By Margaret Mulvihill
The Role of Public Relations in Politics is a monthly column written by WWPR member, Margaret Mulvihill, examining the role of PR in politics.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of Washington Women in Public Relations
In The Abstract
As politics permeate every strand and fiber of our society, so too does public relations permeate politics. As every action we take is in some way political, we are in effect practicing public relations every day. In our day-to-day home lives, as well as in our work lives, we live and breathe public relations.
Now that’s something to think about, right? When I get up in the morning and wish my teenage daughter a cheery ‘good morning’, that’s public relations. All I get in return is that annoyed from-under the eyebrows look. I need to work on that.
Going to the office, meeting people on the metro, in the elevator, in the coffee shop. Every interaction we make is a form of public relations. It doesn’t matter how small. We are selling ourselves gift-wrapped, on K Street every day. We don’t even think about it, it is as natural as breathing.
Snap Out Of It!
So why then is it so difficult to translate that easy, personal public relations we all practice into a client-side situation? I don’t know why. I can offer a few suggestions, such as over-thinking an issue. Being intimidated by the client, intentionally or otherwise on the client’s part. Fear of stepping out, fear of speaking up, paralyzes us. Indecision as to whether that ease of interaction is appropriate at ‘our’ level, or whether it is the preserve of the higher-ups. I have a solution to all this, of course. As Cher said to Nicolas Cage in the movie Moonstruck, Snap Out Of It!
Presidential Public Relations
As the election cycle begins its churn, issues are already here that can and should be dealt with on that personal, personable level. Politics is personal, so too should our approach to it be personal. The most recent cautionary example that comes to mind is Jeb Bush, Presidential hopeful for 2016. Mr. Bush began putting together his A-team of background campaign support, hired to work at his ‘Right to Rise’ PAC. One of his first hires was Ethan Czahor, hired as Chief Technology Officer/Digital Director, depending on whom you speak to.
Unfortunately for Jeb and even more so for Ethan, an energetic BuzzFeed staffer had enough time on hand to go back through more than seven years of Czahor ’s twitter feed. BuzzFeed found potentially embarrassing tweets about women, from 2009. That resulting information was broadcast as news earlier this week. Shortly afterwards, the offending tweets were deleted. End of story? No. Today Mr. Bush announced that Czahor is no longer on his staff.
From a public relations viewpoint, Jeb’s team could have advised him to move much faster. The tweets were obnoxious, and offensive to women. His team could have advised him to sever relations with Czahor on the day the tweets went viral. Going beyond that, it should have been obvious that Mr. Czahor has unapologetically made enemies across the political and public relations spectrum.
The lesson of the day is choose your team wisely. Choose carefully. Dial it back to that personal, personable level. Look at all aspects of that person you want to hire, not just their resume. In the brave new world of 24/7 viral news updates across Twitter, it’s smart to check your hire’s social media accounts. It’s not enough anymore to sit with a job prospect for an hour – we have all been trained to tell you what you want to hear, and how to present it to you for maximum benefit – to us. What?
Excuse me. I have to go check a social media account. Mine!