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Hillary Clinton and her Presidential PR

Hillary Clinton and her Presidential PR

Hillary Clinton, The PHA Group

‘Image courtesy of kansieo on Flickr’

Hillary Clinton is running for president.

It is no shocking revelation but her approach to the campaign and the long run to November 2016 is something to watch carefully.

Over the years Clinton has worked hard in a number of often-conflicting roles. She has had to progress from dignified and dutiful First Lady to dominant and successful Secretary of State and now must present herself as a darling of the left whilst remaining centrist enough to win over more conservative voters when the Primaries are over and done. Clinton has spent each of these roles collecting contrasting PR images. All of which now need to be combined into one election-winning persona whilst doing the hardest thing of all: appearing human.


First Lady of the United States

Even before her husband was elected Clinton was an influential person in his life and politics.

'Image courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust on Flickr'

‘Image courtesy of InSapphoWeTrust on Flickr’


While Bill Clinton served as Governor of Arkansas, Hillary continued to work as a lawyer and take on an active philanthropic role. During the Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign Clinton was often referred to as “Lady Macbeth” referencing her role as a key member of her husband’s political circle.

She is considered to be second only to Eleanor Roosevelt when it comes to influential First Ladies (and perhaps now Michelle Obama).

Neatly balancing her advocacy for children and healthcare with advising her husband and assisting with the implementation of diplomatic strategy, as First Lady those surrounding her sought to ensure Clinton always came across as feminine. They knew, and she knew, that she needed to play up to the image that was expected of her in order to wield influence.


United States Senator and Secretary of State

As a Senator, Clinton built relationships across both parties.

During the Iraq war, she spent time abroad visiting soldiers and advocating for benefits for veterans.

As secretary of state Clinton once again showed that she was a formidable sparring partner for US friends and foes alike.

She played a crucial role in the Obama administration with a number of crucial successes: the response to Afghanistan, the US response to the Arab Uprisings and the decision over whether to raid the Osama bin Laden compound. Consequently, Clinton’s image progressed and developed from the educated and advisory First Lady to an efficient and ruthless politician.

Presidential Candidate

Clinton needs to build on her image as a strong and capable leader that she has shown over her time in politics, as she is now required to do something far more difficult that being competent.

She has to be human.

Running as a political legacy has its benefits and it drawbacks. It allows Clinton to point to a past success record that will show her strong suits when it comes to health, education and even foreign policy decisions. She can prove that she is a resilient leader with experience at the height of American politics.

Recent polls showed that 84% of people in both Iowa and New Hampshire thought that Clinton had the foreign policy experience to navigate a dangerous world whereas her closest opponent Bernie Sanders polled at just 3%. The same poll showed that in New Hampshire 67% of people thought that Clinton knew how to get things done in Washington however only 34% in the same state thought that the front-runner as authentic.

If Clinton wins the Democratic nomination and goes on to beat whoever the Republican candidate is, whether it be Florida Senator Marco Rubio or fellow political legacy Florida Senator Jeb Bush or any one of the 11 others that have declared, she needs to present herself as the human candidate, to create a balance between her personal and professional personae.

In order to help soften her image, Clinton has hired Kristina Schake, the woman who ‘softened’ Michelle Obama. During Barak Obama’s 2008 campaign Michelle Obama was criticized for some of her comments and her tough woman image.

It is unfortunate that in order to win elections in the United States women have to appear feminine and “soft”.

The real tragedy is that Clinton is qualified for the job of President of the United States. More than qualified.

She has served in the White House; it has never been a secret that she often influenced her husband’s decisions while in office. She has served in Congress as a Senator with a wide scope of influence on a range of committees. She has served on the Cabinet in one of the most demanding jobs that exist.

But sadly that is not enough.

Clinton looks to have learned a lot from her 2008 presidential run. This time she seems to have taken on the criticism from a senior advisor who suggested that her biggest mistake was missing the opportunity to show her softer side. Now seeking to run a simple campaign, with the help of Ms Schake, she hopes to humanize the Clinton image and make ‘real people’ relate to the presidential hopeful.

