New Research: The Customer Journey in a Post-Trump World

guy-marion-featuredBy Guy Marion, CMO, Autopilot

It’s a post-Trump world and we know that a few well-placed tweets can catalyze an entire online movement…or leave a permanent scar.

Of course, Trump’s secret isn’t that he is the world’s wittiest tweeter or most original thinker – it’s that he knows his audience cold and never misses a chance to needle their pains and stir them into a frenzy. He’s a master brand builder.

For marketers, the winds of opportunity are blowing. While the relationship between brand and customer experience has always been mutually reinforcing, never has the latter been so publicly visible and instantly impactful. Succeed in creating an authentic and memorable online customer experience and brands can reap the benefits of instant shares, shout outs, and no-cost growth.

Fail to do so and miss quick chances to Trump your competition. Or risk falling victim to the unrelenting millennial consumer: a thrifty, inquisitive, and self-service generation who Googles instantly and expects a 1 to 1 response 24 x 7 (bots can be ok).

It turns out that a lot of people (in fact, 71% of “high performers”) have mastered how to use the customer journey to acquire leads faster, earn repeat buyers, and create successful customers. This new report offers an aggregated view of their tricks of the trade, while summarizing their results and offering practical takeaways. So who are these high-performing marketers?

High performers are attaining 80% or more of their goals this year and grow revenue by 58% faster on average. This is consistent regardless of their company size or business focus, with high performers outperforming peers by as much as 122% in enterprise and by 74% amongst B2C marketers.


New Research: Customer journey marketers are winning

We recently released our latest research report, the “2016 State of Customer Journey Marketing,” with a foreword from Adrienne Weissman, CMO of G2 Crowd.

This 39-page report draws from 505 US-based marketing decision makers to discover where they are investing, the strategies they are adopting to achieve high growth, and which marketing tactics and channels get results in a post-Trump world.

As 2017 approaches, marketers are investing first in online ads (30%), and customer events (also 30%), followed by email marketing, social media ads, and content (download the report for the complete 2017 investment priorities list).



High performers are focusing more on the customer experience than ads, by investing in customer events and marketing (35%), and referral and loyalty programs (29%), to get ROI from creativity, proof points, and buyer incentives to drive referrals and repeat purchases.

High performers are also investing in analytics and attribution (19%), meaning that as budget allocation shifts from advertising to customer-focused marketing, marketing leaders need to hire math men over mad men to analyze behavioral and purchasing data to accurately attribute what content and campaigns generate ROI.

Marketing automation adoption has taken off

Until recently, many companies have yet to implement marketing automation software (MAS), with research completed as recently as mid-2014 suggesting that MAS adoption hovers around only 3% for non-technology companies. The complexity, high costs and arduous implementation of traditional MAS vendors have warded off most companies, particularly SMBs, from adopting the technology.

But in 2016 adoption of MAS has taken off. 53% of marketers surveyed here say they use marketing automation to nurture leads and personalize their customer’s experience. Cost, not lack of awareness, is now the main impediment of use.

Which automation journeys are working?




High performers say marketing automation’s biggest impact is on lead generation (32%). For example, the Corporate Mobility Solutions (B2B) unit of ride-sharing service Lyft reported a 600%+ increase in leads in 2016 by using Autopilot connected to Salesforce to automate the follow up, qualification, and routing of new web and content leads.

The second most valuable use of marketing automation is for enticing satisfied one-time buyers to purchase again (23%). For example, popular B2C services like the flower delivery service BloomThat tailors their new user experience based on the number of times their customers have purchased.
Other successful nurturing approaches to acquire and on-board new users include:

•Triggering helpful messages that help users reach “Aha!” moments in your app
•Personalizing content based on past behavior (in-app, web-based, or purchase)
•Crafting a compelling multi-channel experience (email, in-app, SMS, web) and focusing on vertical or functional use cases (industry, need, department)

Nearly everyone is personalizing

81% of marketers in this study are using data to personalize their marketing, and are 54% more likely to say it’s resulting in a better customer experience. Most are using basic contact details or firmographic data, like name, company, or industry, to segment and personalize their newsletters or promotions for better results


Rich personalization is still in its infancy, with only a third of marketers using online behavior, integrated CRM data like lead status’ or sales-entered data (19%, or in-app usage (13%), to deliver more granular, relevant experiences and content. So what are the benefits of this more personalized marketing?

Not surprisingly, the more personalized the marketing, the better the customer experience they deliver: 83% of those using in-app data and 79% of those using online behavior believe that personalization is improving the experience, compared to only 54 percent of those who do not use personalization.

Wrapping it all up

Top marketers’ focus on mapping the customer journey, investing in brand, and utilizing marketing automation to stay in touch more regularly and across multiple channels is paving the way to Trump-like results in 2017.

About The Author: Guy is the CMO of Autopilot, where he spearheads the company’s go-to-market strategy and operations. Prior to Autopilot, Guy was Head of Online Sales at Zendesk, VP/GM of CollabNet Cloud, and CEO of Codesion.

Body Language At The Trump And Obama Meeting

By Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D

It was a meeting that was obviously highly stressful for both men. We’ll never know what was discussed when President Barack Obama and President-Elect Donald Trump were alone, but at their joint press conference their words were cordial and respectful.

(Photo source: Twitter)

(Photo source: Twitter)

So was their body language – up to a point.

As the press conference began, the men were in a “limbic symmetry” pose, (feet on floor, legs apart, hands in lap) so that their body language was identical.  Mirroring postures happens naturally when two people feel they have something in common. In this case, though, it might have been mutual fatigue, as both men rounded their shoulders and slumped slightly. Their feet, at least, were on the ground. If they had been seated with legs crossed and upper feet pointed away from each other, it would have been a negative sign.

As they waited for the conference to begin, Trump tapped his finger tips together – which can be a sign of impatience or a pacifying gesture to release stress.  Obama’s stress showed as well. When speaking he was hesitant and used a lot of “uh” and “um” vocal fillers. In addition his blink rate was higher than normal. Both men displayed an occasional lip compression – another signal of distress.

The president has always had good body language, aligned tightly to his verbal messages, and this was apparent again during the press conference. He gestured toward Trump when stating that his first priority was to insure a smooth transition, he brought his hand to chest when taking about “my team,” and both hands opened with palms up when he stated that he wanted to make sure both Donald and Melania Trump would feel welcome.

Donald Trump’s nonverbal cues were congruent with his “post election” body language that we saw as he gave his acceptance speech – softer, less strident, vocal tones, and slower gestures. During the press conference, his body language included broad arm gestures (which non-verbally send power and authority signals) and  his signature “air pinch” in which thumb and forefinger come together in a tight circle. (This is a signal he uses most when being definite or precise.) But the one body language signal that caught my attention was a shoulder shrug when he stated that the president had “explained some of the difficulties . . .”.  When a person shrugs while making a declarative statement, it usually means that the speaker doesn’t quite believe or agree with what he is saying.

At the end of the press conference President Obama extended his hand for the handshake, but he rotated his palm up slightly rather that presenting it sideways. Perhaps this was a gracious way of giving Trump the “upper hand” or an unconscious acknowledgement that Trump already had it.

As cordial as the encounter seemed to be, it was obvious that there was no real warmth between the two men. Not that I expected to see it, but I missed Obama’s genuine smile (which is one of his most dynamic and attractive non-verbal signals). Only its shadow appeared, accompanied by a touch on the arm with a personal aside to Trump as the reporters left the room.


