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Politics and PR: Why candidates are doing it wrong

Politics and PR: Why candidates are doing it wrong

[By Jason Mollica]

What is one of the topics people recommend you not talk about at family dinners (aside from the ingredients of mom’s mystery casserole)?


You are sure to get plenty of input about where a friend, colleague, or family member stands on any issue when you bring up politics. Add the volatility of social media and you have the perfect combination (sarcasm). In all seriousness, politics and social media could be a good combination, but time and time again, politicians and candidates for higher office prove they don’t get it.

Remember former New York state representative Anthony Weiner? The 2011 tweeting scandal forced him to resign. It was a public relations disaster. While this is just one example of how one politician used social media wrongly in a non-political way, there are plenty of examples of current ones that don’t understand the power of the PR/social media combination.

In the U.S., many of the candidates for president are using social media as part of their PR campaigns. They aren’t just trying to reach the “traditional” voter; they also want the new-school ones using Twitter and other social networks consistently.

Are all the messages received with a like and retweet? No way. Case in point is from August 2015, when Democratic presidential candidate Hilary Clinton tweeted this:


The tweet received plenty of retweets and likes. It also was an example of a candidate trying to “play” to popular culture. That’s never a good thing. The responses were not great. Asking followers to respond to a topic like student debt, a very hot-button issue, with emojis, isn’t a good social or PR strategy. It’s a recipe for criticism.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has been criticized, too. His Twitter account, run by Trump himself, is filled with tweets that use words like “lightweight” and “crazy.” These aren’t the typical words you would hear from a candidate. However, he gets upwards of 1,000 retweets, which is consistently more than any of the other presidential candidates on both sides.

However, it’s not an effective use of social communication. Some may argue that Trump is being authentic, a trait often kept at bay by celebrities and politicians, but when a person is running for the highest office in the United States, there needs to be more seriousness taken.

It’s apparent that many politicians could take a course on politics and PR — how to better integrate their PR and social communications strategies. No matter what is tweeted or posted to them, their strategists must stress the need for better and more effective engagement.

What are your thoughts on how politicians use social communication? Let us know in the comments.

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