Running as a democrat Clinton may gain traction in the polls as the first woman to do so.


But she also has to appeal to the ordinary American who tends to be more conservative.

Clinton is already stressing her commitment to the family making it one of her 4 key pledges for the campaign while ensuring that LGBT rights among other liberal stand points fall under the same umbrella.

Clinton has a long way to go. Not only to winning the Democratic nomination, but also to the White House.

As a candidate with unparalleled experience and determination to get break the “highest and hardest glass ceiling”. There is hope that there will be a woman in the White House in the not too distant future.

Clinton knows how to play the game.

She knows that it is unfortunate that she has to appear as a wife and mother alongside her political ambitions. But she also knows that playing the system that exists may be the only way to change it.


Matt Haig : Can Men Write About Feminism?

Matt Haig, the award-winning author of Reasons to Stay Alive, was recently lambasted online for wanting to write a book on the ‘perils of masculinity’. Having sent out the concept on twitter, scores of women decided to lampoon his idea as ‘anti – feminist’.

But why?

Feminism PHA he for she

‘Image courtesy of Marco Bond on Flickr’.

In January, Emma Watson spoke of her pride in being part of the HeForShe movement. She told us that feminism is a matter for both genders, and has benefits for women and men. When Matt Haig expressed an interest in writing about gender, however, twitter descended. According to them, there are enough books out there about men written by men. And here was another one, coming along to try and ‘mansplain’ feminism.

To an extent, it’s possible to see where they’re coming from. There are a lot of books by men about men for men, and swathes of articles as testament.

Yet Haig is the writer whose memoir deals so sensitively with depression and the social stigmas surrounding mental health. Having repeatedly clarified his reason for thinking ‘toxic masculinity’ could be an interesting and timely subject matter – sexism benefits men, but also hurts men – surely a similarly sensitive novel would be a boon to feminism?

Put this alongside recent headlines asking why, when Britain leads the world in female entrepreneurship, gender barriers remain in ‘boys club’ industries. Or why, though we’ve seen feminism become a mainstream trend in pop-culture, Mad Max’s more-than-capable Imperator Furiosa was met by scorn and a boycott from Male Rights Activists. As was the Girls Who Code group. And FIFA 16’s introduction of women’s football teams.



Surely a novel, a book that would make people acknowledge and challenge the heated subject of gender equality, could only be good?  Stories are, after all, integral to how we communicate and consequently one of the greatest tools of change.   

Let me take a little tangent by looking at two PR campaigns.

Most of us will have seen adverts that deal with modern preconceptions of what it’s like to be woman. Two particularly poignant recent examples are P&G’s Always ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, and Miss Representation’s ‘The Mask You Live In’.    

In the Always’ ‘Like a Girl’ advert, the director asks a series of pre-and post-adolescent women and men to run like a girl, fight like a girl, hit like a girl. The results are striking in that they show young girls putting their all into each request – they sprint, they punch, they look fierce. Their older counterparts fluff their responses, play with their hair, mock themselves as they act ‘like a girl’. They essentially do what the boys in the ad do. They imagine that girls cannot do what boys do. Cannot be as fast, strong or serious.

The question emerges, why can’t ‘run like a girl’ mean winning the race?

When did doing something ‘like a girl’ become an insult?

A year later, the campaign attained a coveted Super Bowl ad-space. Following up on the previous video’s demonstration of the ‘devastating’ effects of being taught ‘like a girl’ is a bad thing, it showed it’s possible to change the narrative.

Doing something ‘like a girl’ can mean doing amazing things.

On the other hand, 2013’s ‘The Mask You Live In’ looked at the impact of the phrase ‘be a man’ upon how men connect with their emotions.


‘Be a man,’ they argue, is one of the most damaging things a young boy can hear.

It expresses a lack of value for qualities that have been ‘feminised’. It means not crying. Dealing with problems alone. Not talking about fear or anger or hurt.

It’s a problem that run so deep that, as the Guardian’s Owen Jones wrote, it can kill.

