CONVENTION CRISIS COMMUNICATIONS: HOW DELAY CAUSED DESTRUCTION ON THE FLOOR AND OFF
There’s a saying among parents and pragmatists: Why put off until tomorrow what you can do today? Now the question is: Why do politicians – when facing crisis communications or a public relations issue – seem to miss the mark?
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are equally guilty of waiting way too long when a crisis was building. And their convention messages imploded. The Republican National Convention and the Democratic National Committee both appeared inept and idiotic, and their opportunities to embrace a bright world spotlight were quickly dimmed.
First, accusations surrounded the RNC – initially vehemently denied then later acknowledged – that Melania Trump’s speech writer lifted lines from a Michelle Obama convention speech. It took two days of media debate drowning out the convention’s messages before leaders acknowledged lines were hijacked. Mrs. Trump had already been seen on NBC saying she wrote almost the whole speech – yet no one would admit what transpired and move on.
Two full days where the party’s message should have been center stage were lost to denials – as major media blasted the snafu worldwide.
The Democrats weren’t to be outdone. The day before their convention began, the party was divided by emails released seeming to confirm what some had accused the Democratic National Committee of doing all along: reportedly conspiring to thwart Clinton’s progressive rival Bernie Sanders’ chances at a fair campaign for the Democratic nomination.
Instead of immediately taking steps to address the email scandal, the DNC and the Clinton campaign waffled. They were slow to address the issue, instead allowing loud boos to be heard during DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s speech to her Florida delegation. Only later, when outcry grew from Sanders’ supporters, did she or her bosses remove her from any public convention role altogether.
In another questionable decision, the Clinton campaign then named her its honorary chair, leaving people to question why they didn’t wait until the convention was over – or why they gave her the post at all.
In both instances, both parties were heading into their respective conventions riding waves of potentially positive exposure. Both, instead, mishandled their controversies and sullied their sheen.
With all their speeches about lessons learned from their parents, the party leaders and candidates should have listened to those messages and done today what they put off ’til tomorrow.
By Julie Talenfeld, President of BoardroomPR