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PR Issue Three

Public Relations Student Society of America

October 31, 2012

The University of Georgia

Drewry Chapter

Lessons Learned Public Relations in the History of Politics


ublic relations and politics have always been two concepts that go hand-in-hand. Throughout history, politicians have used PR tactics to communicate with the public, occasionally in times of crisis or scandal. As PR students, we can learn from each of these politician’s situations.

For example, former President Nixon used PR ineffectively during the Watergate scandal. In 1972, after five men were arrested for trying to hide microphones inside Democratic national headquarters at the Watergate Hotel, the FBI determined that the break-in was part of a plan to get Nixon reelected. In the court hearings that followed, Nixon was ordered to give up tapes of conversations that had been recorded in his office, which proved that he tried to cover up the crime. A few weeks later he resigned from the presidency due to his inevitable impeachment.

As students hoping to enter the world of PR, we can learn from the Watergate scandal how not to handle a crisis. It is never a good idea to try to cover up a mistake. Nixon’s image suffered and he left office in disgrace because he covered up the crime. According to, one of the biggest PR mistakes is refusing to admit wrongdoing.

eventually led to his impeachment. At first, Clinton deceived the nation by saying that he did not have relations with Lewinsky. However, seven months later Clinton came clean and admitted to his inappropriate relationship with her. In a 1998 issue of the Washington Post, Clinton said, “It constituted a critical lapse in judgment and a personal failure on my part for which I am solely and completely responsible.” Unlike Nixon, Clinton took responsibility for his actions. However, his reputation will never be the same. Clinton’s mistake should remind aspiring PR professionals that the clientds they serve might be in the public eye. Therefore, it is important to act responsibly for the sake the company’s reputation and their client’s. Once you lose the public’s respect, it is nearly impossible to get it back. Former President Bush successfully used crisis management after 9/11. Upon hearing news of the planes hitting the World Trade Center, Bush intentionally reacted in a way that portrayed a sense of calm in a time of disaster.

That night, Bush addressed the nation emphasizing the power of America and highlighting the need for citizens to unite during such a difficult time. He explained that the government More than 20 years later, former President Bill was working to help those who were Clinton faced another crisis during his presidency. injured and to protect citizens from His reaction to the Monica Lewinsky incident is an further attacks. Bush also stated example of an attempted reputation recovery using that they were searching for those PR tactics. In 1998, former President Clinton had an responsible in order to bring them to affair with Lewinsky, a White House intern, which justice. Sabrina Lewis Continued on page 6

Ann Romney


VS. election both the Republican and Democratic candidates are surrounded by teams of people whose Injobevery it is to make sure that the candidates are positively represented. As it turns out, some of the most important members of these teams are the candidates’ wives who aid in improving the political images of their husbands. During this election the United States has two admirable examples of women who work hard to maintain an image of respect, particularly for their husbands.

Ann Romney and Michelle Obama both play important roles in our nation’s political climate; however they have quite different agendas to promote. Romney, despite having been originally portrayed as a spoiled housewife, has taken it upon herself to describe what it meant for her to be able to stay at home while raising her children. Romney told Fox news, “My career choice was to be a mother.” She also added, “He was making money ... and he would come home and say, ‘Ann, my job is temporary, but your job is a forever job that’s going to bring forever happiness.’” In addition, Romney has also been quite open about being a Mormon, and what that means for her and her family. This has been crucial in the campaign because their faith is not commonplace to the majority of the voting public. While both of these aspects are important to the campaign, the most significant point that Romney has been charged with communicating is that they are a normal family, wealth aside. “Look, maybe I haven’t struggled as much financially as some people have, [but] I can tell you — and promise you — that I’ve had struggles in my life, and Mitt and I have compassion for people that are struggling,” Romney said. On the other hand, Michelle Obama has emphasized how much she and her husband are able relate to the American public because of their past financial struggles. At the Democratic National Convention Obama said, “You see, even though back then Barack was a senator, and a presidential candidate, to me he was still the guy who’d picked me up for our dates in a car that was so rusted out, I could actually see the pavement going by through a hole in the passenger side door.” Obama has also said that it was only eight years ago that she and President Obama paid off their own student loans. These stories are important PR moves that prove to the public that the President and First Lady have walked in the shoes of the middle class. Perhaps the most important issue that Obama has encouraged America to rally behind is the fight against childhood obesity. Her Let’s Move campaign has played a large role in showing that the Obamas are proactive in protecting the health of our nation.

