Tag Archives: Presidential campaign

Bad Publicity vs. NO Publicity: Presidential Campaign Lessons

We’re finally down to two. The last ones standing. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. And one will become President of the United States.  

After all the primary debates and most recently, the conventions, the campaigns have begun the slog toward Election Day. On the one hand, you have Clinton, who cannot seem to get out of her own way when it comes to dealing with the screw-ups of the past and Trump, who has not encountered a criticism he should not respond to. It’s reported they are the most disliked candidates in history.

And there are still 3 months to go!

So, is it really true that the only bad publicity is no publicity? Is it better to be talked about than ignored, regardless of what’s being said?

It’s complicated.

Let’s start with Hillary Clinton. In her case, bad publicity has a decidedly negative impact. The reason why goes something like this: Bad news sticks when it 1) undermines the core argument you make about yourself or 2) supports the core argument the opposition would have people believe about you.

Clinton promotes herself as experienced, knowledgeable, a steady hand, a hard worker. Therefore, it’s logical to assume a knowledgeable, experienced person would know that using a personal email server for state and often highly confidential business could create significant problems. So the actions contradict her message. (NOTE: I am not judging, only observing.) They undermine what she’d like us to believe about her and give ammunition to the opposition in their efforts to derail her candidacy by sticking her with the “poor judgment” label.

But what about Donald Trump? Have his choices undermined his candidacy? Not yet. Trump promotes himself as a business expert, strong, and not politically correct. Furthermore, he has trained the public over many years to expect little from him in terms of behaving within the usual boundaries of polite discourse. One powerful result is he is not held to that standard. He is vulnerable, of course, but he’s been very successful so far at protecting himself from news that could undermine his claims of business prowess, such as his tax returns. This also cleverly plays right into the political incorrectness theme and keeps him in the news because although it isn’t required, it’s traditional for candidates to release their returns for public evaluation, so pushing back against tradition fits.

There is one advantage for Hillary Clinton: Bad news that has come her way in recent days has not stuck because Trump is sucking up all the media space.  

So what’s the answer? Is it true that the only thing worse than bad publicity is NO publicity? Right now, if you’re Hillary Clinton, the answer is no and if you’re Donald Trump, the answer is yes.

Like I said, it’s complicated.