Clinton Campaign Roping Off Reporters Isn’t the Best Media Relations Strategy

Hillary Clinton Campaigns On Fourth Of July In New Hampshire

Hillary Clinton Campaigns On Fourth Of July In New HampshireDemocratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may or may not win her party's nomination for president in 2016. If the candidate has a few more episodes like the one this past Saturday, she may pull off what is generally considered impossible: Make people feel sorry for the media.

During an Independence Day parade in New Hampshire, Clinton campaign aides roped off reporters, keeping them at a distance as the presidential hopeful walked and talked with potential voters. Journalists and political commentators subsequently lit into Clinton, the latest in a series of criticisms focusing on Clinton's treatment of the media.

The Clinton campaign defended the rope line, telling CNN, "We wanted to accommodate the press...and allow the press to be right there in the parade with her, as opposed to preset locations."

The optics of reporters looking like they were being herded like cattle around the candidate does no favors for the Clinton camp. The incident does offer some lessons for communicators who are on any kind of campaign trail—whether it be political, corporate or nonprofit.

Roping off reporters or distancing them from the action alienates media reps and negatively colors their coverage of your brand or organization. You can advise the boss that he or she doesn't necessarily have to answer all the media's questions—which is its own risk—but you at least have to let reporters do their jobs.

Sure, the media often can be petty in what they write about and/or focus on. But don't encourage such behavior by treating them shabbily and making them look bad. Presidential candidates and corporate chieftains come and go. The media are constant.

Follow Matthew Schwartz on Twitter: @mpsjounro1

  • Audio Guy

    Assignment editors could come to the realization they are wasting money and resources by sending senior writers and correspondents to cover Clinton when she won’t give them any access. Put the highly recognizable and senior reporters on the Bernie Sanders campaign and put the junior level reporters, producers and interns on the Clinton campaign for a few weeks. Frame it as a financial constraint that the return on investment is simply not worth putting high end resources on a campaign that cannot or does not provide timely and newsworthy quotable coverage for their readers/listeners/viewers. This would be the same kind of slap in the face her campaign is now giving to those reporters on her campaign, and the worst thing imaginable for a candidate is for their competition to be getting the coverage they feel is rightfully ‘theirs’.