Leading crisis communication agency Red Banyan Group was recently contacted by Bizwomen, a division of the national Business Journals, to share its expert assessment of Hillary Clinton’s performance before the House Committee on Benghazi last Thursday.
RBG’s Founder and Principal Evan Nierman spoke with reporter Melissa Wylie, highlighting both positive and negative moments of Clinton’s 11-hour-long marathon hearing. Nierman noted that overall Clinton managed to avoid any gaffs and showed competence and mastery of the subject at hand:
“You would be hard-pressed to have anybody sit in front of that panel and take that kind of questioning…and do it in a way that was as professional and composed as she did,” said Nierman. “She certainly showed she has a cool temperament. Her Republican detractors may have inadvertently helped her campaign.”
See more from Nierman in the full article below:
Hillary Clinton spent 11 hours in the hot seat this week. We asked the experts: How’d she do?
By Melissa Wylie
Hillary Clinton spent nearly 11 hours testifying before the House Committee on Benghazi on Thursday. We asked two communications experts how she did.
Hillary Clinton, one of our women to watch, had an eventful week.
In a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, Clinton’s lead over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders crept up by 20 points, to 49 percent against his 29 percent.
That was before Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not make a bid for the presidency. With Biden out of the race, Clinton’s lead in the same poll adjusts to 58 percent.
However, the biggest Clinton news of the week was her nearly 11-hour testimony in front of the House Committee on Benghazi on Thursday. Clinton fielded questions from Democrats and Republicans on her actions surrounding the 2012 attacks in Benghazi, Libya and the use of her personal email account.
There were no big revelations or new facts unearthed, so news reports have her emerging from the experience ” largely unscathed.” But it gave Clinton a lot of time in front of the cameras, answering tough questions and weathering the occasional shouting match. It also gave her ample opportunity to present herself as the candidate best-suited for the nation’s top job.
So, how’d she do?
We spoke to image and communications experts about what Clinton did well, and what she could have (and maybe should have) done differently.
Crisis communications expert Evan Nierman, founder and principal of Red Banyan Group, said Clinton showed competence and mastery of the subject at hand.
“You would be hard-pressed to have anybody sit in front of that panel and take that kind of questioning…and do it in a way that was as professional and composed as she did,” he said.
The general American public, Nierman said, would likely be more concerned with her delivery than the minute details of the testimony.
“What she really needed to do, from a communication perspective, was avoid any gaffs, which she did,” he said.
Nierman felt both her body language and her responses to both Republicans and Democrats were strong.
“She came across to the general public as engaged and composed. Even in the moments where they were really badgering her and giving her a grilling, she didn’t fly off the handle,” he said. “They didn’t knock her out.”
Patsy Cisneros, owner of image consulting firm Corporate Icon Inc. in Santa Clarita, Calif., agreed that Clinton kept her cool.
As an image consultant, Cisneros advises politicians to respond to questions in one of three ways: give a specific answer, side-step the question or redirect the conversation. Clinton skillfully deployed all three strategic moves.
“She’s gotten quite good at it,” she said. “It’s been so well-delivered.”
For Cisneros, Clinton’s poise was not consistent. Clinton let slip her exasperation and frustration a few times.
“For her to put her head in her hand and sigh, that’s not presidential,” Cisneros said. “She really should be able to be composed for one day.”
Cisneros said Clinton’s strong supporters and detractors have already formed their opinions about the presidential candidate. But Clinton’s testimony performance could be a deciding factor for voters on the fence. And things like sighing, shaking her head or letting her eyes wander could have been off-putting to the undecided voters Clinton should be targeting.
“Those are her sore spots, even when she’s out on the campaign trail,” she said.
Nierman noticed the same expressions during the testimony but said she kept herself above the animated fray of both the Republicans and Democrats.
“The thing went on for hours and hours,” he said. “Is she going to have those expressions over the course of 10 hours? Sure.”
The group failed to bring out any groundbreaking information surrounding Benghazi or throw Clinton off her game. Nierman expects this to boost her campaign.
“She certainly showed she has a cool temperament,” he said. “Her Republican detractors may have inadvertently helped her campaign.”
Cisneros says Clinton’s polished and articulate delivery and unwavering stance should continue to be a part of her political behavior.
“As she continues her candidacy, she has to think of this day,” she said.