Trump and Clinton Doubling Down PR Messages As The 2016 Race Heads Toward the Finish Line


Andy-Blum-headshotBy Andrew Blum

Now that we’ve had the final presidential debate, what are the last-minute PR and marketing tactics we should expect from the candidates and their parties? If I had to bet, I would say for the most part, they are going to keep doing what they’ve been doing. That’s not necessarily what their advisers and voters may want them to do.

Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson is spinning in his grave. If he was still alive, Thompson might have used a favorite phrase of his to describe the presidential campaign: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Thompson would barely scratch the surface of the intensity and perplexing game-changing characteristics of 2016 as Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of running for president and communicating his message.

In the third debate it was pretty much more of the same – but this time Hillary Clinton sent a few zingers in Trump’s direction.

Between now and November 8, I think Trump should make real apologies for all his insults. He won’t. And Clinton should tell the public that, yes, she is sorry for her mistakes and that she is flawed but she knows how to govern. Who knows, she might.

Trump and Clinton Doubling Down PR Messages As The 2016 Race Ends

(Photo Source: Twitter)

What Trump seems to be missing is that PR and TV are all about perceptions of the person by the audience and he comes off horribly in a PR sense. Trump should avoid talking like a sexist creep; Clinton should avoid being wonky and keep the “When they go low, we go high” mantra borrowed from Michelle Obama. Clinton as the first woman nominee of a major party has almost seemed like a footnote at times in 2016 to Trump’s bluster. Yes, she has a PR message but it has gotten lost from time to time. Maybe the first debate fallout and the Trump income tax issue finally started to overcome some of her negatives. In the week after the first debate, her PR team won the battle as Trump self-combusted attacking a former Miss Universe.

The 2016 campaign has focused on an unrelenting torrent of criticisms by Trump of everyone and everything including debate moderators and the media – which by giving Trump so much coverage in the primaries helped him win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s recent PR ploy that the election is rigged and that the media, Clinton and women accusing him of sexual misconduct and groping are ganging up on him isn’t working. He even lashed out at Alec Baldwin for portraying him on SNL. Huh?

Trump needs to stay on message. He could take lessons from his wife who defended him from the accusations by women; she repeated the same message over and over. He erupts in 10 directions.Clinton could take political and warmth lessons from her husband. Bill Clinton is a natural born politician. Hillary Clinton is not.

Like him or hate him, Trump has redefined politics and PR with his communications style. Damage control and rapid responses on steroids have become the PR norm here.
Can Clinton overcome this with her PR approach? Can she fight off Trump attacks on the revelations from Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s leaked emails? If she keeps pushing Trump’s buttons and pivots off the emails, she can.

But the question Hunter Thompson would pose at this point: is this a one-time wacky change in campaigns, media and PR or have things changed forever? Thompson is spinning in his grave watching Trump and Clinton and their PR spinners.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies, families and individuals, and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive PR crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms

Leave a Comment