Kellyanne Conway has been thrust into the spotlight during this seemingly endless presidential campaign cycle. Less for her adroit media skills, and more for who she currently represents, the increasingly unshackled Donald J Trump, Republican candidate for President of the United States of America.
It is so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 11, 2016
I’ve written about Mr. Trump before, specifically about what Canadians can learn from his rise within the Grand Old Party, but I think there are some real lessons to be learned from his campaign manager and flock of media surrogates.
Of late, it has to be one of the toughest jobs in the world, aside from the presidency itself. Continuously defending, deflecting, bridging and pivoting, to mitigate the consequences of a rambling man with no filter between his brain and mouth.
This Saturday Night Live skit pretty much nails it …
The big question:
In an age where political discourse has stooped so low as to be indistinguishable from schoolyard antics and locker room talk, how can a public relations or communications person maintain their own credibility, and that of the profession, while representing their clients to the best of their ability? At what point do you cut your losses and part ways?
On a certain level, I have to admire her composure and steadfastness in the face of such incredible odds, let alone having to deal with the most unlikeable candidate ever to run a race. On another level, I can’t even imagine the sort of intellectual gymnastics one has to perform in order to maintain an air of authenticity as you try to find the silver lining in the latest controversy. I’m certain she’s being compensated well, but what price dignity?
The big answer:
There will always be hiccups on the campaign trail, so I would never abandon the caravan at the first sight of trouble. While you may not agree with what caused the scandal, many obstacles have been overcome by being adaptive with your messaging and being as transparent as possible.
Transparency is key. As more and more evidence pours in about Mr. Trump’s business dealings and personal failings, I’m not sure he can see out the window anymore. Once you need to resort to knowingly lying on your client’s behalf, a line has been crossed. It’s time to have a conversation. One that ends with a resignation letter.
Practitioners and political clients are usually aligned in their worldviews, but I have trouble believing that Conway actually believes what she is saying. I find myself analyzing her interviews, looking for a blinking pattern that could be a coded SOS.
For her sake, I hope it’s worth it.
photo credit: Damon Winter/New York Times