Clinton, the media and her campaign Essay

What messages are being sent out by Hillary Clinton’s campaign? - Clinton, the media and her campaign Essay introduction?? The campaign of Clinton are sending many different messages which are all hopefully tied together by the idea that all of these different messages by and all promote the image that Clinton wants to build for herself, and image that Clinton hopes the people would see – and buy – so that she can be propelled by the votes of the people during the primaries and send her to the top of the Democratic party’s list of candidate for the US presidential elections. With every issue that unfolds directly or indirectly involving Clinton, it forms a message that is sent to the public.

For example, Clinton’s message was clear that she, as promised and like her chief opponent Barrack Obama, is against the enactment of trade agreements that the US has the penchant for making with other countries because either Clinton as a person and as a politician is truly against the impacts and repercussions of such trade agreements or she is acutely aware of the sentiments of the greater voting majority in Pennsylvania about the issue of trade agreements which many locals do not favor (Associated Press, par 9).

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On the first week of April, Clinton’s chief strategist for her campaign Mark Penn was taken out of her team apparently because of Penn’s role in the current Colombian trade agreement. Penn’s position in Clinton’s very fragile campaign trail is very important especially going to the homestretch, and booting out Penn because he went against Clinton’s particular personal and political policy (which many will perceive as pro-people) makes sends the message that Clinton is a heroine – sacrificing her perilous campaign in the name of standing up not just for her beliefs but for the welfare of the people that she is hoping to rule on day.

And the preliminaries in the largely anti-trade agreement Pennsylvania will matter the most in the neck and neck race of Clinton and Obama. The firs week of April act at Camp Clinton can be construed as either a political maneuver to win the hearts of the electorate or a move that is bereft of political motivation, which is hard to believe at this stage. Still, Clinton was proving that she and her group were successful in communicating to the voters and sending the messages. All that matters now is whether or not the voters will believe the message sent to them by Clinton.

Who are they targeted at? – Clinton’s messages were aimed at three targets – the voters, the media and Obama. It is easy to understand why Clinton is focusing a great deal of her team’s strength and logistics so that what she has to say (or what she wants the people to believe) is delivered to the voters.

Clinton, like any other politician, believes that these messages will help her create an image of herself that the voters would like; she has to create an image of her on the minds of the voters, an image that the people would agree to nominate as the next Democratic candidate, an image that is designed by the characteristics that she trumpeted she displays and has over the duration of the campaign (or even as far back as the pre-campaign months when Clinton is already laying the groundwork for her image-building in the hearts and minds of the voters), characteristics including her current position on important issues like healthcare, trade agreements, war on Iraq, education and crime and violence in the United States.

Clinton needs to assure that the voters possess the impression of Clinton that she favors – the impression that can convince voters to have her as the running candidate for the Democrats for the November elections.

The next question is how does Clinton manage to get these messages across towards the voters? The answer is through the manipulation of the media. Clinton makes sure that her messages are delivered to the people by the media, an institution which holds a similar significance in her career as a politician as much as the electorate. A well educated politician, Clinton knows the importance of the media in her victory in the preliminaries and the improvement of her chances towards being nominated.

Welch explains the simple role and influence of the media in the campaign and elections, saying that ‘when the media declare some candidates winners, they help create a bandwagon effect. When they declare others losers, they make it hard for these candidates to attract contributors, volunteers and supporters…The media can also persuade the voters directly. This influence can be seen in several ways.’ (p153).

But while Clinton is cognizant of this need to get the message to the media, some members of her staff seemed to be not on the same page, as Washington Post’s Dana Milbank on February wrote a column about how poorly some of Clinton’s aides are handling the relationship of Clinton, her image, her issues and the media. In the column, Milbank pointed out about how Harold Ickes and Phil Singer were both unable to touch base with the reporters as well as with the issues that the reporters wanted to talk about in lieu of Clinton’s campaign.

The rest of her messages were targeted to rival Obama, for the obvious reasons – Clinton, directly or indirectly, communicates to Obama, dissuading him in the early part of the campaign, intriguing him, forcing him on the ropes, offering him the olive branch while at the same time letting him know they she is still throwing the punches, the most controversial by far is the offering of Clinton of the vice presidency, a move which Obama considers as an act that led Obama to say that the Clintons ‘were being duplicitous’ (Zeleny, Bosman par2).

