×

How Hillary Clinton can win back public trust

When the new guy starts at work, everyone is quickly sizing him up. Is he smart or slow? Does he have what it takes to succeed? Once those opinions are established, it gets very difficult to overcome them, especially as time reinforces our beliefs.

It's no different in politics. It's much easier to shape public opinion with a candidate like former Maryland governor and Baltimore mayor Martin O'Malley, who isn't as well known nationwide, than a high-profile public figure like Hillary Clinton. This is all the more reason why the Hillary Clinton team should be concerned with this week's poll numbers that show a growing number of Americans don't trust her.

Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a round table discussion, April 20, 2015, in Keene, N.H.
Getty Images
Democratic presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks during a round table discussion, April 20, 2015, in Keene, N.H.

The poll, released on June 2nd, shows 57 percent of Americans believe Clinton is not honest. That's up 8 percent since a similar poll measuring her trustworthiness last March.

Clinton's trust numbers began to plummet in early March as the email scandal began to unfold. This suggests the previously undisclosed email server may be at the root of Clinton's negative public perception.

Read MoreHillary is the favorite among millionaire voters: survey

She can overcome these negative opinions but as the months progress from summer to fall, it will become more challenging for her team to change the public's opinion of her honesty. So, what can Hillary Clinton do now to regain their trust?

In 2004, I covered the Republican National Convention in New York for CBS News. I was on the floor of Madison Square Garden when President George W. Bush accepted his party's nomination. No politician – at the federal or local level – was hiding from reporters at that convention.

Likewise on election night in 2004, I was in the media section when John Kerry gave his concession speech in Boston. As we waited for Kerry to speak, I remember high-profile politicians, like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, mingling with reporters and producers covering the convention.

A personal approach like this is what Clinton needs. Listening tours aren't going to fix this trust problem. Sophisticated voters will see right through those staged moments for what they are — an inauthentic view of the candidate.

Hillary Clinton's campaign is continually described as a controlling machine – both from the left and the right. Her communications team is only reinforcing this by not allowing journalists to ask her direct questions. This is a strategic, communications mistake because this secrecy only reinforces the public's mistrust of Clinton.

Instead, she needs to interact with reporters when the cameras are not rolling – like she did when she was Secretary of State and had high approval ratings. Clinton needs to put aside her fear that these unscripted moments might hurt her. No, these unscripted moments will counter any public perception that Clinton is trying to hide something. She can't be accused of avoiding the tough questions if she answers the tough questions – in front of and behind the cameras.

Read More Dems want Bloomberg to take on Hillary: Report

She also needs to do a solid sit-down with a reputable news organization and let that reporter ask her everything. The journalist should have every opportunity to dig deeper and time should not be limited for the interview. Most important, I'm not talking about a soft, early morning show interview. This interview needs to be with an independent journalist who all of America trusts.

Think back to that new guy at work. You subconsciously trust him more when he opens up about his personal life. Likewise, the shady guy who never talks about his family or personal life is always igniting doubt.

Sure, Clinton may be apprehensive that the media might not give her favorable coverage or will ask leading questions, but the truth behind most news stories is reporters just want honest answers, like every other American.

Mark Macias heads Macias PR, a global public-relations firm, that has run media and branding campaigns for politicians, tech start-ups, financial firms, nonprofits and companies. He's also author of the book, "Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media." Follow him on Twitter @markmacias.