Political Public Relations by Olivia Schlesinger

With the election so close and people frantically trying to get all the information needed to vote, all eyes are on the candidates now more so than ever. This means the PR for the candidates needs to be the best it ever has been – no exceptions. The following opinions are not meant to support either candidate. They are simply provided to discuss one sole aspect of each of their campaigns.

 

In case you haven’t been watching the news or scrolling through your social media feeds, here’s what’s been happening with Trump…. A video from 2005 has recently been released showing Trump talking with Billy Bush, of “Access Hollywood.” The conversation was along the lines of Trump bragging about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with various women, one of which was married. To make matters worse for the Trump campaign, the conversation completely revolved around vulgar terms.

 

In reaction to this crisis, Trump issued a short video statement admitting, “I said it, I was wrong, and I apologize.” However, he also tried to make this situation out to seem like a mere distraction from the real issues we are having today, rather than those that happened over 10 years ago. He claimed that what he said back then does not reflect who he is now. Trump acknowledged his mistakes, but did not do anything to take action for them. Rather, he just tried to direct the media’s attention elsewhere.

 

If I was Trump’s communications or PR official, I would have advised him to issue a more complete and heartfelt statement instead of the short, general one he released. I think people would have liked to see Trump’s true grievance over the situation, and a heartfelt response would’ve shown this. It is extremely important for candidates to appeal to and create a rapport with the voters, because, as humans, we tend to support people to whom we can relate. Most people cannot relate to Trump here, or shouldn’t be able to, so he should have issued a statement that makes him seem more like a regular, harmless person and not a star who claims that “When you’re a star, they let you do it… You can do anything.”

 

Since so much information, both positive and negative, about Trump is already available to the public, I don’t think this will have the greatest effect on his campaign, but it is definitely not ideal for a candidate to be shown in a negative light so close to Election Day.

 

Trump isn’t the only one in hot water right now. Officials recently discovered new emails, with numbers reaching the thousands, attached to Hillary Clinton’s private email server while they were searching for information on former congressman Anthony Weiner. This led the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton’s private email scandal. With such little time until the election, this is very poor timing for the Clinton campaign.

 

In Clinton’s first appearance at a rally after this news broke, she did not mention anything of it. However, later that day she said, “The American people deserve to get the full and complete facts immediately,” asking the FBI to release more information on the case because she is sure that it will not change the decision reached previously. Her communications/PR team probably did this to show that Clinton values transparency – a major factor voters look for in a candidate.

 

Trump is taking full advantage of this scandal. He claims that this is the FBI’s and the Justice Department’s chance to charge Clinton with criminal offenses, which he believes they should have done in the first place. Trump’s PR team is not only trying to boost his own reputation, but also discard Clinton’s reputation at the same time.

I think Clinton’s response to this crisis was satisfactory. Her confidence was portrayed, which gave people a sense of reassurance that the new emails discovered do not contain anything that would alter her potential position as president. Although this does decrease her trustworthiness and gets the official law involved, her reaction to it encourages voters to not dwell on it as much as Trump’s team is telling them to.

 

I would have done a similar thing if I was Clinton’s communications official because I believe that it is always better to be honest about problems that arise rather than trying to avoid them when the media brings them up. I think this issue will stay in the media for a while, so I would advise Clinton to keep portraying that confidence and assuring voters that this new information does not change how she is as a potential president. Additionally, I wouldn’t advise Clinton to react to Trump for making those claims about her. Rather, I would let those dissolve on their own.

 

Presidential candidates are always in the spotlight, and with just under a week until Election Day, they must be as careful as possible to ensure they attract the most voters and for the right reasons. Both Trump and Clinton recently encountered major crises. It was very telling to see how they both handled them, which was in two very different ways. As of now, it’s hard to say how these issues will sway the vote, but both candidates’ PR teams must be working tirelessly to diffuse the scrutiny provided by the media.

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