The alleged role of the Clinton Foundation in a State Department “pay-to-play” scheme to the enrichment of the Clinton family has made excellent fodder for Hillary’s political adversaries. Donald Trump and key Republicans attacked Hillary on allegations of allowing hostile actors to use the Clinton Foundation to gain influence within the State Department. A weeklong news cycle eventually uncovered minimal wrongdoing by Hillary and the Clinton Foundation, but the damage was already done. The stain of past transgression has not only extended deeper into Hillary’s presidential bid, but now to the Clinton Foundation, with no end in sight.
The Clinton Foundation’s path towards repairing its public image faces a mountain of roadblocks. Charity projects at the scale of the Clinton Foundation are long, arduous efforts that often go unnoticed within the daily news cycle. Without a history of press intermittently reporting on Clinton Foundation initiatives, a crisis involving a presidential nominee and “pay-to-play” allegation becomes brand defining. The Clinton Foundation will now undergo a tough uphill battle to restore legitimacy.
The immediate response by the Clinton Foundation included changing fundraising strategies with foreigners and modifying organizational structure to prevent future conflicts of interest in the event Hillary becomes President. These adjustments were essential to cooling off the press in the short-term for the sake of Hillary’s campaign. Future media coverage on the foundation—if unaddressed—will continue on under a shadow of doubt.
The Clinton Foundation must begin to ease media anxieties by focusing on the positive effects of its charity work. The Clinton Foundation must develop a strong message focused on the results it has achieved and the difference it has made—backed by real life examples of people that benefited. The good news for the Clinton Foundation is that it has real results to show for its work (or at least it should). We found a few examples in preparing this blog if they need a head start. If the foundation focuses the message on results, it will win the debate. You cannot argue with someone giving credit to someone for saving their life. If you try, you will lose.
A Clinton Foundation restoration campaign should start by focusing on the Clinton Health Access Initiative’s successful fight against malaria, a preventable and treatable disease infecting more than 200 million people every year. Working with governments around the globe, the Clinton Health Access Initiative has scaled up effective interventions for prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and surveillance of malaria. The impacts of the Clinton Foundation’s fight against malaria have been astounding. In Namibia alone, reports of malaria have fallen to under 12,000 cases in 2015, from a reported 560,000 in 2004. That’s a lot of thank you notes the foundation can use to show its donors and the public about the importance of its work.
No one can argue with real results and the emotional stories that reveal how against the odds survival is made possible by Clinton Foundation initiatives.
At the annual Clinton Foundation meeting this week, the group must stay focused on their mission of goodwill, meaningful change, and lasting impacts. To discuss anything else would open the doors to more attacks and depreciate the work that they should be proud to discuss. A focused, well-defined message that rings true to the intended audience will win the debate, every time.