Give examples of noise (anything that interferes with the ability to send and receive messages) coming from Obama and McCain’s camp – One of the strategies that politicians resort to so that the voters are shielded from any information about the rival candidate is by making noise that would force the attention to your direction. As the old adage goes, ‘bad publicity is still publicity’, and for some candidates, they would not stop at anything just to make sure that they remain the talk of the town and the content of every major daily and tabloid in the country.

Holtz-Bacha explained that because of the entry of modernity in technology and in the manner by which election and campaign processes has been undertaken, strategies towards the professionalization of election campaigns were created, and one of these is the ‘active communication management’ (p95) that includes adaptation, distraction and attention strategies. These strategies are used so that the ability of a candidate to communicate with the voters are affected and impeded. But rival candidate Obama seemed bent on not resorting to this kind of political strategy.

The only time he speaks against Clinton is during the discussion of issues wherein his position may contradict that of Clinton, or during the assertion of his personal opinion on matters that involve his candidacy and his political career (i.e. when Obama reacted about the offer to make him the vice president and running mate of Clinton).

What mediums are being used by this campaign? What do those messages convey? – The tri-media is one of the most noticeable and most reliable mediums that Clinton is using for her campaign so that she can get her message across. Some can even argue that the Internet, arguably the fourth form of medium in mass communication, is in play as well in the campaign of Clinton.

This process is both informing the public and at the same time manipulating the knowledge of the public, giving them what the sender wants the public to know and believe. Sabanovic explains that ‘the information mediation through the mass media is a secondary experience. There is a way to get information through the first hand and that is through a personal experience… If we find out about the new information through secondary experience, we understand things without a personal experience in these contents. This is what we have all accepted and sometimes we trust even more to the media experience than ourselves’ (p12).

Press releases on the latest happening over at Clinton camp, Clinton’s positions on issues that matters to the voting public and Clinton’s progress in the campaign and preliminaries trail are the different messages that are being delivered through press releases, press junkets, press conference and exclusive one on one interviews that allows Clinton to secure a suitable percentage of media exposure and media mileage.

Paid television ads and broadsheet spreads about Clinton and how institutions and organizations support Clinton can be found in television and newspapers, while the radio and the Internet are not lagging far behind in the coverage of the activities of Clinton and the development of her campaign. Clinton even managed to maximize the ability of the Internet to reach out to its target audience by using social networking sites like Facebox, MySpace and Friendster to touch base with the younger, more Internet literate section of the voting population.

            Aside from using the media for mass communication and wide-ranging effect, Clinton is also using traditional visuals and campaign paraphernalia. Posters, placards, flyers, letters, statement of position and other materials in print are circulated by the Clinton camp to be able to maximize the potential for Clinton’s popularity via the use of every available resource for mass communication.

What type of non verbal communication is going on (show examples of : colors, clothing, touch, truth, deception, facial expressions, body language, personal space, eye contact, hand gestures and personal space). – Getting the message across requires two sets of actions – the direct verbal action by communicating via the accepted traditional means of communication (using words, spoken or written/read) and by the use of non verbal communications that range from the message that the color of the clothes worn by Clinton to the messages that Clinton’s body language convey to the public. Like written and spoken words used to communicate, the messages that non verbal communications give out have the tendency to be misread or be interpreted differently by different people. Authors Gregory Hartley and Maryann Karinch provided an analysis of the body language of Hillary Clinton, indicative particularly of her stand in the ongoing Iraq war.

According to the two specialists, Hillary’s constantly pursed lips and the tone of her voice. But a Malaysian Sun article about the book the two authors wrote noted that this body language may also mean that Clinton is trying to give out a message that she is a warm and caring person.

Clinton’s interview with Fox News Sunday, hosted by Chris Wallace, was also controversial because of the assessment of Tonya Reiman of Clinton’s body language during the interview. Reiman detected both genuine and false smiles and laughter in Clinton’s physical reactions during the duration of the interview and provided explanation on why such body actions manifested itself. According to Reiman, Clinton’s genuine smile happened during the time when Clinton’s eyebrows dipped down (par3), while Clinton’s laughter was conceived as an act that was not really meant to react to the realization that something is funny, but simply to ‘lighten the situation’. But the most critical assessment made by Reiman is when she describes Clinton’s laughter as an ‘evil laughter’ and the manner by which Clinton’s face contorted during the length of the laughter and how her face made different shifting movements.

