Clinton vs Trump 2016: May the Best PR Team Win

As we have rounded the corner into the third month of the Trump presidency, it seems fair to take a look back and see the impact PR had on the outcome of this election. With a three million vote margin in the end of the election, it is necessary to consider the factors from a PR standpoint that made the difference between the popular vote, and the position we are now in. Social media, the distrust of the press, twitter and so many other factors went into this election. Overall, PR affected every part of this election.

To influence constituents in this election, the candidates relied heavily on the use of social media. Facebook, twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are all ways they reached out to people especially the younger audience. Reaching out to a younger voter pool through social media and technology they have a higher chance of influencing their vote. For instance, a study conducted by the Huffington Post reported that 34 percent of “millennials” said their vote could be affected by something they saw online. This benefits or hurts the candidate. The PR team of each candidate has to manage their accounts and appeal to a younger audience. Using the platforms they are most comfortable in they reached a whole new level of voters.

To understand the 2016 presidential election, it is important to understand how it is different than the previous elections. According to Merrie Spaeth, the frontier we reached during the 2008 election was the slow movement away from mainstream media, towards a “product”( Spaeth 2009). We saw this in action during the election, it was “free” publicity for the candidate of their choice. Most mainstream media channels are now biased, making the candidate that they most identify with their “product.” The author of the journal also said how the media was now an influencer in the public opinion. This was apparent during the election, and even now during the presidency. One big difference I think is how media is defined; during this election it seems that social media was one big component (as mentioned above), that was not so in the 2008, or even the 2012 election as much.

So how does this relate to PR? Understanding PR means understanding how to work with the media and advertising. So in the case of Donald Trump, his PR practitioners learned quickly that earned media is more useful than paid publicity. He certainly earned his airtime, regarless of if it was good or bad, his name was constantly out there. It is estimated that there was around $2 billion dollars of earned media was accounted for by Trump. EVERYTHING that happened during this election has to do with PR. They tried to boost Hillary Clintons appeal to the public, they worked to large responses from the public (which wasn’t hard to do considering the candidates), and they made this election important. More so than ever most of the things that occurred were a result of PR or were dealt with by PR professionals after the fact.

Regardless of your political affiliation, there is a lot to be said about the sheer cleverness of the Trump team to create the outcome they did. It will be interesting to see how the next election goes, considering the Trump team has already begun “campaigning.” These next four years and on may create a new political atmosphere for the next election and who knows what the PR strategy will be then.






Crenshaw, D. (2016, September 28). What PR Can Learn From The 2016 Election. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from

Green, R. K. (2015, November 16). The Game Changer: Social Media and the 2016 Presidential        Election. Retrieved March 20, 2017, from  green/the-game-changer-social-m_b_8568432.html

Spaeth, M. (2009). PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS AND PUBLIC RELATIONS IN 2008:      MARSHALL MCLUHAN 2.0. Journalism Studies, 10(3), 438-443.          doi:10.1080/14616700902987264



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