Will his Brand of “Communications” Work Elsewhere in PR?
By Andrew Blum PR Consultant & Media Trainer, AJB Communications
Has Donald Trump changed politics, and as a result PR, for good? Or is it a one-time election cycle PR trend to get away with continually insulting people and making over the top inflammatory comments to the media and on twitter— and rising to the top of the polls?
In light of all this, one has to wonder if this approach would work in other kinds of PR outside of politics. To assess this, let take a quick look at some if of the things he has done so far:
He called Rosie O’Donnell a fat pig, feuded with Megyn Kelly of Fox News and lambasted her in public and on Twitter, went after Sen. John McCain, attacked Mexicans and Muslims, vowed to build a physical and virtual wall to keep out immigrants, rebuked his GOP competitors and Democrats alike, threatened the rest of the world, and on and on.
Additionally, he has banned some media from covering him, kicked Jorge Ramos of Fusion/Univision out of a press conference, defended his campaign manager after he was charged with battery for assaulting a reporter at a Trump rally and generally been surly with the media.
His PR style is to say the most outrageous things he can think of and to get free media (no big ad spend), and in the process suck up most of the 2016 race’s media coverage. Do we blame him, the media, or his competitors who can’t seem to find a political or PR tool to stop him? Or have politics, the voters and political PR sunk to a new low?
All of this makes me wonder, could Trump’s PR style work outside of politics? I think for starters, you would need a CEO with a big ego and an “I don’t care” attitude. Yes, there are many of these but how would far would they go with stock prices, shareholders, investors, activists and all the other stakeholders and issues a public company has to contend with?
Private companies and other organizations have less of those kinds of issues to contend with but there is still public perception to contend with as well as social media. PR executives and consultants would have to carefully weigh the pros and cons of Trump-style PR for their clients.
I can imagine a PR person telling an ego and publicity-driven CEO or client: “You can’t say that.” And the CEO/client might say, “But Trump said it.” The response might be: “But you’re not Donald Trump and being like him is dangerous for you and your company.”
However, I could see the Trump PR phenomenon leading to people taking more chances. Some things they might not normally think of doing or saying might be considered or actually acted on. It’s food for thought but I can’t see them going full Trump in the PR sense. If PR people are to do their jobs, they must make sure their clients don’t go too far.
Yes, Trump has been successful but I think it’s due more to his unique brand of PR and reaching unhappy voters in a long-sustained campaign. What concerns me is if CEOs and PR clients try to emulate him. It could be a recipe for PR disaster.