The key thing here is that just like the ‘Like a Girl’ campaign, the values of ‘The Masks You Live In’ show a polarized narrative. In it femininity is bad, masculinity good. Both have demonstrable, painful, consequences. Because even now, men are still expected to be dominant, to be natural leaders, to be physically and emotionally impermeable. This is not healthy for men – and it’s not healthy for women either as they experience the fall-out. 

Importantly, when you see brilliant campaigns like these, you start to think about the bigger problems.

You start to talk about them. They take fantastic stories, focusing on how boys and girls grow up in society, and turn them into a call to action. They’re not exactly subtle but they explore the need to communicate about the problems inherent within society in order for change.

Yet these are stories told in three minutes.

Imagine how powerful a whole novel might be in addressing some of those same feminist subjects?

Returning then to the twitter onslaught Matt Haig experienced. Like Miss Representation, he considered investigating how masculinity in its current form damages men, and how feminism – the desire for gender equality – would thusly be good for everyone.


Haig’s plight, it seems, is partly that women don’t want men to lead feminism, which is valid. He wanted to tackle ‘toxic masculinity’ from a male perspective. Considering he identifies as male, this seems sensible since he can draw from his experiences. Moreover, penning a book exploring this issue does not mean Haig or any other male writer (Joss Whedon say) favours a men-first form of feminism.

It just means that he’s talking about the problem too.

A book’s ability to make people think and talk about problems they might not previously even have known is unparalleled.

They start conversations without even meaning to.

They can unravel problems and weave them into a tale, spin many hidden nuances into something terrifying, beautiful and complex.

This is the power of stories.

It’s why the campaigns we remember are the ones that deliver ideas not pitches.

So whilst I don’t want men to lead feminism, I also don’t think that we should begrudge men for wanting to be part of the conversation. They should be part of the solution. Especially when it comes to changing views on masculinity.

As long as there are great stories being told that challenge sexism, there will be conversations that should be valued, not vilified.

Charity PR: Stop the sensationalism!

All businesses are acutely aware of the need to cut through the noise when it comes to making their brand, product or service visible to their target market. A great communications strategy is, of course, integral to this. You might have the best idea in the world but without the right communication techniques, no one will buy into it.

Perhaps nobody feels this challenge more than charities and campaigning organisations. With what is often a constant struggle for funding, raising brand awareness and generating revenue through fundraising are on-going concerns, even for established organisations.

The charity market is as crowded as any other and smaller, lesser-known charities must compete with ‘megabrands’ like Amnesty International and Oxfam for donors and supporters. The recent collapse of the much-celebrated charity BeatBullying is indicative of these challenges.

Beyond this though, these organisations often deal with highly sensitive and complex issues. Nuanced policy positions must be transformed into simple, attention-grabbing calls to action and with a 24-hour news hour cycle that overloads us with content from all corners of the globe, grabbing our attention – at least for more than a few seconds – is now harder than ever.

When Band Aid released their first single in 1984, people were shocked by what they saw on their television screens and donations poured in. But what to do when we’re no longer shocked and the donations dry up?

Well, there’s always a temptation to revert to ever more shocking images, messaging and stereotypes that urge us out of our armchairs and towards a direct debit and, sadly, this is still a path some charities feel obliged to go down.

As a campaigner for women’s rights, it especially frustrates me to see adverts on the tube that serve only to further victimise women and girls to evoke feelings of sympathy and pity rather than empowerment.

As Regina Yau, Founder of the Pixel Project says, “We owe it to those we serve to avoid sensationalising their pain…we need to ask ourselves: Are we fighting for brand recognition or are we fighting for real change?”

My aim here is not to name and shame these organisations. I think we should acknowledge the real difficulties they face when, in reality, brand recognition is very much intertwined with their objective of creating change. As I said, it’s hard for charities to raise much-needed funds when their campaign has no visibility.

However, it’s also important to ask ourselves how we can do this without relying on sensationalism. As communications professionals, we are all responsible for the information we present to the public and we have to think about the impact we have.

