President Clinton’s love affair with the camera seems to have
survived this latest ’rocky patch’. Despite the hype, the video of his
testimony released this week proved an anti-climax. While not Clinton’s
most polished media performance, the broadcast failed to deliver the
loss of control and raging hypocrisy anticipated.
The high point of his testimony, in PR terms, had to be the affection
with which he occasionally discussed the relationship. This factor alone
probably accounts for the six per cent rise in Clinton’s approval rating
following the broadcast. The low point was his ill-advised insistence on
sticking to the letter of the law with regards to the finer points of
his dalliance with Miss Lewinsky.
The relationship between the law and PR has never been an easy one and,
too often, lawyers and PR professionals battle it out in crisis
management war rooms, over degrees of admission of guilt. Clinton’s
position may be legally defensible, but in this case the gap between the
fine line of the law and public perception is an abyss.
Lawyers’ caution may solve the short term problem, but insensitivity to
public opinion, can seriously undermine the long term health of an
organisation’s, or even a president’s, reputation.