About the Author: Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D. is an international keynote speaker at corporate, government, and association events. Contact Carol by phone: 510-526-1727, email: Carol@CarolKinseyGoman, or through her 

A Tale of 2 Brands—Trump and Clinton

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

One week after Donald Trump’s stunning win in the presidential election, the debate is still going on, as to how he was able to pull off his stunning election victory. One reason that is being overlooked and should be studied by business communicators and CEOs is that Trump regardless of if you love him or hate him was consistent with his brand identity.  In every election since Franklin Roosevelt’s re-election in 1936, the candidate who came across as being more authentic with his brand identity won the election.  This election was no exception.

Is your brand half-baked?A brand needs to tell a story.  That story needs to be consistent and reflect the brands values and beliefs.  It is what consumers and voters buy into and will allow a brand to develop a loyalty that will allow it to survive in hard times and flourish in good times.

Donald Trump over the years has built a brand identity based upon being brash, abrasive, in your face, decisive, and one who never backs down.  This identity has been built upon countless interviews, books, product lines, and of course Celebrity Apprentice.  It is why Americans felt that they knew him, the moment he announced his candidacy, while other candidates like Scott Walker, John Kasich, and even Ted Cruz were struggling to introduce themselves to the American public.  This familiarity with the Trump brand is why he was able to survive incidents that would have taken down another candidate (insulting John McCain, the Megyn Kelly episode, the Access Hollywood tape).  Millions of voters just saw these events as Trump being Trump and were neither shocked nor angered.  They saw it as Trump being consistent with his brand.

Contrast this with Hillary Clinton.  Voters were never sure what her brand identity was.  She introduced more new Hillarys during the campaign, then Richard Nixon had new Nixons in his entire career.  First she was the mother and grandmother breaking the glass ceiling.  Next she was the most experienced candidate to ever seek the White House.  After that, she was the progressive Hillary in the mode of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders.  This shifted over time to the consensus candidate who would unite America.  Yet at the end voters were uncertain if she was any of these brands.

But it just isn’t in politics that we see this.  Recall the Duck Dynasty scandal several years ago when Phil Robertson made homophobic and racist remarks.  He and Duck Dynasty survived and continue to flourish because he was seen as being consistent with the brand.  Yet Paula Deen who was seen for years as a nice grandmotherly person saw her brand crumble when it was revealed she had used the ‘n’ word.  This went against her whole brand identity and she has yet to this day to recover.

The lesson that Trump and others serve is that by being consistent with a brand identity forged over the year will allow a brand to weather the worse of scandals and allow for even greater success.  Having no brand identity or going against an established brand identity is a recipe for disaster.


 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Trump’s Man Lewandowski out at CNN

Ronn Torossian featuredBy Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W PR

Corey Lewandowski, the former Trump staffer who was replaced after a very public incident with a reporter from Breitbart News, reinvented his career as a pundit on CNN. Last week, after Trump won the presidency, Lewandowski resigned from his post at CNN, effective immediately.

While Lewandowski’s close relationship with Trump raised a few eyebrows from media critics, a populace that is growing accustomed to biased panels on “news” programs basically shrugged, thinking: “well, if this guy likes Trump, they will find someone who likes Clinton just as much.”

And that’s pretty much how it played out. Any time Lewandowski was brought on to contribute, the network set him up against a Clinton partisan, often Van Jones, tossed an issue in between them and watched the sparks fly. It’s a gimmick all the major cable networks use, but typically it’s with a person who was involved with a former president, not one who just got elected. Tough to pretend objectivity when viewers know what a pundit will say before they say it.

Corey R. Lewandowski

Corey R. Lewandowski

And things were not peachy inside the network either. Some CNN staffers harbored doubts about Lewandowski and others believed he should never have been hired in the first place. The complaints had some meat to them. Lewandowski had an NDA that forced him not to disparage Candidate Trump in public, even as a reporter relating accurate information. Plus, he was receiving severance cash from the campaign.

As entrepreneur Herman Friedman noted, “CNN President Jeff Zucker repeatedly defended the hiring, saying it promoted a diversity of ideas at the network, and the competition was looking to hire him too.”

Now it looks like Lewandowski may have been given another chance by his former boss. He met with someone at Trump Tower last week during a series of transition team meetings that also resulted in the demotion of Chris Christie and the promotion of Trump’s running mate Mike Pence to transition team chief.

If Lewandowski will have a role in the Trump transition team and, if so, what is unclear at the time. But the fact that he was only with CNN for a few months and may be right back where he started paints a fairly clear picture of where his loyalty was all along, and that gives the American public, already critical and suspicious of TV media, more ammunition for their argument that the 4th Estate is giving up on informing them.

This narrative pounded over and over again by Trump during the campaign, really caught on, and it’s not likely to disappear now that the issue has been decided. At some point, cable news will have to address the growing distrust if they wish to stay relevant going forward.



About the Author: Ronn Torossian is CEO of 5WPR, one of America’s 20 largest PR firms.  


Donald J. Trump: The Master Salesman, Publicist & Social Media Maven – And President Elect

julie-talenfeldBy Julie Talenfeld, President,  BoardroomPR

America is facing a future unlike we’ve ever faced before.

For all of Donald J. Trump’s campaign promises and bluster, though, what we’re witnessing is the handiwork of our generation’s greatest salesman. People praise sales pros like Zig Ziglar, legendary ad man David Ogilvy, Mary Kay Ash, and Dale Carnegie.

But in Trump we have a true master marketer. He tore through the U.S. presidential election process and, without spending much – if any – of his own money, and cast aside an impressive line-up of Republican contenders on his way to beating Hillary Clinton.

How did Trump do it?

First, he captured the news headlines from the very start. From first deriding Mexican immigrants as “murderers and rapists” to claiming a newswoman’s menstrual cycle made her unreasonably aggressive during a debate, to a host of other inflammatory comments, his words became soundbites. And the news media couldn’t resist. He garnered billions of dollars in free news coverage. In a word, it was priceless.

Second, he mastered wordplay. Trump attached catchy nicknames to his opponents – Little Marco Rubio, Lyin’ Ted Cruz, and ultimately Crooked Hillary Clinton. Trump knows catchphrases are memorable. It belittles the opposition, becomes a sticky moniker the populace latches on to, and becomes part of the cycle’s vernacular.

Third, he’s all about image and stagecraft. Remember his entrance coming down the escalator at Trump Tower? Or the photographs of his Manhattan condo with its gold-laced interiors? He positioned himself as the billionaire iconoclast – a “maverick” in parlance of a previous campaign – and those who had grown tired of “politics as usual” saw in him someone they could back. They saw a leader.

Fourth, and most importantly, Trump is a master of the media. While he may have claimed the media was “rigged” against him (another catchy line that helped separate him from the establishment), he used the major news outlets to his advantage. An online search of Trump’s past photographs show images seemingly staged for maximum effect: Trump with his jet or helicopter behind him, or him standing beneath the golden marquee of one of his buildings.

Sure, Trump made bold – if erroneous – statements. He lied. He was boorish. But somehow, this master of the media realized that his audience were willing to look beyond his claims and lies and bluster to deliver the change they believed only he could deliver to American politics.

Like Ziglar or Ogilvy or Ash or Carnegie before him, Trump proved to be the master marketer. He packaged his brand for public consumption, tapped into people’s strongest emotions, and sold them precisely what they sought – as only a master salesman could do.

About the Author: Julie Talenfeld is an award-winning and highly respected marketing communications professional. The firm she founded in 1989, BoardroomPR, today offers media relations, branding, social media strategy and execution, reputation management, crisis communications, litigation communications, strategic planning, marketing and advertising.[/author]

5 Communications Lessons from Trump’s Victory

david-johnson-featuredBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Americans elected Donald Trump as President on Tuesday.  It was the political upset heard around the world as every poll and pundit had predicted a Hillary Clinton victory.  Without a doubt it was our version of the famous Harry Truman upset over Thomas Dewey in 1948.  Even more so for business communicators Trump’s strategy provides some lessons on how to effectively communicate.

