Hillary Clinton’s email scandal has been a publicly broadcasted crisis since 2008 and has haunted her all the way to the unfortunate ending of her 2016 presidential campaign. The nine year span of the crisis allowed for missteps in the handling of the controversy.
Though the scandal is multi-faceted and complex, the PR strategy can be simply identified. The Clinton team decided to comply and give the State Department the emails from Clinton’s personal server, as requested. Clinton clearly stated that her personal email account was not used for any classified matters. On social media, Clinton was silent until 48 hours after the initial outbreak, when she tweeted that she requested the public be able to view her emails, to show that she had nothing to hide. A quote from Clinton that would later be contradictory, but appeared to be transparent, “I opted for convenience … I thought it would be easier to carry just one device for my work and for my personal emails instead of two.” It was later revealed that Clinton uses both a Blackberry and IPad for email – making her previous statement false and as if she had something to hide. Investigations also uncovered that she had ignored questions from congress, regarding the emails, in 2012. Contradictory to the initial statement, that there were no classified emails sent or received from her personal email account, the investigation yielded 2,101 classified emails from Clinton’s personal account. Her team responded by saying that the emails were deemed classified after they had been sent and received. Clinton then apologized for her unknowingly wrong actions, but blamed former Secretary of State Colin Powell for giving her the idea to create a private server. The FBI director stated that he would not recommend criminal charges against Clinton. She then went on record stating that she defended her use of the private server and that she was always truthful. Despite her criminal innocence, a reputation of honesty and trustworthiness was not something that the public attributed to Hillary Clinton – this ultimately led to the demise of her presidential campaign.
At the beginning, when the situation was controlled, the channels of communication were narrow and general. Clinton was prompt and transparent with her tweet to the public – which I believe was a good move. At that point, there wasn’t much information to construe. It seems that the PR was handled incorrectly when it became evident that Clinton and her spokespeople had different stories. New information came out and so would a different excuse. They should have established a firm stance and created a plan before the facts came out. It would have beneficial for Clinton to publicly own up for what she did, so that she wouldn’t have to keep covering her previous lies with more lies.