Clinton and Trump’s differences in the media are quite sharp as we have all witnessed during these last few weeks. Both embody two different visions of politics and more broadly, America’s image. This resulted in tailored and antagonistic communication strategies for their campaigns. Nobody thought Donald Trump would be the last one standing, particularly the media. Still, this strategy turned out to be successful despite the onslaught of negative journalistic reports and polls.
What the media investments tell us
First, the financial aspect of both campaigns puts forward interesting points on how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump utilised their budgets towards the media. One striking fact is the Democrat candidate collected the important budget of almost $500 million, while Trump’s donations represent half of this amount.
Clinton’s strategy was centred on elite mobilisation as parismatch.com recently reported. On the other side, Trump failed to win the favour of wealthy conservative donators such as the Koch brothers or the casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, forcing his communication team to innovate with a new “cheap” approach.
A “low-tech campaign”
Since the internal Republican’s elections, Trump has made the strategic choice of utilising the social media and the “free” coverage as much as possible. “That is the reason why his rhetoric was often the one of provocation” Vincent Michelot explains. More importantly, as the Trump patriotic brand was already known by a vast majority of Americans, his strategy has been held on the assumption that “any publicity is good publicity”.
Another important point could be drawn on his choice of not micro-targeting voters and building gigantic databases as Clinton did. Instead, the Republican Party was focussed on organising impressive mass meetings.
The failure of pop culture
Conversely, Clinton’s communication team aimed at purchasing advertising space and controlling the candidate’s reputation in the media as much as possible. The same strategy was implemented for Obama’s elections with a PR success demonstrating a solid understanding of all the previous known techniques: political marketing, television speeches and debates, flyers, direct mail, newspapers, phone calls, canvass, etc. Wanting to benefit from the hype period triggered by Obama’s equality and tolerance image, Clinton’s team aimed at perpetuating Obama’s pop culture legacy through celebrity support and multiple appearances on famous TV shows.
The Clinton’s defeat at the last U.S. presidential election symbolises the failure of pop culture and the advent of a post-true society promoting emotional and impulsive reactions over objectivity in the public debate. Trump has enforced new rules in the political communication game albeit political communication should remain centred around salient values inspiring mutual aims and rallying communities.