5 Communications Lessons from Trump's VictorySo what were the lessons?

  1. Have a message.  Whether you liked Donald Trump’s message regarding immigration, the Affordable Care Act, or banning Muslims, he had a message and stayed on those major points throughout the campaign.  People knew where he stood on issues and by his consistency of message appeared to be a strong leader at a time when America was looking for a strong leader.  Clinton on the other hand seemed bland with her statements which seemed as if they had all been focused group tested before she made them.  A clear message will win every time.
  2. How you say it matters. Trump had an almost uncanny sense of what voters wanted to hear and how they wanted to hear it.  He realized more than what he said, how he said it to voters mattered.
  3. Social media is effective. Trump was mocked for his late night tweets on Twitter.  Yet he understood the power of social media far better than anyone else.  It wasn’t by accident that he has more followers on Twitter than President Obama has.  He understood that social media provided a cost-efficient way to reach voters and engage them.
  4. Be true to your brand. Trump was attacked time and again for his over the top statements and being politically incorrect.  Yet that was his brand that he had developed over the years through Celebrity Apprentice, media interviews, and business deals.  He was being consistent with that brand identity and that is why he was not hurt with his statements.  Clinton on the other hand seemed to be rebranding herself throughout the campaign, leaving voters to wonder who was the real Hillary.
  5. Know your audience. Trump knew throughout the campaign who he was trying to reach – the Silent Majority as Richard Nixon called them or the Reagan Democrats as they were rebranded – and tailored his statements and appeal to that audience.  Clinton on the other hand never seemed to know who she was trying to reach.  Was it the Obama coalition?  Disgruntled Republicans?  Undecided independents?  And at the end that was fatal as her vote totals among core Democratic constituencies was far lower than that of previous Democratic candidates.

The 2016 election will be studied for years.  Donald Trump will become the modern day version of Harry Truman with Hillary Clinton as the Thomas Dewey foil.  Yet for communicators, the key is learning and incorporating the successful communications strategies from the election.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Howard Stern Weighs In On Donald Trump

Ronn Torossian 150x150By Ronn Torossian, CEO, 5W PR

After months of recordings and transcripts of his shows have been played and replayed in countless articles, on TV and online the self-proclaimed “King of All Media” Howard Stern is breaking his silence about his always provocative interviews with billionaire Donald Trump. (Stern is my neighbor in my Lincoln Center condo building).

Speaking to CNN, Stern said he was proud of the various interviews he did with Trump, especially the opportunity to get to what he called the heart of his personality.

Stern held nothing back, telling CNN the interviews were not just for entertainment, they revealed who Trump really is, “This is who Trump is. He was always bombastic. He always rated women. He always talked in a misogynistic, sexist kind of way, but he did it sort of proudly and out in the open; and he still won the Republican primary. In one sense, the fact that we do an interview and people’s personalities come out, I’m very proud of that… I didn’t expect Trump to seriously run for president. He was a very good sport, and he was in the spirit of the show…very friendly toward me, friendly toward the show, always coming on…”

(Photo Source: Twitter)

Howard Stern (Photo Source: Twitter)

Stern went on to burst a lot of hopeful bubbles on the DNC side by vowing to never release the tapes of those interviews, edited or otherwise. Some Democrats were excited when the bits from Stern started trickling out, hoping the radio host, who came out in support of Hillary Clinton, would offer them something to hang The Other Guy.

Of course, as Elie Hirschfeld, Donald Trump’s former partner and a  supporter notes, Trump is always direct and real, for good and bad.

But that’s not how Stern plays the game. He may be raunchy, and he might dig a little deeper into his guests than other radio talkers, but he’s not one to kiss and tell. What’s aired is aired, and anything else stays on the cutting room floor or in the vault. He feels like Trump has been more than fair to him, coming on his show, being open, so he figures to return the favor by protecting some semblance of privacy for a candidate who can’t seem to escape bad press for what he says both on and off camera. So, Hillary will get Stern’s vote, but she won’t get him as an accomplice to her White House run.

Trump, for his part, hasn’t said much about his times on Stern, other than to say, yes, that’s what they talked about and to express surprise that so many people pretend to be surprised by what’s been leaked. It is, after all, a guy who named his biography, Private Parts.

A Little Last-Minute Online Marketing Advice for Trump and Hillary

shama224By Shama Hyder, Founder and CEO, Marketing Zen Group

With the final presidential debate behind us, and Election Day right around the corner, it may seem like the candidates no longer have the time or the platform to make any significant changes in the trajectory of their campaigns. With mere days to go before the nation votes, how many more people can Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton realistically hope to connect with? And with no more nationally televised events to make even the relatively uninterested pay attention, how can either candidate hope to spread their message any further?

But these constraints don’t mean it’s time to start winding down the campaigns – on the contrary, they call for a simple pivot in strategy, and a renewed focus on the digital marketing aspects of campaigning.

We’ve already seen some of the effects that social media can have in an election – now is the time for both campaigns to use that medium to its fullest potential in order to reach the most people possible in the short time remaining. Social media is unique in that it allows personal, one-on-one connections to be made – on a worldwide stage with countless others watching. That intersection of personal and public makes it possible for both Trump and Hillary to make more of these last few days of their campaigns than they ever could using conventional tactics alone.

a-little-last-minute-online-marketing-advice-for-trump-and-hillaryHere are the 3 main strategies they should focus on:  

1. Double down on the online branding and messaging of the campaign.

Only so many people can attend the remaining rallies and town hall meetings – but anyone can check out Facebook or Twitter for a quick take on each candidate’s views. In these last few days before the election, each campaign should be restating their key messages and highlighting their candidate’s overall “brand” via their social media posts in a way that makes it easy for anyone to understand at a glance what each one stands for.    

2. Focus on the digital channels where key demographic groups congregate.

Now is not the time to try out new social media platforms or spread efforts too thin trying to reach new voters on every possible online channel. Instead, the campaigns should use analytics to determine which of their digital platforms has been most successful in reaching the main demographics they are hoping to connect with, and boost their activity on those platforms alone with laser-like focus.  

3. Develop and maintain meaningful connections online.

Shaking hands in a coffee shop is great – but connecting with individuals on social media will get Hillary and Trump a lot more traction when it comes to votes. Interacting with people on social media in a genuine way virtually guarantees candidates a flurry of shares within that person’s online network, and boosts their appeal in the eyes of everyone else watching, as well.

In these last few days before Decision 2016, both candidates still have plenty of opportunities to add to their followings. By harnessing the power of social media marketing, they can make every moment of the countdown to Election Day count.  

About the Author: Shama Hyder is founder and CEO of the award-winning Marketing Zen Group, a social media marketing and digital PR firm. She is also a highly acclaimed keynote speaker, bestselling author, and a regular media correspondent. Her latest book, Momentum: How to Propel Your Marketing and Transform Your Brand in the Digital Age is now available on Amazon and across bookstores: 

Trump and Clinton Doubling Down PR Messages As The 2016 Race Heads Toward the Finish Line

Andy-Blum-headshotBy Andrew Blum

Now that we’ve had the final presidential debate, what are the last-minute PR and marketing tactics we should expect from the candidates and their parties? If I had to bet, I would say for the most part, they are going to keep doing what they’ve been doing. That’s not necessarily what their advisers and voters may want them to do.

Gonzo journalist Hunter Thompson is spinning in his grave. If he was still alive, Thompson might have used a favorite phrase of his to describe the presidential campaign: “When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro.”

