By: Olivia Schlesinger
Thought of the day: Are we experiencing a presidential election or a battle of the candidate’s public relations teams? Honestly, the two have so many overlapping characteristics that it’s hard to tell right now. It can truly be either one. Public relations professionals play a vital role in the presidential election and their power over the outcome should not be overlooked.
Of course the information that a candidate proclaims is important, but what I find to be even more important is the way in which this information is framed and presented to the public. We’ve all tried to jump into a conversation midway and had no idea what the context of the discussion was. I’m sure that most of the times we’ve done this, we left the conversation in even more confusion than when we joined. The same holds true for presidential candidates in the media. Anything that one of them, Trump or Clinton, says can be interpreted differently based on the surrounding context at the time and place in which it was said. Since public relations practitioners are the ones setting the backdrop for everything the candidate says or does, they play an essential role on a candidate’s team.
It is a PR person’s job to shed the best possible light on the client they are representing at a specific moment in time. If a person is representing a presidential candidate, rather than an average client, his/her job will be much harder and much more demanding. Since the candidates are always under public scrutiny, everything they do, say, or endorse is an opportunity for exposure – both positive and negative. It is up to both the candidate and the PR professional to make sure that this exposure is done in the most positive way possible.
In this year’s debate, both candidates have strong followings, but the opposite is also true. The citizens who are against each candidate are very against them and will dwell on any one mistake that they make. This further enhances the extreme importance and pressure that the PR professional faces to stay on top of his/her job.
For example, the recent allegations against Trump of sexual misconduct have very negatively impacted his campaign due to the large amount of media coverage it received. Clinton’s PR team would revel in this story and try to get the news out to everyone it feels has the right to know. However, Trump’s PR team is doing everything in its power to diffuse this story as relevant news. Since that option is most likely not possible, it is trying to turn it in a certain way that would make it seem like the situation was not as serious as described and is focusing more on other parts of his campaign. The same set of allegations can be completely re-worded and, in the end, the stories published about it by the Trump campaign would look completely different than the stories published by the Clinton campaign.
It would be naïve to think that any election would be based solely on the candidates’ ideas and beliefs. In a perfect world, yes, this would be the case. However, by human predisposition, we are easily swayed back and forth on a subject depending on how and by who the information is presented to us. The presidential election can be seen as a fight to the finish between PR teams of opposing candidates, so their power should be taken seriously.