It is clear that both Romney and Obama have different images to present; however the portrayal has all been carefully implemented in their PR moves.

A glimpse into KitchenAid’s Twitter Crisis

he presidential debate on October 3 quickly became the most tweeted about event in the history of U.S. politics with more than 10 million tweets. Trending topics such as #SaveBigBird, in response to Republican candidate Mitt Romney’s mention of cutting funding to PBS, dominated the social media forum. Live tweeting was displayed and encouraged during the debate, allowing viewers to state their opinions directly to the news networks. One tweet, however, caused a major controversy. KitchenAid, a company that specializes in kitchen appliances, released a tweet that was quickly noticed and criticized by the public. A member of the KitchenAid social media team sent out a tweet that degraded President Obama and his grandmother’s death three days before the last election. In response to the tweet, KitchenAid immediately deleted the post and released a statement claiming dismissal of the person responsible. Mistakes like this, as well as social media itself, has opened a whole new door for crisis communication. Social media has become so pervasive that it’s hard to stop it from growing. When utilized correctly, social media can be a medium of great success. For example, Obama is credited with the first large-scale political campaign to use social media successfully as an element of its communication. However, in other instances social media can bring down a reputation quickly as seen by KitchenAid. Some companies take crisis communication seriously, but according to many companies still fail to see social media as a real threat. However, it is important for a company representing a product or service to monitor social media and be prepared to utilize its channels during a crisis. When speaking directly with consumers, information is less likely to be distorted and gives more credibility to the company. So, do political campaigns truly listen to voter’s social media expression on the Internet? Ten million tweets say they should.

On the Let’s Move website Michelle said, “The physical and emotional health of an entire generation and the economic health and security of our nation is at stake.”


Think Before You Tweet

Michelle Obama

Brittany Loggins

Jessie Bonham


#PresidentialElection2012: Barack Obama

Social Media Showdown Mitt Romney

he presidential election of 2008 was the first in which social media played a crucial role, but will the upcoming election of 2012 become the real social media election?


he cliché handshake, motivating speech and television advertisement are political classics that no longer seem to win viewer engagement. They are now deemed far too simplistic.


form an important connection with a younger demographic of voters as well. Social media allows for candidates to display lighter, more personal and oftentimes humorous sides of their personalities.

In 2008, social media was still a relatively new method of communication for politicians, and public relations practitioners involved in political campaigns were only just beginning to use it. President Barack Obama became the first presidential candidate to rely on social media to attract voter attention, with a large focus on targeting a younger demographic.

Campaign standards are higher today than ever before because of social media expansions that offer an array of campaigning outlets for candidates. The public eye has a profound stronghold on social media, from Twitter, Facebook and YouTube to Pinterest, Instagram and blogs. Today, the U.S. population is demanding presidential candidates to take campaign efforts to a whole new level.

The candidates’ wives have also taken a strong initiative to act in the 2012 campaign via social media. Pinterest in particular has been a popular resource for the wives.

The Republican Party has increasingly integrated a reliance on social media into their campaign. Although more subdued, Mitt Romney’s efforts have proven to be highly successful.

Perhaps one of Romney’s strongest social media movements took place after President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was passed. The Republican Party immediately took the issue to Twitter, creating the hashtag #FullRepeal. Topsy Analytics said that, the term was mentioned thousands of times within a short 24 hours.