Thompson would barely scratch the surface of the intensity and perplexing game-changing characteristics of 2016 as Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of running for president and communicating his message.

In the third debate it was pretty much more of the same – but this time Hillary Clinton sent a few zingers in Trump’s direction.

Between now and November 8, I think Trump should make real apologies for all his insults. He won’t. And Clinton should tell the public that, yes, she is sorry for her mistakes and that she is flawed but she knows how to govern. Who knows, she might.

Trump and Clinton Doubling Down PR Messages As The 2016 Race Ends

(Photo Source: Twitter)

What Trump seems to be missing is that PR and TV are all about perceptions of the person by the audience and he comes off horribly in a PR sense. Trump should avoid talking like a sexist creep; Clinton should avoid being wonky and keep the “When they go low, we go high” mantra borrowed from Michelle Obama. Clinton as the first woman nominee of a major party has almost seemed like a footnote at times in 2016 to Trump’s bluster. Yes, she has a PR message but it has gotten lost from time to time. Maybe the first debate fallout and the Trump income tax issue finally started to overcome some of her negatives. In the week after the first debate, her PR team won the battle as Trump self-combusted attacking a former Miss Universe.

The 2016 campaign has focused on an unrelenting torrent of criticisms by Trump of everyone and everything including debate moderators and the media – which by giving Trump so much coverage in the primaries helped him win the GOP nomination.

Trump’s recent PR ploy that the election is rigged and that the media, Clinton and women accusing him of sexual misconduct and groping are ganging up on him isn’t working. He even lashed out at Alec Baldwin for portraying him on SNL. Huh?

Trump needs to stay on message. He could take lessons from his wife who defended him from the accusations by women; she repeated the same message over and over. He erupts in 10 directions.Clinton could take political and warmth lessons from her husband. Bill Clinton is a natural born politician. Hillary Clinton is not.

Like him or hate him, Trump has redefined politics and PR with his communications style. Damage control and rapid responses on steroids have become the PR norm here.
Can Clinton overcome this with her PR approach? Can she fight off Trump attacks on the revelations from Campaign Chairman John Podesta’s leaked emails? If she keeps pushing Trump’s buttons and pivots off the emails, she can.

But the question Hunter Thompson would pose at this point: is this a one-time wacky change in campaigns, media and PR or have things changed forever? Thompson is spinning in his grave watching Trump and Clinton and their PR spinners.

About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies, families and individuals, and other clients. As a PR executive, and formerly as a journalist, he has been involved on both sides of the media aisle in some of the most media intensive PR crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms

A PR Perspective: Where is Trump’s Crisis Communications Plan?

david-johnson-featuredBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is in free fall due to accusation after accusation of past sexual misconduct by the candidate and no small part his abysmal crisis communications response.  He is headed towards a landslide defeat and becoming something he hates – a loser unless he changes his crisis communications strategy.  That is if he really wants to be elected president or save some of his brand appeal with mainstream America.  If not and this is all part of Trump’s plan to launch a conservative television network as has been alleged then his strategy is dead on.

Crisis Communications and Terror AttacksSo what should Trump do at this late date in terms of crisis communications?

  1. He has stated repeatedly that each of the accusations alleged about him is false and he will provide proof that will vindicate him. Don’t wait a second, provide the proof.  That would be the ultimate October Surprise.
  2. Apologize to Americans who have been offended by his harsh personal attacks.
  3. Cease all personal attacks against his accusers and Hillary and Bill Clinton. It takes away from the theme of his campaign and is turning voters away from him.
  4. Stop attacking fellow Republicans who have deserted him. It takes away from his message and lessens his chances of a strong Republican base vote to back him.
  5. Announce that going forth he will only give policy driven speeches and then concentrate on – the economy, Obamacare, immigration, terrorism, and cleaning up the corrupt system that so many voters disdain.
  6. Announce that if elected he will only serve one term. State that the objective of his campaign was to fix the system and he can do that in one term.  That will take the wind away from some whom claim if elected Trump would never give up power or has dictatorial ambitions.  It would be in line of Eisenhower’s vow if elected to go to Korea to view the war firsthand so he could end it in 1952.
  7. In the final debate with Hillary Clinton, avoid personal attacks and make it about policy. Emphasize that he is the agent of change that voters want while Hillary Clinton is a continuation of the broken system. He must also provide examples of how his policies will benefit Americans and also on how he has helped and advanced females rather than just saying he has a huge plan and is a friend of women.
  8. Put his money into the campaign for a non-stop targeted advertising campaign.

Will Trump do this?  Probably not, especially if he no longer cares about the presidency and is focused on starting a conservative television network.  If however he wants a shot even at this late date in winning or at least not being a landslide loser (see Alf Landon, Barry Goldwater, and George McGovern) then he needs to change communications strategies at once.  This is especially imperative if he hopes to maintain some mainstream brand appeal for the Trump brand.  The next days will be an indicator of where Trump is headed.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

Clinton-Trump Debates, Round 2

Sex, Lies, Videotape, and a Jail Threat

virgil.featuredBy Virgil Scudder, President, Virgil Scudder & Associates

This was the Super Bowl of the political campaign.  It was the debate that GOP leaders and down-ballot candidates were hoping would showcase a different Donald Trump, a man of substance and character whose demeanor might stem the mass exodus of party leaders who are fast withdrawing their support of the head of their ticket.

But, it was not to be.

Trump needed to humbly and sincerely apologize for his vulgar and boastful comments about his assaults on women on that famous Access Hollywood bus ride while swearing that he no longer behaves or thinks that way.  Instead, he once again sought to trivialize his crude remarks as “locker room banter,” a characterization that has been widely rejected by men and women alike.

True, he did voice an apology, but his words rang hollow as he immediately launched into an attack on Bill Clinton’s sexual escapades of two decades ago.  The argument didn’t fly.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

At the beginning it looked like we were going to see a more controlled Trump as he spoke softly and began to lay out positions.  But, he soon reverted to form, rudely interrupting his opponent, complaining about unequal treatment by the moderators, and calling Mrs. Clinton a liar.

And, it was to get worse.  Trump effectively acknowledged that he has paid no Federal taxes for nearly two decades.  He took vitriol to a new level, saying “(Clinton) has tremendous hate in her heart.”  And, shockingly, he threatened to appoint a special prosecutor to put her in jail if he is elected.  Even the suggestion of such action, common in dictatorships, is unheard of in this country.

A stronger, less self-centered candidate could have given Hillary a hard time.  She badly over-talked a lot of responses, as did he, frequently going beyond the standard two-minute time limit. Politicians seem to feel that they have to babble on for the entire allotted time when their points could often be more effectively made with a brief answer.  My advice: when you score a big point, shut up.  Continuing to talk will water down the effect of the point(s) you made and make your answer less memorable.

Here’s the basic rule: communication is not what you know or what you say but what the listener takes away.  Thus, a good, concise comment is often the best one.

Clinton did not have convincing answers on the email or leaked speeches issues but Trump failed to press her as hard as he should have on them.

The body language battle clearly went to the Democrat.  Trump shuffled around the stage when Clinton was talking, often grimacing or frowning, and generally looking away.  At times it looked almost like he was stalking her.  By contrast, she was attentive when he was speaking, often non-committal but sometimes smiling or shaking her head.

At last we got a debate with tough and capable moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz.  They were far better than their debate predecessors in forcing the combatants to directly answer questions and just generally policing the event.

Trump’s challenge Sunday night was to show that he had the demeanor and temperament to be president.  Only his most ardent supporters could believe that he succeeded.  He may have stayed alive, quieting some calls for him to resign from the ticket, but it’s hard to believe either Trump or Clinton swayed many undecided voters.

