A PR Crisis: Hillary Clinton Email Controversy

When working in the public relations field, I think handling a crisis is one of the key attributes to being successful at your job. Being able to handle a media crisis is something that one must know will probably happen when starting a public relations job, and I think the key to handling a crisis is to stay calm, cool and collected. In a book about public relations issues and crisis management it talks about how to cope with a crisis and says, “Practitioners should therefore ‘operate as an organization’s “antenna”, constantly scanning the organization’s environment and alerting management to new threats and opportunities, and helping frame appropriate responses to emerging issues.'”(Galloway, 2005, 10) This is basically saying that public relations should always be alert and searching for new problems that could occur to their clients and should always brainstorm appropriate ways to handle the crisis. However, this is not the way the public relations people handled the Hillary Clinton’s Email crisis.

In a post written by David E. Johnson he talks about the crisis explaining that, “the media has been saturated with stories of how Hillary Clinton used a private email and server when she was Secretary of State thus avoiding freedom of information requests.”(2015, 2) The media has made this a huge story, big enough that when people think of Hillary Clinton often times they will think of this email scandal. Johnson says that this scandal makes her appear a lot like Richard Nixon and really takes away the publics trust of her. (2015) I think that her public relations team could have really helped by making the media not make this such a huge scandal, and they could have also gone with a different tactic when answering questions regarding the scandal in interviews, she pretty much avoided answering questions involving the scandal which made her seem like an even bigger liar. Johnson thought a better way to deal with the scandal was to show, “emotion and acknowledge that while it was legal there are valid reasons why people are suspicious and she understands that in this age of distrust of government.” (2015, 5) Trust is the biggest way to gain the respect of the public, which is a huge reason why Donald Trump is ahead of her in the polls.

Usually interviews make the public respect you for answering allegations with truthful answers but this can also have the opposite affect, especially when you are not truthful and a terrible liar. This occurred in a recent interview of Hillary Clinton where she appeared very transparent in the interview, avoiding almost every question that the journalists were asking her. Her public relations team had obviously not prepared her well enough for these questions, even though she had five months to prepare for these questions, she still appeared very transparent and made the matters worse. (Phillips, 2015)

If I was apart of her public relations team I would first choose our key messages to address, so I think she should first address that she made a mistake and be very honest with the public to gain their trust back. I would then decide on the overarching objectives, which would be gaining the publics trust back so she doesn’t look like every other lying political figure. I would then choose the target audience to focus on and the types of communication to get her message across. By doing these tactics she would’ve been better prepared in interviews so she didn’t appear to be a liar, I think her PR team went with the denial tactic which made her look even worse than she did before the interview. Gaining the publics trust is the greatest way to get the public votes and with the way her PR team is dealing with the crisis as of now, it doesn’t look good and they should’ve been more prepared for something like this to happen.

Galloway, Christopher. & Kwansah-Aidoo, Kwamena. (2005). Public relations issues and crisis management. Southbank, Vic : Thomson Social Science Press

Johnson, D. E. (2015, March 10). Hillary Clinton Email Controversy: Crisis Management Tips. In CommPRO.biz. Retrieved from <http://www.commpro.biz/public-relations/crisis-communications/hillary-clintons-crisis-management-lessons-to-learn/&gt;.

Phillips, B. (2015, September 2). The worst media disaster of August 2015. In Ragan’s PR Daily. Retrieved from http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Articles/The_worst_media_disaster_of_August_2015_19309.aspx

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