sure that tie knot is crisp. Imagine yourself speaking in front of the United Nations and channel that into the cameras. It's a lesson we learned out of college. No matter how you want to phrase it — "Dress the part" or "Dress for the job" — especially when you are trying to persuade people to follow you.


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Commentary by Mark Macias, head of Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.