About the Author: Often referred to as “The Dean of Media Trainers,” Virgil is considered one of the world’s foremost communication experts.  In a 30-year career that has covered 26 countries on five continents, he has provided coaching and counsel to heads of some of the world’s largest corporations and government leaders. Virgil is a prolific writer and speaker.  His book, World Class Communication: how great CEOs win with the public, shareholders, employees, and the media, written with his son Ken, was named one of the 25 best business books of 2012.  His column, In the C-Suite, appears in every quarterly issue of the Public Relations Strategist and is read by leaders of major public relations agencies and global heads of public relations of large companies. He has written or been featured in articles that have appeared in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Investors Business Daily, and numerous professional publications.  Two of his speeches have been reprinted in the prestigious Vital Speeches of the Day. Prior to founding Virgil Scudder & Associates in 1990, Virgil headed the media training units of two of the world’s largest public relations firms, Hill & Knowlton and Carl Byoir & Associates.  Earlier, he was an award-winning news broadcaster at major radio and television networks and stations in New York City.  He was a first-night Broadway drama critic for six years during that period, broadcasting reviews on NBC’s all-news radio network and all-news WINS radio.  

Crisis Communications Management – A Trump Apology Recommendation

Editor’s Note: We asked crisis management experts how they would phrase Trump’s apology and here’s how Thomas J. Madden, TransMedia group’s CEO would do it even though he’s very upset with what he calls “Trump’s penchant for imploding.”

trump-apologyLike my opponent keeps saying it was a mistake to send hundreds of classified emails over her private server and she says she’ll never make that mistake again . . . neither will I.

My crude locker room talk years ago while I was on a show biz track and perhaps a little full of myself was so disrespectful to women. Today I’m embarrassed. It was a terrible mistake. Today I’m not that person on that audio. You can be sure I’ll never act like that as your president. Call me a late bloomer, but I’ve matured. Boy am I mature!

Not to excuse my mistakes and lewd talk in any way, shape or form, at least my mistakes didn’t rise like Hillary’s to the level of jeopardizing our national security. Fellow Americans, please forgive me. I respect women. I revere them. I hire you. I have confidence in you and now I need you, all women, to forgive me as I’m no longer the apprentice.

I’m now going for the top job in our country as I’m confident I can truly make America not only great again, but more tolerant, more decent, respectful, just and fair. Humbly, I thank you.


#TrumpTape – A Crisis Communications Strategy (Op-Ed)

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

Donald Trump has dominated the news cycle leading to into the second presidential debate (what else is new). Yet, not in the way he wants.  A tape surfaced of Trump describing his pursuit of women in lewd and assaulting terms from 2005 — “I don’t even wait,” he bragged about groping a woman’s genitals. Trump issued an apology of sorts that also fired shots at Bill Clinton’s sex life.  If Trump thought that was going to end the controversy, he needs to think again.  Rather, his campaign is on life support with key Republicans basically telling him – “he’s fired.  The number of Republicans who say they will not vote for him but rather write in a name grows by the hour.  Governor Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate will not firmly back him, condemning Trump’s remarks.  Hillary Clinton has maintained a reserved silence.

Is this the end of the Trump campaign?  Very probably it is.  He is no longer facing the possibility of losing in a narrow election at this point but rather in an electoral landslide similar to Alf Landon’s defeat to Franklin Roosevelt in 1936 or George McGovern’s in 1972 to Richard Nixon.  What should he do if he maintains that he will not withdraw?  What should the Republican Party do?

#TrumpTape and Crisis CommunicationsTrump has about forty-eight hours to turn this around and the odds of him doing this are long, but his strategy should be:

  1. Issue a strong, humble, heartfelt, and contrite apology showing the Donald Trump that so many say exists but has yet to surface in this campaign. In this apology he needs to avoid attacking Bill and Hillary Clinton.  The apology needs to demonstrate that he has grown from that tape and is truly a different man.  He needs to ask for forgiveness and a second chance.
  2. Have Melania and Ivanka front center attesting to how he has evolved and the good things he has done for females over the years.
  3. Have female employees and associates attest that he is a decent person and have never been put in inappropriate situations with him or faced unwanted advances by him. They also need to attest all of the good he has done.
  4. Come across in the St. Louis debate as a calm and caring person, showing contrition on past behavior. He also needs to make the debate about change and emphasize how he is the instrument of change.
  5. Invest money into his own campaign for a massive and non-stop advertising campaign that will send a solid signal that he is here to stay and putting his money where his mouth is.
  6. Sit down for an interview addressing this issue with a hostile interviewer or perhaps a prime time press conference answering everything about the tape and his behavior towards women and then refuse to answer any more questions.

This is what Donald Trump should do and the window is fast closing for him to do so.  If history is any benchmark of what he will do, he will do the opposite.  So then what should the Republican Party do if doesn’t do any of the above?

  1. Denounce and condemn Donald Trump in the strongest possible way and state categorically that he does not represent the Republican Party and the tradition of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.
  2. Look for any legal way to remove him from the ticket and if so, replace him at once.
  3. Barring that cease all operations in support of Trump and focus on the rest of the ticket.
  4. Have Republican leaders do a media blitz letting voters know that Donald Trump is not a Republican and does not stand for the Republican Party.

This election cycle has been unlike any other and who knows next week it might be Hillary Clinton who is being asked to withdraw.  Regardless it is Donald Trump and Republicans now in desperate need of crisis communications.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at


The Power of Preparation: Clinton 1, Trump 0 (Op-Ed)

virgil.featuredBy Virgil Scudder, President, Virgil Scudder & Associates

It’s a fact: The best prepared person has a winning edge: in sports, in business, or in an adversarial encounter on television such as Monday night’s Clinton-Trump presidential debate.  It was clear that Hillary Clinton prepared thoroughly for Monday night’s presidential debate and Donald Trump did not.  She clobbered him.  The result had to be very painful to Trump supporters as they watched their man blow the big game.  Shades of Sarah Palin!

Both sides needed to win this one: Trump by appearing calm and presidential and Clinton by showing her competence and giving the kind of straight, direct answers to tough questions that would give her many doubters a reason to trust her.

She won hands down, putting pressure on Trump to win big in the next two.  Las Vegas would probably give you 75-to-1 one or better odds against his doing that.

This was an uneven contest because Clinton could cite chapter and verse and Trump was reduced to sneers, insults, interruptions, and the same old tired, unsubstantiated, and often false claims.  A boxing referee would have stopped it after six rounds.

It is very frustrating to me, and I suspect to many others, to watch a spectacle in which one contestant (Trump) childishly interrupts while the other is trying to make a point.  It’s also frustrating when one candidate (Hillary) takes an encyclopedic approach to answering almost every question.  All questions are not created equal, and the length and detail of the response should be appropriate to the particular question.  She needs to master the art of the bullet point list and the technique of starting her responses bottom-line-first.

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

To her credit, she came up with some good sound bites, such as the one about Trump living in his own universe, that are likely to stick.  She needs to do more of this.

Why is a candidate permitted to interrupt and talk over the opponent, as Trump loves to do?  A friend of mine suggested cutting off the microphone of the person not speaking.  I like it.

I’d also like to see the mic cut when a responder goes more than 10 seconds over the allotted response time.  You wouldn’t have to do that very often before they got the message.  Clinton is a worse offender than Trump in this regard.

