It’s no secret that the 2016 presidential race has been a hot mess. From Hillary Clinton’s email troubles to Donald Trump’s… open mouth, it’s obvious that the American people are quickly losing faith in the supposed leaders of this country. After gaining a better understanding of the Media Richness theory and social media practices in general, I’ve arrived at some key pieces of advice I’d like to share with these candidates.
I’ll focus mostly on Donald Trump, since he’s the easiest target and a great example of many mistakes candidates should avoid. An important quality of a good leader is knowing when speaking your mind is not the most appropriate option. Here’s an example of when Trump took to Twitter to express his feelings about reporter Megyn Kelly, managing to anger countless women and media professionals:
I refuse to call Megyn Kelly a bimbo, because that would not be politically correct. Instead I will only call her a lightweight reporter!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 27, 2016
He’s also the perfect example of extreme unprofessionalism with regards to fellow candidates. There are much more mature and respectful methods of criticizing other contenders:
Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain. He was terrible at DEBATE!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2015
While Trump is perfectly within his rights as an American citizen to exercise free speech, no matter how offensive, people running for political office should recognize when it’s appropriate or not to share personal opinions.
As it relates to Daft and Lengel’s Information Richness Theory, the candidates can be viewed as potential “managers.” As the co-authors point out, “managers must impose structure and clarity upon ambiguous events.” A leader needs to be able to put on a calm and collected face during a crisis and assure people that he/she has a plan of action.
Finally, I’d like draw from an important point about types of media in the richness hierarchy. Based on criteria such as capability of instant feedback, tone, and personal focus, social media can be a priceless tool in winning over voters if candidates use it properly. While face-to-face communication ranks highest in the hierarchy, it’s not a plausible method for reaching mass amounts of the population with your message. Thanks to the many social media platforms in mass use today, voters can follow candidates more closely than ever before. My biggest piece of advice is for those running to recognize that their social presence and tone plays a huge role in how America sees them.
Daft & Lengel. “Information Richness. A New Approach to Managerial Behavior and Organization Design”
University of Twente. “Media Richness Theory”