Industry Insights

PR Lessons We've Learned From the US Elections

Industry Insights

PR Lessons We’ve Learned From the US Elections

Whether you follow politics or not, the 2016 American Presidential Election has been impossible to ignore. Throughout the campaign, candidates have attacked each other, made continual social media gaffs and made claims, and counterclaims, that were totally unsupported by facts.

As a result, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump were the two least liked candidates in history. According to The Washington Post, a whopping 56% of Americans had an unfavourable opinion of Clinton, while an even more staggering 63% of voters saw Trump in an unfavourable light. These figures are even more surprising given the results of the election. That Trump could win the Presidency with two-thirds of the country’s voters disapproving of him is truly remarkable.

So what exactly did happen to public relations in the US election? And what lessons can we learn from this extraordinary campaign?

Nothing is ever off the record

This is one lesson Donald Trump probably wishes he’d learned well in advance of the election. Though in the end the majority of the American public seemed to forgive him for his ‘locker room banter’, his ‘off the record’ remarks about women to TV host Billy Bush very nearly derailed his campaign.

Any candidate or company trying to raise their profile or promote a product or service would do well to remember that the comments they make, in any setting, reflect on their corporate image. Even if you think you’re talking to a friendly colleague or collaborator, remember to keep your comments on message.

Keep the battle cry simple

Donald Trump managed to rally millions of Americans behind his campaign by simply stating he’d ‘Make America Great Again’. Even when he had few policies or ideas to back this claim up, the simplicity of the message seemed to resonate with voters. Clinton on the other hand had a slightly more complex message. By trying to present policies, discuss ideas and use more sophisticated language, she seemed to alienate the electorate and give her opponent the edge.

Know your audience

Despite the fact that most of the world saw Trump as a reality TV star rather than a politician, he really knew his audience and understood exactly how to rally them behind the campaign. No matter what the candidate did or said, his fans seemed to forgive him and even to love him for it. He understood what they wanted him to say, what they wanted him to care about and how dissatisfied they were with the status quo.

Unfortunately for Clinton, she never seemed to have as much of an affinity with her target audience. Though there were dedicated supporters in her camp, the wider public seemed to view her suspiciously and were generally unwilling to give her the benefit of the doubt.

Whether you’re running for president or organising a corporate marketing campaign, you can learn a thing or two from the dramatic presidential race. Giving PR companies a lot to think about, this hard fought campaign may well have changed PR in politics for good.