Lester Holt did not have a triumphant night as a moderator even though he did challenge Trump on a couple of lies.  He should have challenged a lot more often, insisting that the candidates directly answer his questions.  And, when he said they had 10 or 30 seconds to respond, he should have held them to it.  He is a capable news anchor but not a good choice to moderate a contentious debate.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz will moderate the next discussion and that promises to be good news for those of us frustrated with what we’ve seen in this debate and the ones in primary season.   She’s tougher, and she’s more experienced in interviewing.  She is less likely to let a non-responsive answer to a question slide by without challenge.

Here’s what the candidates should do in preparation for the next debate.

Clinton: Practice on condensing and bottom-lining responses, select and rehearse bullet-point lists such as the ones used in questioning whether Trump pays any taxes or contributes to charities, and work on showing more warmth and your private side.  Make us like you. Tell some personal stories that make points and emphasize your experience and give examples of sound judgment.

Trump: Do your homework.  Study, study, and then study some more.  Create and deliver specific proposals for dealing with the challenges of the day.  Stop whining about unfair treatment and faulty microphones (we heard him fine.)  Donald, you’re good at diagnosing people’s pain, but your prescriptions for relief amount to hyperbole.  Get real; show that you have substance.  And, for pity’s sake, stop lying and winging it as you go.

I look forward to the next two debates.  I hope they offer us more substance, more civility, and stronger moderating.



About the Author: Often referred to as “The Dean of Media Trainers,” Virgil is considered one of the world’s foremost communication experts.  In a 30-year career that has covered 26 countries on five continents, he has provided coaching and counsel to heads of some of the world’s largest corporations and government leaders. Virgil is a prolific writer and speaker.  His book, World Class Communication: how great CEOs win with the public, shareholders, employees, and the media, written with his son Ken, was named one of the 25 best business books of 2012.  His column, In the C-Suite, appears in every quarterly issue of the Public Relations Strategist and is read by leaders of major public relations agencies and global heads of public relations of large companies. He has written or been featured in articles that have appeared in The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Reuters, Investors Business Daily, and numerous professional publications.  Two of his speeches have been reprinted in the prestigious Vital Speeches of the Day. Prior to founding Virgil Scudder & Associates in 1990, Virgil headed the media training units of two of the world’s largest public relations firms, Hill & Knowlton and Carl Byoir & Associates.  Earlier, he was an award-winning news broadcaster at major radio and television networks and stations in New York City.  He was a first-night Broadway drama critic for six years during that period, broadcasting reviews on NBC’s all-news radio network and all-news WINS radio.  

What Melania’s Absence Says About Trump’s Campaign (Op-ed)

lauren-wright-phdBy Lauren A. Wright, Ph.D.

Where has Melania been?

In the wake of her RNC plagiarism scandal and as reporters began to raise questions over the details of her emigration to the U.S., the would-be first lady has utterly vanished from the campaign trail.

There are a few possibilities to explain Mrs. Trump’s glaring absence. One is that the campaign does not want to give reporters the chance to question her about her infamous RNC performance—where she was accused of lifting lines from First Lady Michelle Obama’s 2008 convention speech—thereby re-injecting the embarrassing episode into the national discourse, or about her debunked college degree, another awkward moment for the campaign. It could also be that team Trump is hiding something about the specifics of Melania’s journey to America, an issue that will not likely be resolved until her official immigration documentation is released. Given the lack of transparency exhibited by the Trump campaign, we may never know why Melania has disappeared. 

But if history is any guide, Melania’s absence does strongly indicate one thing: Trump’s campaign, by modern standards, has been poorly managed. 

An uninvolved spouse is one of the most obvious yet overlooked markers of a disordered presidential campaign. In 2004, Howard Dean’s wife, Judith Steinberg Dean, shunned the presidential campaign trail, raising questions among reporters and voters alike about whether she was supportive of her husband’s candidacy and how the former governor would shore up apparent gaps in voters’ perceptions of his personality, especially since he, too, eschewed opportunities to speak about his personal life. Meanwhile, Teresa Heinz Kerry, the wife of 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry, maintained a fairly active campaign presence on behalf of her husband, but refused to be counseled or managed by staff. As a result, Mrs. Heinz’s public appearances were often characterized by controversial remarks, and her DNC speech, like Mrs. Trump’s, was noticeably devoid of any details about her relationship with her husband.

a5146c-wright-hiresolu-2Melania Trump, like all political spouses, is potentially one of the most valuable political assets the campaign possesses. Spouses are ideally positioned to soften the image of presidential candidates and to promote their message to otherwise hostile audiences. And savvy campaigns intuitively understand what my book, On Behalf of the President, demonstrates empirically: presidential and candidate spouses can be exceptional surrogates in the White House and on the campaign trail. 

Well-run campaigns know that candidate spouses are often the most in-demand surrogates by state party organizations in GOTV efforts. They know that voters have an inherent fascination with candidate spouses, are more likely to tune in to their public appearances and speeches than those of professional politicians, and are more inclined to perceive those public remarks to be genuine rather than opportunistic. 

My research also shows that Mrs. Trump could be a very effective messenger among political Independents, and that she has a measurably more positive effect on evaluations of Donald Trump than surrogates like Chris Christie. Most importantly, she can provide unique insight into Donald Trump’s character and values. 

In addition to the general strengths of candidate spouses, Melania Trump possesses a distinctive set of qualities that could have been exploited. If communicated proactively and transparently, Mrs. Trump’s life story could have been a boon to the campaign, providing her a clear avenue to connect with voters who weren’t born into wealth or status, or who may have emigrated to the United States themselves and learned English. She could have further defined her stated interest in helping women and children, seizing opportunities to engage women voters and families in particular, hone her message relating to them, and shape expectations regarding her planned contributions in the White House, as the Clinton campaign has been doing regarding Bill Clinton’s role in revitalizing the economy. As a hands-on mom and entrepreneur, Melania could have cultivated a down-to-earth persona that resonated with working parents. It’s an exercise Jackie Kennedy mastered, permitting Look and Life magazines to photograph her reading to and putting her kids to bed without the help of maids or nurses. Melania Trump is also beautiful. Social science studies have long shown that voters are significantly biased toward physically attractive political actors, and that these preferences are especially evident in evaluations of female politicians.

Instead of capitalizing on Melania’s strengths, the Trump campaign discounted a potential star from the very beginning. In the relatively few high-profile appearances she made early on, Mrs. Trump showed promise. In network interviews during the primaries filled with pleasantries and softball questions—typical features of spousal interviews which few other surrogates enjoy—Mrs. Trump began to introduce herself to voters through comments that revealed her independent personality and uncensored relationship with Mr. Trump. “I give him my opinions. I am not a ‘yes’ person,” Mrs. Trump said in an interview with FOX, and later, “I have a thick skin. I’m strong. I’m standing on my own two feet.”

Three things should have become evident to the Trump campaign at this point. There was intense public interest in Mrs. Trump, she could draw millions of viewers while exercising near-full control over the narrative regarding her husband, and her public appearances should be carefully leveraged to garner positive coverage for the campaign. It is a combination of circumstances of which most politicians and political proxies can only dream. 

Yet the Trump campaign failed to adequately support, prepare, or regulate Mrs. Trump heading into the RNC, her single most important public appearance of the election season. Plagiarized portions of her speech emerged as one of the defining gaffes of the summer, even more damaging, perhaps, than Hillary Clinton’s famous ‘tea and cookies’ remark on the 1992 campaign trail, or Michelle Obama’s ‘I’m proud of my country’ stumble in 2008. The fact that such an incident was allowed to transpire only further indicates how the Trump campaign has taken Melania for granted. Any modern professional campaign would have staffed the candidate’s spouse sufficiently to prevent cribbed language from ever entering a speech draft, let alone the final product.