            But Hillary is very conscious about her problem before with body language – one, she appears very stoic and steady, and the American voters feel intimidated and detached to such leaders that there is a tendency that they may vote for some one else, which leads to Hillary making active and real efforts to correct her body language so that it will evoke a kinder and warmer person. Nagpal (2007) reports about the changes that Clinton made with her eye contact, the way she tilts her head, how she smiles and laughs and even how she opts more for skirts than pantsuits lately so that she can soften her image a bit.

This is important as Nagpal points out the same idea that KNP Communications is stressing with regards to body language and the campaign trail, noting how swing voters depend on what messages they get from non verbal communication including body language, and even the colors that a person attaches to itself (color of clothing in particular), an issue that Clinton resolved recently by making more room for more colorful outfits including an orange piece she wore on a debate.

What messages are being sent out by Clinton’s press releases? Are they clear or do they become out of focus during the coverage? – Press releases and news features found in the official website of Hillary Clinton which she uses for her campaign throughout the preliminaries sends out different messages. First, it sends out the message that she is the type of the leader that is pro-people; second, it sends the message that she is a strong willed woman who will not give up and will not yield the Democratic Party nomination for presidency to any of her rivals; third, it send out the message that she is a very capable leader for the American people. She is able to send this through press releases and new releases which are all an affirmation of her good and desirable qualities; again an effort to win the votes of the electorate.

Because of the fact that Clinton is one of the top favorites to win the Democratic candidacy, her press releases and her messages to the people is being given a noticeable amount of media space and mileage. But it is another thing to see whether or not these messages became distorted in the course of transfer from her PR men to the media entities to the people; the best anyone can expect it the use of the truth because no one wants to face a libel or slander lawsuit versus one of the top US senators today. The other facets of the nature of the impact of her messages is dictated by the stand of the media entities and the decision of top brass editors which among the messages of Clinton is important enough that it should be allowed the use of media to get through to the people.

How is Clinton’s campaign advertising? What are their strengths and weaknesses? – In a modest outlook, it is safe to say that Clinton’s campaign advertising is doing well – it managed to highlight her strength, it came across as something that is not too hard sell, not overly traditional and yet still sticks to the tried and tested means and ways when it comes to the designing and execution of campaign advertising, it is highly visible and the message can be easily deciphered by the large majority of the target audience, it is spread evenly in the various mediums of communication – in the media, in the Internet as well as in traditional campaign collaterals and advertising paraphernalia.

For what its worth, the maintenance of Clinton’s popularity is generally owed to the success and impact of her campaign and advertising. True to the nature of the traditional advertising sense, Clinton is managing to ‘sell’ herself as a product – the brand that people would want to trust when it comes to political leadership. Her financial donors and supporters do not seem to have any qualms at all about how the money and the logistical support thrown at her feet is being used and spent, proof that whatever long term campaign advertising plan Clinton has in the works is supported as well by those who back Clinton up in her bid for a nomination to the US presidential election.

The perceived strengths of Clinton’s campaign advertising is hinged primarily on the ability of the campaign to create an image that is favorable to Clinton and her political career. That is the main goal of the campaign advertising and as far as efforts about that is concerned, the goals are being achieved. Why she is being beaten in some fronts by Obama are things which cannot be attributed solely to the impact of campaign advertising since there are some factors that come into play like the innate preference and unwavering alliance of the people towards Clinton’s rivals despite what can be a very convincing campaign advertising efforts for Clinton. If it has weakness, then it should be minimal and would focus on the generated feeling of alienation and marginalization of the people who believe that they are not targeted by the campaign advertising.

Analyze one speech from Clinton’s campaign and one from Obama’s campaign write about how they differ in message. Write about the non verbal communication taking place. Write about the hidden message at use. – Obama’s obvious weakness when it comes to foreign policy as viewed in one of his speeches in Washington in 2007 is owed, according to Horrigan (2007) to Obama’s ‘less foreign policy experience’ (par 1). Clinton, in a speech that tackles the same issue, showed more insight and exercised more caution and walked the straight path even as Obama seemed to be threading the dangerous line about foreign policy every time he makes mentions of his intentions in this regard.

Unlike Obama, Clinton and her speech about foreign policy focuses on the thoughts and ideas which Kornblut (2007) defines as ‘more attuned to a general election campaign and a future presidency’ (par 6). Like most of the speeches in foreign policy, the Washington speeches of Obama and Clinton on foreign policy touched albeit very gingerly the issue of war, particularly the war on Iraq and Afghanistan and the US army presence in the Middle East region, as well as the different issues surrounding the use and exercise of nuclear technology by US, its allies and its enemies, and the manner by which US should undertake its business with other countries.

