Timing is everything in the face of the media.
The inevitable question for every public relations student is “What IS public relations?” A straightforward, one-line answer isn’t exactly easy. When faced with questions about the degree, including my personal favorite “What do you even do?” my response has become something along the lines of:
“I don’t know, everything. I do everything.”
From news releases to event planning, crisis communication and media profiles, we do it all. However, part of public relations is commonly referred to as ‘saving face’. Despite the negative connotation of ‘saving face’, changing public perception of a client can be done with integrity. Whether it’s for an individual, political party or an organization, developing and maintaining a positive image for a client is an important aspect of the job.
The method of refining a client’s public image is a long strategic process. The practice involves focusing on positive qualities and removing focus from the negatives. . For example, in politics, a candidate’s image needs to connect with voters in order to win their support.
A prime example of reconstructing someone’s reputation is Mitt Romney. Recently, Netflix released a documentary titled Mitt, following Romney and his family before and throughout the 2012 presidential election. It’s no question that Mitt is intended to sway the public’s perception of the presidential nominee, but I had to wonder, why now? Maybe the timing of the documentary’s release was coincidental, but maybe not.
Presidential elections are two years away, and although Romney has insisted that he will not be running, the timing for the release of Mitt is too convenient. This is the time that names are being thrown as to whom is deciding to run in 2016, names such as Chris Christie or Marco Rubio. Amidst the buzz surrounding possible presidential candidates, Romney is present in the public. Alongside a documentary, Romney has made appearances on shows such as Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, targeted towards a younger demographic. Romney is undertaking a strategy aimed at reaching a broader audience in order to restructure his brand and image.
The greatest question in order is whether Romney’s documentary is veiled publicity intended to gain the support of the American public personally and politically. The documentary projected Romney in a positive manner, straying from topics regarding politics – strange for a political documentary. This may be a premeditated attempt at altering Democratic opinion and attaining the overall acceptance from the American public, rather than solely his Republican supporters. Romney insists his intentions are not to aid him in the process of running for president.
Regardless of his motivations, Romney’s attempt to humanize his political efforts has given him an advantage for future aspirations. He has won over the heart of the American public, (most anyway) whether they agree with his political ideologies or not.
Romney has allowed individuals to peer into his life behind-the-scenes, where his responses are not rehearsed and his interaction with family is not forced. This documentary has given Romney purpose once more and has allowed him to resurface from the ‘embarrassment’ of his loss of presidency. Not only to resurface quietly, but to do so sharing his side of the story. From a public relations perspective, the timing of this documentary was impeccable and whether Romney decides to run for presidency once more, or not, he has became a favoured individual amongst the public.
An aspect of public relations is creating a stir and a buzz in the media. We promote what we can and communicate our message to the public. We establish relevancy through tactics involving mass marketing and timing. These strategies are important traits of the profession, and when employed correctly, can generate a successful outcome.