Now in 2012, we are on the brink of what the combination of social networking and campaigning could actually become. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and even Spotify are now tools that Obama is using to his advantage for the upcoming November election. It is sometimes hard to imagine how knowing which presidential candidate prefers Stevie Wonder to Johnny Cash could influence a voter’s decision. However, experts say that knowing these personal facts can actually help politicians become more relatable figures. Before the social media age, politicians strategically ate at local diners to make them appear like any other ordinary citizen. Now, not only can candidates take action to relate to their constituents, they can tweet about it too. Obama’s campaign even hosted the first presidential “Ask Me Anything” on the social news website, Reddit, which acquired five million views in a mere 30 minutes. Obama entered the 2012 campaign season with an advantage over Romney in using a consistently engaging social media platform in the previous election. Statistics are now proving that this is helping him create a more effective campaign this timearound. This past summer, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study analyzing each candidate’s campaign from a two-week time period. Between June 4 - 17, the

President Obama’s campaign staff utilized social media to respond to Clint Eastwood’s remarks at the Republican National Convertion.

Obama campaign networked at a significantly higher rate than Romney’s. Romney blogged only one time while Obama blogged twice, and Romney’s YouTube videos were viewed half as frequently as Obama’s. The most astounding statistic is that while the Romney campaign tweeted an average of once per day, Obama’s tweeted an average of 29. While Twitter allows for active engagement and a voter response never experienced previously, it also has become a double-edged sword as the Republican Party learned in August. At the Republican National Convention, actor Clint Eastwood humorously addressed an empty chair reserved for President Obama. Within minutes of Eastwood leaving the stage, “Invisible Obama” became a Twitter account with more than 6,000 followers. Shortly after, Obama responded in a way that became incredibly popular: a picture of himself in a White House chair captioned, “This seat’s taken.” The challenge is using that kind of quick, accessible and engaging response to one’s advantage not just during prime time of election season, but once in office as well.

Catherine Gebhardt


Even though Romney has fewer followers within the social media realm than opponent, President Barack Obama, his engagement rates are higher. Socialbakers, a data analysis company, released a study showing that engagement rates of the Republican Party fluctuate from 30 to 40 percent, while Obama’s fluctuate from a smaller 5 to 10 percent. While President Obama’s Twitter account is one of the most followed in the world, Romney’s posts frequently have more interactions and positive responses, according to Socialbakers. Romney’s tweets also go viral more often. Two-way communication is becoming more prevalent than ever, and Romney’s positive feedback could potentially give him an advantage. Social media has helped the presidential candidates

Ann Romney pins photos of her husband’s favorite meals that she cooks with family members. She also shares her favorite crafts and books with followers.

The Romney campaign also launched a YouTube channel and Facebook page for the election regarding the Affordable Care Act. A website, People v. Obamacare, was introduced and advertising space on Twitter was purchased. The Romney campaign embraced the hashtag, and the party’s social media efforts revealed progress — progress much needed for the November election. Even though Romney did not have the social media head start that Obama did, he has successfully caught up in a manner that could likely aid him in winning the upcoming election. Chandler Stroman

The Republican Party took a stand against the Affordable Care Act on Twitter with the #FullRepeal hashtag.


Capturing the Youth Vote

Campaign Managers How Communications Experts Affect Political Campaigns Politicians depend on public relations practitioners to maintain their image and share vital information with the public. In many cases, the public relations representatives are the most important individuals in any campaign. Perhaps, one of the most crucial members of a political campaign team is the campaign manager. According to, campaign managers are responsible for gaining support from voters as well as general oversight of the campaign. Many of us have seen campaign managers and are familiar with what they do. They are responsible for speaking at press conferences, organizing volunteers in local communities and managing representatives on a national basis. These collected volunteers phone residents to offer a personal connection to candidates while explaining the candidate’s ideals. Volunteers are also coordinated to petition and stand on the roadside and wave to drivers. Related to the upcoming election, Jim Messina is President Obama’s current campaign manager. Messina treats his position like a business and focuses on the statistical side of promotions. Last month Messina met with Senate Democrats to discuss the campaign and how efforts will affect other races.