Clinton and her speech can be characterized as showing and exercising restraint and being generally moderate in the issues, compared to the more hard-line approach by Obama. Critiques believe that this particular speech as well as the rest of the speeches that Clinton and Obama are making carries with them hidden messages as well as communicating messages through non-verbal means; it shows the stance of Obama and how he is bent on opening the communication lines between the US and other countries, even if these countries are deemed as hostile countries to the US and poses a threat to the country, while Clinton shows through the speech how her conservative efforts with regards to US foreign policy is geared at first protecting the sovereignty of the US as well as the sovereignty of other countries. The constant rebuttal happening between the two camps on issues including foreign policy is indicative of the existing disagreement between Clinton and Obama on this particular issue, and how they actively rebut each other’s statements during their own speeches indicate that they are both engaging each other in an all out, head-on war for the Democratic Party presidential ticket.

If you were the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton, what would you have done differently with the media coverage to support and back up your ideas? – Clinton’s campaign manager has done an excellent job in steering Clinton’s campaign so that every imaginable asset they can influence and manipulate yielded results which favor Clinton and her candidacy. But evidently, some of Clinton’s top aides fumbled the ball when it comes to media coverage several times, although not at the expense of Clinton’s preliminaries. Still, there is still room for improvement when it comes to how the members of Clinton’s team managed the media coverage so that it can be used to deliver Clinton’s ideas and messages – and one of this is the issue that was leaked to the press about the planted questions on one of Clinton’s speeches. While there is nothing wrong legally, morally and ethically, Clinton’s media managers should have made extra effort to ensure that only the good and desirable things about Clinton and her campaign is absorbed by the press. This little blunder is representative of how media coverage was managed very loosely by the aides of Clinton that the desire to increase media coverage backfired and made Clinton and her media-directed campaign one of the laughing stocks in the 2007 preliminaries. The media managers should exercise as much power in inviting the press for press coverage as there is in their power and ability for crisis management and getting things out of hand is a big no-no during campaigns especially when the presidential candidacy is on the line.

Works Cited:

“Clinton’s chief strategist steps aside.” Associated Press. MSNBC. 7 April 2008. 16 April

      2008 <http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/23985294/>.

“Fox News’ body language expert accused Clinton of exhibiting evil laughter.” (Media

      Matters for America. 25 September 2007. 16 April 2008

      <http://mediamatters.org/items/200709250011>.

“Hillary for President.” HillaryClinton.com. 16 April 2008 <www.hillaryclinton.com>.

Horrigan, Marie. “Obama’s Foreign Policy Speech Leaves Room for Debate.” New York

      Times. 1 August 2007. 16 April 2008

      <http://www.nytimes.com/cq/2007/08/01/cq_3207.html>.

Kornblut, Anne E. “Clinton’s Foreign Policy Balancing Act.” Washington Post. Page A04. 7

      August 2007. 26 April 2008 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/06/AR2007080601579.html>.

Milbank, Dana. “Team Clinton: Down, and Out of Touch.” Washington Post. 26 February

      2008. 16 April 2008 <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/25/AR2008022502501_pf.html>.

Nagpal, Sahil. “Hillary Clinton works on her body language.” TopNews.in. 29 September

      2007. 16 April 2008

      <http://www.topnews.in/hillary-clinton-works-her-body-language-22622>.

Sabanovic, Ines. “The role of the media in election campaign – on the example of Bosnia and

      Herzegovina and Ukraine.” GRIN Verlag, 2007.

Welch, Susan, Comer, John, Gruhl, John and Rigdon, Susan M. “American

      Government.” Wadsworth, March 2005.

“What Bill and Hillary Clinton’s body language says!.” Malaysia Sun. Issue 1457. 18 June

      2007. 16 April 2008

      <http://story.malaysiasun.com/index.php/ct/9/cid/b8de8e630faf3631/id/257548/cs/1/>.

Wolfsfeld, Gadi and Maarek, Philippe. “Political Communication in a New Era: A Cross-National Perspective.” Taylor & Francis, Inc., March 2003.

Zeleny, Jeff and Bosman, Julie. “Obama Rejects Idea of Back Seat on Ticket.” New York

      Times. 11 March 2008. 16 April 2008

<http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/11/us/politics/11clinton.html?_r=1&ref=politics&oref=slogin>.

 

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