Crenshaw Communications

Can PR Rebrand Hillary Clinton? Advice From Millennials

Does Hillary Clinton need to refresh her brand? Can brand marketing PR and social media strategies help?

In announcing his own candidacy, GOP hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio took a none-too-subtle swipe at Mrs. Clinton by declaring, “Yesterday’s over.”

Ouch. It’s true that the 67-year-old Mrs. Clinton is a familiar brand – some would say too familiar. One marketing consultant compared her image to that of McDonald’s – worn, tired and beset by

challenges from newer and fresher competitors.
But Mrs. Clinton has only just begun her campaign, and her team has already assembled a creative brain trust of marketing talent to help represent her to the voting public and ensure relevance as the GOP field of hopefuls grows.

Pundits are falling over themselves to offer counsel, so why shouldn’t we? Given the importance of the millennial sector, I polled some staff members and colleagues about what advice they would offer Mrs. Clinton and distilled the details into some PR-driven branding techniques.

Repackage the product. Some millennials feel Mrs. Clinton should take a cue from Michelle Obama and begin to wear up-and-coming designer clothes and a new, youthful hairstyle. An update isn’t a bad idea, but any radical change is bound to distract from the Clinton 5.0 message and could make her look insecure. In my view, a Clinton makeover should start from within.

Find your true voice. Authenticity is everything in communications, right? With the help of branding gurus Wendy Clark and Roy Spence, Mrs. Clinton needs to home in on why she’s worthy of becoming the next chief executive and what her brand promise is. If, as her speeches suggest, it’s about income inequality and economic fairness for ordinary Americans, she needs to move away from the perception of entitlement and differentiate from GOP candidates who are already trying to own the issue.

Build bridges to key constituencies. A good way to tap into America’s future leaders – while creating new voters in the process – might be an advisory board comprised of college students. This might dovetail nicely with her ideas about the affordability of education, employment trends, and hot-button issues like STEM and LGBT rights.

Engage on social media. Obviously @HillaryClinton has an impressive social following, including nearly 3.4 million Twitter followers. But as one millennial staffer here points out, “Her content is too hard-sell and hence, dull and scripted. Also, what is up with her only following 14 people on Twitter and zero people on Instagram?” A more inclusive social strategy may be called for to reflect her focus on fairness for ordinary Americans.

Create fresh content. Stump speeches are fine, but what about tackling intergenerational topics through a mother-daughter blog with Chelsea? A Buzzfeed listicle on the top ways to address domestic problems? Regular infographics that explain complex issues like banking regulation or the history of ISIS? A short video series featuring the ordinary Americans she meets at campaign stops?

There’s no shortage of advice for Mrs. Clinton, and I take issue with the notion that a presidential candidate is like a fast-food brand. But, just as Barack Obama triumphed by mastering digital and social marketing and creating new voters, the next president of the U.S. will need to apply new communications tactics informed by classic brand marketing strategy.

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