Hillary Clinton campaigned for president using a traditional approach to media. I call it the Push & Spin Approach. At this point that outdated approach to media, along with the rest of her campaign, seems to have failed miserably.
Push & Spin
The traditional approach to media is all about control. Build relationships with the key media influencers so that they are willing to listen to your side of things when you “push” your message out to the public through them.
The goal is to get news about you (and your organization, business, etc.) presented to the public in a favorable light or positive spin. Hopefully once the message starts going in your favor it will keep moving in that direction just like a spinning object holds a straighter trajectory than one that isn’t spinning.
Wikipedia has this to say about PR Spin:
In public relations, spin is a usually pejorative term signifying a heavily biased portrayal in one’s own favor of an event or situation. While traditional public relations may also rely on creative presentation of the facts, “spin” often, though not always, implies disingenuous, deceptive and/or highly manipulative tactics. Politicians are often accused of spin by their political opponents.
The Clintons have long been masters of this traditional push & spin approach to media.
Failed Push & Spin Looks Silly
One big problem to this approach is that when the control starts to unravel because things refuse to go your way it can start to look a little silly.
As an example, take a look at Dana Milbank‘s column yesterday in the Washington Post titled Team Clinton: Down, and Out of Touch. Here’s a telling paragraph.
That Clinton’s spokesman is taking his cues from late-night comedy is as good an indication as any of where things stand in the onetime front-runner’s campaign. To keep the press from declaring the race over before the voters of Ohio and Texas have their say next week, Clinton aides have resorted to a mixture of surreal happy talk and angry accusation.
All in all the Clinton campaign comes across as, well, out of touch.
Social Media Changes the Equation
It was their past effectiveness, however, set the Hillary ’08 campaign up for failure. They are victims of their own success because the campaign was unable to adapt to the changes that are rapidly happening in the way people get their information.
Today, thanks in part to social media, people have an ever growing variety of places where they can get their information.
Options vary from political bloggers to social sites like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter. As the potential sources where people go for their information increases the ability for someone to control, push & spin their message gets exponentially more difficult.
In fact it has gotten to the point where the traditional approach just plain doesn’t work anymore. Hillary Clinton’s campaign is illustrating this for us in living color right now.
Social Media Comparison
Let’s take a quick look at some of the social media options out there and compare how the two candidates are doing.
First both candidate’s web sites have blogs. Good news. They have the ability to share their message directly with their respective supporters in real time. Neither candidate appears to be writing on their respective blogs directly. Fair enough. They are busy folks and have huge communication staffs.
Hillary Clinton’s Blog has 4 posts from yesterday, all credited to the same author. The blog’s got 5 posts on the front page and a quick look at the first 10 posts on the blog shows they are averaging 188 comments per post. Very respectable. Unfortunately other stats on Clinton’s blog aren’t quite as encouraging. It’s got a Page Rank of 0 (horrible) and an Alexa Rank of 14,392 (not so bad).
Compare that with Barack Obama’s blog though and it falls a bit short. His blog has 10 posts per page and I had to dig to page 4 before I found a post that was more than 24 hours old. Those 30+ posts from yesterday had at least 5 different credited authors that I noticed. The 10 posts on the front page averaged 302 comments per post. The blog has a Page Rank of 6 (very good) and an Alexa Ranking of 4,060 (much better than Clinton’s).
Take a look at this Alexa Reach comparison. It’s telling.
Blog Winner: Obama – Obviously the Obama campaign is focusing more effort on their campaign blog than the Clinton campaign is and that effort has paid of with greater traffic and participation. This all equates to a higher level of market awareness.
A quick look at MySpace shows Hillary Clinton’s profile has 44353 friends and 8276 comments. Barak Obama’s MySpace profile shows 22467 friends and 1520 comments.
I find it interesting that Obama’s profile has more content but Clinton’s has more community support.
MySpace Winner: Clinton – Clinton has garnered more attention on MySpace. However neither campaign seems to be putting forth very much content there.
Facebook tells a much different story. Hillary Clinton’s Facebook profile has 125,115 supporters listed and 89,321 posts from supporters on her wall. Contrast that with Barack Obama’s Facebook profile. Obama has 641,042 supporters listed with a total of 90,723 wall posts.
Interestingly enough it actually looks like Obama’s got less content on his profile than Clinton does. Even so his campaign has done a dramatically better job at connecting with the members of the Facebook community.
Facebook Winner: Obama – He’s got a much better community connection than Clinton does.
A quick look at Twitter shows a lopsided tale as well. Hillary Clinton’s Twitter account has a paltry 958 followers, has only made 47 updates and is following absolutely no one!
Contrast that to Barack Obama’s Twitter account. It has 6661 followers, has made only 73 updates and is following 6793 other accounts. Granted his campaign isn’t using Twitter as effectively as it could. Even so he is doing better than his oponnent.
Twitter Winner: Obama – He’s not great here, just better. It didn’t take much.
The Social Media Factor
Here is the lesson. Social Media can be a huge help in getting your message out there. Barack Obama’s campaign has embraced it and integrated various social media options into their entire marketing strategy. By embracing Social Media his campaign was able to move from underdog to front runner and surprised many in the process.
In contrast the Clinton camp seems to have tacked a social media component onto their campaign almost as if it’s an afterthought. “Oh, yeah. We’ll need a blog too, I guess.”
The Clinton Twitter account that is following 0 other accounts is symbolic of everything they are doing wrong where social media is concerned. They aren’t even giving the appearance of listening to their constituency.
The era of Push & Spin PR media manipulation is over. Hillary Clinton has graphically demonstrated that for the world to see.