The Hillary Clinton Campaign Strategy To Manage Media Coverage

Hillary with coffee cup

Cover image by Vanity Fair

It’s the main goal of every public relations practitioner out there: get the media to report the message the way you want it reported.  In politics, that is especially true as people like Rand Paul are finding out that all members of the media, big and small, have a single agenda: higher ratings and views.

For the last six years, we in the United States have seen attempts at pure management from the Obama White House.  Valerie Jarrett has her manicured claw around the throat of a few loyalist reporters, and the rest of the pack…well, they get what they are handed and that is that.  (And people think this is not the Soviet Union.)

So, it should be no great shock that Hillary Clinton, former First Lady, celebrity senator, and Secretary of State – a woman who is no stranger to the spotlight – wants to avoid media disasters such as the “I used one device for convenience” email presser from last month.

However, limiting the size of the press pool covering her, and staging events for photo ops by another name may not be the way to do it.  Why?  People in the journalism business are already crying foul.  From HotAir’s Ed Morrissey:

Clinton wants reporters to cover the events the way she wants, and not ask questions that might otherwise put her on the spot. So which reporters will go along with those plans? The pool selection at the White House gets handled by the correspondents themselves. Something tells me that this will not be the case when it comes to Hillary Clinton’s press pools. This approach leaves the campaign with a lot of leverage over the reporters assigned to cover her campaign. Ask a tough question once, and don’t hold your breath waiting for another slot in the pool.

If Hillary thinks the Helen Thomas episode in 2009 was bad, imagine getting the millennials hacked off.  They feel more entitled than Hillary does.  And she does come off as thinking of herself entitled.  But, there’s more.  Morrissey also points out that the mainstream media is going to be used to further the perception that the dowager president in waiting really is entitled to the position.

At least that is what the campaign hopes to achieve.  Every time Mrs. Clinton appears in public at big events and pressers and people actually see her and hear her talk, her ratings drop.  The plan is to launch an “intimate campaign,” whatever that is, designed to showcase her warm, human side in order to counter this phenomenon.  (Didn’t know she had a warm, human side.  Isn’t this the woman who clocked her husband with a book while he was president?  Okay, yeah, he probably deserved it, but….)

Unlike her 2008 bid, when Clinton sometimes came off as imperious, aides to the all-but-declared presidential candidate say this time she will focus on smaller, intimate events that will allow her to spend quality time with voters and connect with them in casual settings….

Aides want to showcase Clinton’s warmth and sense of humor, which can be lost in larger events, and bring the high-flying former secretary of state down to the earth. But they acknowledge it won’t be easy….

Ryan Williams, a Republican strategist who was Mitt Romney’s press secretary in 2012, thinks Clinton’s team is dreaming.“It’s utterly impossible,” he said. “My guess is Hillary Clinton’s intimate campaign will be nothing more than a staged photo opportunity designed to look like something that it’s not. You’re at a stage where it should be open access to voters, spontaneous interaction with voters, and that’s just going to be very hard for her.”

Staged photo ops are still staged photo ops.  It happens too many times and the press posse will start to complain and gig will be up.  If it isn’t already with the entire idea of an “intimate campaign” practically debunked on the blogs.

Who are they kidding?  In the United States, presidential races are plain and simply circuses with about seven rings, sideshows, and a midway that defies explanation.  There is no real way to make anything intimate with a press plane in the flotilla.  Every member of the pool is looking for a scoop.  Candidates lives are open books.  It’s the way it works.  That doesn’t mean they aren’t going to butter up the vultures first, at the same time according to Politico:

“Politics, especially political reporters, abhor a vacuum, so media outlets are going to hunt and peck for stories that create the dynamic of the campaign being a yet-unannounced HRC presidential vs. the august members of the Fourth Estate,” Chris Lehane, the Democratic communications strategist and Clinton White House alum, told POLITICO. “Once the campaign is off and running like Usain Bolt, based on the big idea she offers as her rationale, it will develop specific reporters and outlets that take a franchise interest.”

That still sounds an awful lot like control.  “Franchise interest” and all that.  It also tears at the integrity, or what’s left of it, of journalism itself which is meant to be a rough draft of raw information.  The Clinton camp does not want their candidate scrutinized and badgered for some reason.  At a guess, it would be that their candidate does not think on her feet very well despite being a lawyer.  Whatever the basis of the rationale, they want her to know what’s coming.

That does not bode well for someone who wants to Occupy the Oval Office.

P.s. Out of the blocks like Usain Bolt is wishful thinking.

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.