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Yo Hillary! What’s your message? July 8, 2014
Having name recognition doesn’t mean you’ve built a brand that connects with your audience. Take Hillary Rodham Clinton. Everyone knows who she is, but no one knows what she stands for, i.e., her brand is lackluster and she doesn’t have a message. Examining Hillary Clinton’s brand has less to do with her career as a high profile politician and much more to do with what happens when you put yourself out there in front of the media and you don’t have a message.
In Ken Auletta’s article, “The Hillary Show” in the June 2nd issue of the New Yorker, he suggests that Hillary Clinton’s tenuous relationship with the media has been less than ideal and at times downright contentious. He gives laudable evidence from right wing press, “The Weekly Standard” and “Free Beacon,” to show exactly how Hillary has been vilified, attacked and ridiculed in the media.And while Mr. Auletta presents a story that is compelling and entertaining, he is fundamentally missing a major point—Hillary Clinton is a high profile politician who lacks a message. And when you lack a clear message, the media will make up one for you.
Examine Hillary’s brand from the most rudimentary of all PR principles: What are the three core attributes that define Hillary Clinton’s brand? Ambition. Competence. Bill’s Wife. These three attributes are so powerful that if one was taken away, Hillary would cease being Hillary. It is the combo of three attributes that define her brand. Take away any of her core brand attributes—Ambition, Competence and being Bill’s Wife, and she wouldn’t be slated to run for President in 2016.
Noting one of Hillary’s core attributes as being Bill’s Wife is not meant to slam her seasoned political acumen, inherent leadership ability and her formidable political experience. It is a matter of perception. We perceive Hillary Clinton as the wife of Bill—two for the price of one.
Forget about Bill for a minute; if the American public and the media only perceived Hillary as Ambitious and Competent, these facts alone should win her the Presidency. In America today, being competent is no small thing. From the C-suite to the ground floor of clerical workers, competence is sorely lacking in all industries and sectors regardless of the size of the organization. Hillary Clinton is undeniably competent. Hillary has gravitas and she has earned our respect. She is worth voting for simply because she is eminently qualified and highly competent.
And yet the question must be asked: What does she stand for?
On the Weekly Standard Morning Joe show, co-host Mika Brzezinski challenged Sen. Tim Kaine (D., Va.) to describe Hillary Clinton’s potential message for her presidential run in 20 seconds and was unable to do so. “The message is she has the best experience, both domestically and internationally,” he said. “She has got the accumulated backbone, wisdom, judgment, scar tissue from a long period in public life to be the best President of the United States beginning in 2017.”
Still, Hillary Clinton doesn’t have a message.
If one of Hillary Clinton‘s supporters couldn’t articulate her message then how could the rest of us figure it out? Lacking a message has made Hillary Clinton fodder for many other media outlets that are not right wing. The Major broadcasters: NBC, ABC, CBS, PBS, NPR, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC; and top-tier press, such as the Huffington Post, the New York Times and the Washington Post; and even liberal publications, such as the New Republic are not reticent in their criticism of Hillary Clinton.
Fox Business Network anchor and commentator Neal Cavuto proclaimed, “That men wouldn’t vote for Hillary because she reminds them too much of their nagging wives.” Cavuto’s snarky quip says more about how Cavuto communicates his own brand to his audience than it does to define the message of Hillary Clinton.
Even Gloria Steinem, who is a staunch Hillary supporter, communicates her own powerful feminist brand more than she explains the problem with Hillary’s lack of message. Steinem asserts, “Journalists affix adjectives to female candidates—shrill, pushy, aggressive, ambitious, divisive, bossy—that they don’t apply to males.”
If our perception of Hillary Clinton is maligned by her gender, then why aren’t more women supporting her? In 2008, primary polls showed a majority of high earning, educated and powerful professional women voted for Obama and not Hillary. It’s not the gender issue that is the real threat to Hillary Clinton. It’s about her brand and her inability to communicate a message that demonstrates a clear and purposeful vision.
Hillary Clinton could accomplish a turnaround—the return to the American Dream that is accessible to everyone. She could be the next FDR and launch a Works Progress Administration (WPA) that puts America to work to rebuild our deteriorating infrastructure. If Hillary proclaimed a vision that stood for something meaningful, we would believe her. We would believe that she could do it. After all, she is Ambitious, Competent and Bill’s Wife. –Patricia Vaccarino