It is not clear whether the Trump campaign is keeping Melania off the trail to avoid more missteps, or whether Mrs. Trump alone has made the decision to remove herself from the spotlight. But by squandering six months of opportunities to dispatch her and botching the few instances where she was mobilized, the Trump campaign has once again revealed an unfocused organization, seemingly unwilling to strategically deploy their best resources when and where they are most sorely needed. 


 About the Author: Lauren Wright Ph.D. is a political scientist, a White House expert and board member of the White House Transition Project. She also is the author of the recently released On Behalf of the President: Presidential Spouses and White House Communications Strategy Today, which identifies and explains the expanding responsibility entrusted to presidential spouses to communicate the president’s message on the campaign trail and in the White House. 

FOX & FRIENDS Discussing Melania Trump’s Speech (begins at 00:12:48)

FOX TV NEWS, CLEVELAND: Author shares insights on importance of presidential spouses

CW6, SAN DIEGO: The importance of First Ladies in Politics

USA Today: What are we going to call Bill Clinton if Hillary is elected president? 

News Cycle Monopoly: Clinton vs. Trump

Todd Murphy Vice President Universal Information Services news monitoring and PR measurementBy Todd Murphy, Vice President, Universal Information Services

As the November presidential election draws ever closer, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are slugging it out to win position in the polls. Our team can measure public relations as a result of our comprehensive news monitoring services. From that data we took a closer look at the past week, August 28th through September 2nd (12pm EDT), 2016. What we found was a rare news cycle monopoly. While Clinton was out fundraising millions of dollars, and answering questions related to the Clinton Foundation and emails, Trump monopolized nearly every media channel with some key image events (Highlights of Donald Trump’s Immigration Speech and Mexico Trip, NY Times 8/31/16)

An analysis of presidential election media exposure

Total U.S. Media Mentions

  • Hillary Clinton=119,990
  • Donal Trump=199,488

Share of Voice (a breakdown of the percentage each candidate was mentioned in relation to all election news)

Presidential Media Analysis by Universal Information Services



The graph below shows how total mentions of “Trump” dominated the news cycle from the past week, with “Clinton” comprising only a fraction of headlines.

Election Headlines analyzed by Universal Information Services



The graph of headlines clearly shows the bump Donald Trump received from his trip to speak with the Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto (Aug 31 and Sept 1). So why, or rather how, did Trump so dominate the media for the past six days? We thought that story sentiment may have played a role, so we looked at the overall tone of all exposure for each candidate.

Measuring positive stories vs. negative stories

While Donald Trump stumped with public speeches, and owned the media for two days related to his Mexico visit, Hillary Clinton was out of site as the media recounted emails and the Clinton Foundation. It doesn’t take a media measurement professional to know that discussing who might pay for an immigration wall attracts more eyeballs than old news of emails and paid access. But when it comes to generating positive media coverage, neither candidate converted well. So while Trump may have owned the overall exposure since Sunday, both candidates received more negative publicity than positive publicity.

Clinton Media Sentiment by Universal Information Services


Trump Media Sentiment by Universal Information Services


Measuring outcomes

Translating measured media exposure into actual outcomes and ROI is the goal of any media or PR campaign. We can point to Trump’s improved poll ratings this week as evidence that his media exposure has helped. It may be the old saying of, “There’s no such thing as bad PR”

played a roll in his ratings bump. Or it may just be who ever gets more media is more on the mind of those being polled. Either way, tracking how the media handles each candidate next week may lend perspective to the outcomes of this week’s polls. Share your thoughts on measure the media and our political media coverage.

Crisis in Trumpville: Can the GOP Nominee Overcome his Obstacles and Make His Campaign Great? (Op-Ed)

andrewr200By Andrew Ricci, Vice President, LEVICK

One of the old maxims often quoted by public relations and crisis management professionals is the Johnnie Cochran staple, “We’ve got to be judged by how we do in times of crisis.” In the crisis management industry, we tend to define a crisis as any event or series of events that dramatically alters an organization’s ability to carry out its mission, and it’s true that how well they handle these events can often be used as a benchmark for judgment. Donald Trump’s campaign is certainly, at least today, one organization that should be acting in full-blown crisis mode after a couple bad weeks and major missteps, including this week’s suggestion that “Second Amendment people” might be able to stop Hillary Clinton or her judicial selections.

The Donald’s brand has always been that of a non-traditional candidate, and in doing so he has created a non-traditional crisis for himself. When a company is facing a crisis, it typically needs to stick to a message of transparency and openness with its consumers and stakeholders. In Trump’s case, however, the last thing he needs to do is be more transparent. His lack of filter and diplomacy earned him his initial band of loyal followers, but his rhetoric only seems to turn off or offend many others who may be on the fence and have concerns about him. Most companies and public figures in crisis become less of a story by opening up and leaving nothing more for the media to speculate, but Donald Trump would become less of a story by becoming more closed off.

One way he might start to turn things around is to recognize and admit to himself that things haven’t exactly been going his way, and he might be the culprit. In many ways, he’s been his own worst enemy, driving his controversial campaign headstrong into crisis after avoidable crisis. And thus far, rather than realize that he’s setting himself back, he’s doubled down or passed the blame. He’s dismissed polls and claimed an unfair media is the genesis of his ongoing problems. He’s tried to preempt a loss by warning that the election might be rigged — despite roughly 3/5 of the states under Republican control. This is the marker not of a bad campaign strategy, but of a deeply rooted character flaw, and only by imposing some high level of self-discipline can he begin to change that narrative.

What’s worse, every time a member of his staff manages to get him on the wagon and impose some sort of discipline on their candidate, it isn’t long before he again goes off script and talks himself right back off. As a result, the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll had Hillary Clinton up eight points in the general election, and a recent Fox News poll showed him ten points behind. If Trump hopes to make his campaign great again, it’s time for him to face the data and make some changes.

While it’s true that his brash, no-holds-barred, and unfiltered style got him the nomination, he has to realize that elections are strange occurrences and the strategies needed to win a primary are radically different from those needed to win a general election. In some ways, Trump has shown he might be starting to realize his campaign strategy needs to change to come out victorious in November. He recently began using (and mostly sticking to) teleprompters.

This is a much-needed development and straight from any crisis management playbook. Once you know you have a crisis on your hands, any public relations counselor will reinforce the importance of developing a powerful narrative and staying on message with well thought out and scripted key points, ensuring the efficacy of the story you are trying to tell and avoiding distractions. This has never been Trump’s strong suit. Time and again, we have watched Trump create headlines after diverging from an average campaign speech with just one off-hand comment, which quickly becomes the headlining story in every morning newspaper and email blast.

Every time the news seems saturated with articles about Donald Trump, he says or does something ridiculous or controversial and gives the press a new story to cover. One of the easiest ways to bury headlines is to make them mundane, and because whatever Trump says or does becomes a headline he has a lot of agency over how sensational, or un-sensational, those headlines are. Unlike many companies in crisis, Trump is running for president and does not want to disappear from the news radar; he just needs to begin generating positive, or at least neutral, press. The reporters he despises can’t use his own comments against him if he stops giving them their ammunition.

Donald Trump often likes to say that only he can make America great again. With the clock ticking and time running out until election day, it’s time for Donald Trump to realize that only he – by becoming more of a candidate and less of a firebrand – can make his campaign great again.

 About the Author: Andrew Ricci is a Vice President at LEVICK, a crisis communications firm. LEVICK Fellow Kelsey Chapekis contributed to this article. 