Messina, controlling the most important aspects of public relations for Obama’s campaign, continues to compile surveys and charts of which voters are siding with his office. He uses this data to determine the best tactics to use in promoting the Democratic nominee. In contrast, Matt Rhoades, Mitt Romney’s campaign manager, is more media focused. In an article written for The Huffington Post, Jason Horowitz recalls Rhoades as “an expert at manipulating the news cycle.” However, Rhoades is not commonly in the public eye. He tends to remain confidential, focusing on the campaign. Rhoades distances himself from the public and from Romney to maintain control of the media. This way he keeps himself from releasing personal information about Romney, which could have disastrous effects on the campaign. These two men are perhaps the most important individuals in both campaigns. By using strategies of navigating through forms of media and maintaining business plans, public relations practitioners can greatly influence a political campaign. Garth Shaughnessy

Lessons Learned (Continued from page 1) Although the tragic events of 9/11 sent the nation into a state of mourning, Bush directed citizens to turn their sorrows into patriotism and optimism for the future of the country. We should remember that, in a time of crisis, it is important to stay calm and address the public with details of what happened and the steps being taken to prevent it from happening again.

At some point, our future work places will most likely experience a crisis. Therefore, it is important to be prepared and know the best way to respond



fter the success of his “Hope and Change” campaign in 2008, Obama has launched another operation to interact with youth voters through social media.

“For All” aims to unite young voters, ages 18 to 29, toward working together to help America move continuously forward. The new campaign is visible through Instagram and Twitter. Voters are asked to write a message on their hand, put their hand over their heart and a take a photo. Then they are urged to tweet the photo and add hashtags, such as #forall and #obama2012. The “For All” campaign is also being promoted through television and radio advertisements. Ads are running in swing states including Iowa, Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio and Virginia. The campaign brought in more than 2,400 photos within its first week, according to Ignite Social Media Blog. So what has made Obama’s “For All” campaign so effective? First, he started with the right media platform. Instagram has around 27 percent (Twitter 26 percent) of Internet users between the ages of 18 and 29, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Internet Project. Second, he integrated multiple social media networks into his campaign. Photos are taken on Instagram, tweeted out on Twitter and some are even linked to Facebook. Third, Obama presented this campaign just like the 2008 campaign. The message is not focused on Barack Obama. The message is focused on the voters. The pictures are of them. The captions are their own words. With more than 146,000 followers on Instagram, it is no mystery why Obama appeals to the younger generations. His campaign was relevant and interactive with younger Americans. However, some doubts still exist about the importance of social media visibility. Doubters question what percent of social media supporters actually will turn out to vote on Election Day. Actress Jessica Alba has endorsed the “For All” campaign and has challenged others not to let this concern become a reality. “Putting your hand over your heart is making a promise. Casting your ballot is keeping it,” Alba said.

Kelly Peters

With a picture being worth a thousand words, social media attention cannot be a bad thing. Attention can always turn into action.

to the situation.

Despite the differences between the two professions, PR professionals can learn from former presidents. A president oversees the country and its relationship with other countries. In the same way, PR professionals oversee their company or organization and its relationship with other companies and the public. Acting honestly, responsibly and sensibly is the key to success in both PR and politics.

President Obama’s “For All” campaign was designed to reach young voters. Jessica Alba participated in the campaign.




Executive Board


Mary Walker @mkwalker27

Vice President

Will Linto @willlinto

Creative Consultants Director Angelene Crosswell @AACrosswell PR Director Caroline Meadors @CarolineMeadors


Jordan Crofton @JordanCrofton Secretary Jade Thomas @jadethomas09 Publications Editor Hailee Sosnowski @haileesosnowski Social Media Director Steven Coulombe @smcoulombe1 Historian Elizabeth Bertrand @elizabertrand

Fall Schedule: Tate 480, 6:30 p.m. Nov. 7: Porche Nov. 28: Member Appreciation

Faculty Advisor Dr. Betty Jones

Other Important Dates: Feb. 22: Real World

Creative Consultants Advisor Kristen Smith Professional Advisor Jessica Laiti @jlaiti



Next Issue: If you would like to submit an article for the next PRecedent, email Hailee Sosnowski at