This column is often a discussion with my colleagues in media relations. I like to monitor which of us is doing what and for whom in the political PR arena, and I like to share my perspective.
In a break from tradition, at this years-end, I am speaking directly to the Presidential candidates.
There are questions on media relations that need to be answered. My colleagues are asking the candidates about policy issues, global warfare, climate change, immigration – but my specialty is Political PR, and that’s what I want to know about. Not what they’re going to do, they’re already doing plenty, and often inadvertently!
I would like to know how they choose the message to run on.
This particular Presidential election cycle is a bonanza for those of us working in political public relations. To begin with, the process began much earlier than usual. The sheer number of candidates on the Republican side was staggering. Those numbers have made getting the message out very difficult, especially for the marginal candidates, and those running for book deal publicity.
It has been eye-opening, watching (or helping) Ben Carson and Donald Trump on the Republican side, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders on the Democratic side, trim the field down to a manageable size. It has been a pretty wild ride so far.
There are several more debates coming up, which will cause candidates to shift up, down or out. I don’t know about you, but I’m having a lot of fun watching all of the debates and the pundit discussions afterwards. What about the campaign staff though? Are they having fun, or are they walking around in trepidation wondering what their candidate may say or do next? Probably a little of both!
It’s very early in the process, of course. There are still 340 days to Election Day next November.
Anything could happen, everything could change, and on any side. For the Democrats, Hillary Clinton is 30 percentage points ahead of Bernie Sanders, her closest competitor. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is keeping one step ahead of the posse, headed by Ben Carson, who is fluctuating wildly in the combined polls. For the narrow purposes of this piece, I will speak only to Donald and Hillary.
As you, Mr. Trump, are the Republican front-runner, I would like to ask you how you choose the message you are running on. It seems to change every day! That must require a tremendous effort on the part of your back-up staff and media relations staff.
We have become accustomed to receiving a rigid, set in stone block of messaging from previous candidates, especially the front-runners. In the past, if that messaging varied by so much as a millimeter, the press would be all over your media people.
You appear to be rolling both with the tide of public opinion and with the mainstream media. Are you? We have seen very little in the way of campaign papers, which we need, so we know where you stand on our issues. What do you think of PR in politics, Mr. Trump? Freedom of the press? As you roll towards what may be an inevitable selection as Republic candidate for President 2016, I and many others would like to know what you stand for.
And Mrs. Clinton, you are the Democratic front-runner. I see that your campaign is running a more traditional media race. Your campaign papers appear to issue incrementally, and I concede that you do offer some factual scenarios.
But how do you choose the message you’re running on? I am as confused and befuddled by your campaign messaging as I am by Mr. Trump’s campaign messaging. Where do you stand on freedom of the press, Mrs. Clinton, and how do you view PR in politics? As you may well be the Democratic candidate for President 2016, it would be most useful to know your stance.
Both candidates are running wildly differing campaigns. One traditional, one not so much. I am waiting eagerly to see how each candidate fares at the end of the day!
Margaret Mulvihill is Director of Communications at Lawson Mulvihill Media Inc., in Washington, DC. Follow her on Twitter: https://twitter.com/political_pr