The election campaigns leading up to the November 8, 2016, polls were filled with drama, controversies and public relations dilemmas never witnessed before. In fact, the world ‘crazy’ would be best suited to describe those campaigns. Both candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had their fair share of controversies. When one’s controversial emails were leaked, the other was being accused of being a misogynist. However, one rather shocking PR mistake that rocked the Trump’s camp was committed by Melania Trump. In her speech at the 2016 National Convention of the Republicans, Mrs. Trump was accused of lifting a whole two paragraphs from Michelle Obama’s speech during the 2012 Democrats Convention while campaigning for President Barack Obama.
How did Trump’s camp react? Well, at first they refused to give any comment regarding the matter before coming with a story later on. Apparently, Meredith McIver, the speechwriter forgot to proofread the speech before handing it over to Mrs. Trump; hence, the occurrence to plagiarism. Other than taking the blame, she also reiterated that Melania Trump was one of Mrs. Obama’s biggest fans and that is the reason she picked some parts belonging to her speech.
Was the PR crisis handled correctly? Partly yes, and partly no. Let’s start with the latter. In today’s world, the internet and media are quick to demand answers for everything that happens around them. If they do not find the information they need, they will publish whatever they have and the long-term repercussions may be too much to bear as far as reputational damage is concerned. As a result, “No Comment” is not answer one would have to give every time when confronted with reporters. The one cardinal rule that exists in today’s PR world is: Tell it all and it fast. Therefore, one thing I would have done differently would have been to release a statement with the little facts at hand as fast as I could.
On the other hand, although no one is sure whether the speechwriter was merely a scapegoat used to calm down the crisis, the move was well done. Noting that Melania Trump adored Michelle Obama was a big plus and probably endeared Donald Trump to some of Hillary Clinton’s supporters. It showed that there was a huge respect for the Obama’s – who were affiliated with Hillary Clinton – from Donald Trump’s camp.
What, therefore, do we learn from this PR gaffe? – That the era of not commenting on issues is long gone, and it may not always work – not with today’s media.
Tell it all and tell it fast!