The good news is that we can be creative, innovative and forward-thinking and move away from these old stereotypes – there are loads of amazing charities out there doing just this. One of these is KickStart Ghana, an NGO that aims to enhance the sporting and educational opportunities available to the people of Ghana. Their Co-Founder, Dave Coles, recognises the importance of challenging stereotypes in order to address the root of the problem and not just providing a sticking plaster – you won’t find a negative image in sight in their marketing materials.

What’s more, Nesta now awards funding from their Innovation in Giving Fund to forward-thinking charities that challenge traditional models of fundraising and engagement.

So yes, short-term shock tactics might boost a fundraising target but will they attract long-term supporters and drive real change in the future? The answer must be no.

Page Three…One small step for man

At long last The Sun has stopped publishing photos of bare-breasted women on Page Three. Men’s rights groups across the world will surely be celebrating such a momentous victory; no longer will menfolk be objectified by the newspaper’s daily, demeaning attacks on their intellect.

The internet has exploded with feminists and post-feminists and women’s rights activists hustling to give their two pence on the topic – but they’ve missed the point. This isn’t about them. This isn’t even about women. This is about men.

Page Three objectifies and demeans men, and it has done since its creation.

Pressure has been mounting on The Sun to scrap Page Three.

You can imagine the scene: it’s 1970 and young (ish) whippersnapper Rupert Murdoch is twiddling his thumbs, desperate to come up with a plan to boost his paper’s sales. “How do I get working-class men interested in the news, and more importantly, how can I encourage the fools to READ?”

In a similar vein to children’s magazines that come with a must-have toy or sweetie taped to the front to engage and excite their immature audience, Murdoch did the same with his invention of the Page Three girl.

In a day and age where internet porn didn’t exist and you had to scuttle down a back alley to a seedy adult shop to purchase your next fix of a naked breast, the free gift with the 50p Sun would have seemed like finding Willy Wonka’s Golden Ticket in every issue. It was a stroke of genius which saw The Sun’s sales rocket to become the UK’s most read newspaper.

But all in all the whole concept of Page Three is an insult on the intelligence of working-class men (who the paper is aimed at and who form the vast majority of the readers). It has wrongly led the world to believe that all men are this simple – it tells women that they can manipulate these unsophisticated beings to do anything they want – just by flashing a bit of booby. Poor, uncomplicated men.

The Sun’s Page Three has always made me feel uncomfortable – the solution? I don’t read it. I don’t know any women who do. Good Housekeeping magazine’s relentless focus on women staying at home and making the perfect quiche Lorraine to delight their husbands also makes me feel uncomfortable, so I avoid it.

But similarly – I find the host of women’s glossy magazines which prattle on about female empowerment and ‘champion’ women in business on one page, then tell you that the only way to be “seen” in 2015 is by following their ultimate eyeshadow tips in a 24-page-pullout – equally uncomfortable.

It’s fine and dandy for these women’s magazines to put skinny, half-or-fully-naked women on their front covers because it’s “empowering”, or whatever, and yet they seem to be the most vocal when it comes to criticising Page Three.

Don’t get me wrong, nudity has no place in amongst the breaking news stories of the day, and in a supposed “family” newspaper it is utterly inappropriate. But the Page Three models are consenting adults, making a living in the way that they choose. The Sun readers make a choice to purchase the paper, it is not forced in front of anyone. Feminism is about freedom and equality for everyone, including the women who choose to make a living this way and the men who choose to enjoy it.

The recent, high-profile events around Je Suis Charlie saw global leaders telling the world it must be tolerant about free speech. Nay, CHAMPION free speech. The Muslims who find Charlie Hebdo insulting and deeply uncomfortable are expected to just ignore it and brush it aside. We can’t champion free speech with one hand and berate it (in the form of Page Three) with the other. It doesn’t make sense.

The issue is conditioning – Page Three makes women feel insecure and sub-standard, it creates a ridiculous idea in our society that all women should be flawless, white and skinny with large breasts. It gives men the idea that women don’t mind being ogled and judged. It gives the impression to all that working-class men are simple beings who require some kind of sexual gratification to engage their interest.

The truth is, man or woman or child, Page Three does nobody any favours (unless you’re Rupert Murdoch, then you’re laughing all the way to the bank).