Politics & Personal Branding – Lessons from the Trump Campaign

Jasmine SandlerBy Jasmine Sandler, CEO, Agent-cy Online Marketing

This is an interesting time in American history and American politics, and I feel like I had to open this blog post that way so you knew I wasn’t talking about Pokémon Go. (By the way, that is a genius marketing strategy and if anyone tells you anything different, they’re wrong.) The Republican National Convention showed us recently the fascination that Americans are having on what’s happening outside the arena—protests, etc—than inside it. Politico, as usual had it right with the story they published on the eve of the convention, “ GOP operatives dread Trump convention. This has been the most contentious political convention we’ve seen since 1968, and that’s not a good thing.

There are important lessons to be learned on the business and marketing side here from the Trump campaign. I spend a ton of my professional life working on personal branding. I work with people almost hourly on personal branding, from individuals whose revenue stream is themselves to executives in transition to entrepreneurs and back again. It can sound like a buzzword—”personal branding” seems to imply you’re making yourself a brand, which seems less authentic—but it’s crucial. Nothing is handed to you professionally. You can have a great job and a great manager and, three days later, you can be fired because your company takes a revenue hit. Is that common? No. But does it happen all the time to people? Yes. And when you’re out there looking for new opportunities or trying to build up your own thing, your personal brand is all you have. It’s reflected in what you write, what’s on LinkedIn, what’s on YouTube, and what people will find when they Google you (or you Google yourself).

That’s all a long way of getting back to Trump. His personal brand offends a lot of people, but it’s actually very strong. During the primaries when Trump’s rise was happening, NBC’s Meet the Press went to a Trump rally in Alabama and filmed a video with his supporters:

It’s a quick video – less than 2 minutes and 20 seconds – and if you watch it, all his supporters tend to use the same words to describe him:

  • Outsider
  • Change
  • Change the system
  • Real
  • Talks real
  • Represents us
  • Discontent with government

Now look at this chart:

Politics & Personal Branding – Lessons from the Trump Campaign

Basically, it says this: in the 2000 Presidential election cycle, 7 percent of people polled had an unfavorable view of both parties. In 2016, it’s up to 24 percent. So in four Presidential cycles, we’ve basically quadrupled the amount of people who don’t like either of their options.

This is where Trump excelled in terms of personal branding and marketing. At base, marketing is just about positioning whatever your product or service is. We over-complicate it sometimes and talk about power branding and automation and all that—and I’ve worked with clients on all those things, so don’t get me wrong—but it’s really just explaining how your product is going to be better than some other product.

The climate Trump entered was one where 1 in 4 people in America didn’t like either party. So he marketed himself as an outsider and that marketing got him 13 million primary voters and the Republican nomination.

My point is this: many people don’t like Trump. But if you think concepts like ‘personal branding’ and ‘marketing’ are fluffy and don’t have impact or don’t need to be considered, well … turn on the TV during these elections you’ll see it play out live in technicolor.


 About the Author: Jasmine Sandler is a global keynote speaker, trainer, author and consultant in Digital Marketing and Social Selling for global organizations. She is the Founder and CEO of Agent-cy Online Marketing, a Manhattan-based Online Branding agency, specializing in SEO since 2006. She has been named (2012, 2013, and 2014) as a Top 40 Global Digital Marketing Strategist in the industry, Top SEO consultant on Twitter and Top 17 Digital Influencers in Content Marketing. Jasmine has over 15 years’ client Digital Marketing experience in helping corporations such as Citibank, Intercall, Doublerock, ISO and countless others use the web to drive online visibility and generate leads that have resulted in new business online. She started, developed and sold a social network before social networking was a widespread term. As the lead Digital Marketing Strategist for Agent-cy Online Marketing, Jasmine has led online marketing programs in Web Design, Web Development, Search Engine Optimization, Pay per Click Advertising and Online Marketing Campaigns, Social Media Marketing Strategy and Online PR for B2B professional services companies. Currently, she manages all SEO and Digital Marketing Strategy for the firm’s top clientele. 


#MelaniaTrump Speech – A Crisis Communications Lesson

david johnsonBy David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group

(Photo Source: Twitter)

(Photo Source: Twitter)

The first night at the Republican Presidential Convention was supposed to highlight #MelaniaTrump, Donald Trump’s wife and introduce the next potential First Lady to millions of Americans.  Also it was hoped that Melania’s speech would start to soften the image of Donald Trump and allow voters a glimpse of the private man.  With polls showing many Americans have no opinion of Melania or those who do have a mostly unfavorable opinion of her, this was her moment.

Initial reaction to Melania’s speech was positive until fact checkers began showing that parts of the speech were identical to the speech given by Michelle Obama in 2008.  Accusations of plagiarism are abounding in the media drowning out all other messages.  The Trump campaign is adamant that there was no plagiarism despite even some senior Republicans saying that it was plagiarism.  Yet the Trump campaign seems to be digging in despite the negative stories and the fact it is dominating the media forcing the campaign off message.

What should the Trump campaign do?

  1. Admit that it was an error. They can blame it on a failure to fully vet the speech.
  2. Have Melania issue an apology saying that even though an aide helped her with the speech it was ultimately her fault. She should direct the apology in many ways to Michelle Obama and point out that the fact she felt those words applied to Donald shows how much loving wives have in common.
  3. Move on after the apology and refocus on message.

The cardinal rule of crisis communications is to get the crisis behind you.  The longer the Trump campaign ignores this rule, the more that their message at the convention will be sidetracked.  Businesses should pay attention to this controversy and learn the importance of getting the crisis behind you.

 About the Author:  David E. Johnson is the CEO of Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations.  Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at

5 PR Lessons from the Trump Campaign

Wendy Alpine Discusses 5 PR Lessons from the Trump CampaignBy Wendy Alpine, President, Alpine Communications

Whether you love him or hate him, what Donald Trump’s campaign has accomplished so far into this election is astounding. He’s used every speaking engagement and media opportunity to his advantage, building masses of followers and constantly being the center of attention. “The Donald” has used his brand and platform to garner more media attention than most other candidates combined. While most companies can’t come close to what Trump has accomplished in earned media, it’s worth taking a look at his technique and what lessons can be learned:

  1. Simplicity is Key: Trump’s message has been consistent and simple. He simply states what he wants to say and doesn’t usually confuse his followers with lengthy jargon. From his slogan “Make America Great Again” to his strongly worded tweets, Trump’s message has not changed, and your company’s shouldn’t either.
  2. Know your Audience: Another key component of Donald Trump’s campaign is his attention to his audience. He knows whom he is speaking to, and what they want to hear.  Similarly, your company should address your target audience, and create content to attract their interest.
  3. Controversy Grabs Attention: The main reason Donald Trump is always in the news, is due to his controversial statements. Every time he makes an off- color comment, every major news outlet picks up the clip, resulting in hours and hours of free press, and outreach to millions of potential voters. But most companies try to avoid controversy, so how else can they attract attention? Do something that creates a splash or use the element of surprise.
  4. Free Media Prevails Over Paid Media: Because of Trumps’ strategic media plan, he does not have to exhaust the same press budget as other candidates. He has reportedly received nearly $2 billion in free press, and through February was the eighth highest spender among candidates on advertising. When possible, conserve funds and let the media do the work for you. If you’re not sure how to do that, consider hiring a PR firm to help you determine what’s newsworthy and connect you with the right media.
  5. Stand Out from the Crowd: Regardless of your political affiliation, it is clear that Donald Trump has managed to stand out from the crowd and get people talking about him. He is his own brand, and is running his campaign unlike any candidate before. How can your company separate itself from its competitors? If you’re not sure, talk to trusted customers, or have your PR firm conduct customer case studies. Figuring out what makes you stand out and telling your customers about it will help you garner more attention and lead to more sales.

 About the Author: Wendy Alpine is president of Alpine Communications, a leading PR firm in Atlanta, with a specialty in healthcare and technology. Reach her at, or visit