The Trump Russia Crisis: It’s Not about a Popularity Contest or a Witch Hunt. Treat it Like what it Is: It’s a Huge PR Crisis

Andy-Blum-headshotAndrew Blum, Principal, AJB Communications

The crisis consuming Donald Trump and his White House now includes: the appointment of a special counsel, the Comey memo, talk of obstruction of justice and impeachment, memories of Watergate, the firing of FBI Director James Comey, the disclosure of classified intelligence to Russian diplomats during an Oval Office meeting, the multi-pronged probe into Russia and the 2016 election, and dealings with Russia by the Trump campaign and the Trump real estate organization.

So, how should the President and the White House deal with all of this?

First, they have to acknowledge that this is a PR crisis. In doing that, they should put together a new legal, crisis PR, and political team to handle this.

The current one clearly isn’t working.

Trump should hire a high-powered DC criminal defense attorney to represent him in all these matters. On the PR front, he should bring in crisis PR experts – since White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer is woefully unprepared to handle this.

The President also needs to figure out how to shore up his political base in Congress and the country. The firing of Comey was so bad for Trump’s popularity that only 29% of the people polled supported his firing of the FBI Director. Continuing to say he won the election won’t fix this.

The firing of Comey while he was leading the Russia probe looked Nixonian, conjuring up recollections of the Saturday Night Massacre and the firing of Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox. And when Trump tweeted that Comey should hope there weren’t “tapes” of their meeting, there was another Watergate connection – to Nixon’s tapes.

Trump should let criminal defense lawyers and crisis PR experts handle this. Calling the Russia probe “a witch hunt,” as he did this week, is not a good PR response.

The President’s legal and crisis PR experts should do something else here: they should recommend and make sure he stays off of Twitter. Every time he tweets about the Russia probe, the so-called “fake news” media and the Democrats gang up on him, he digs himself in deeper.

He now has Republicans concerned as well; after all 2018 is around the corner. But the answer is not saying he has been treated the most unfairly of any president in history.

This is not going away. The Washington Post and The New York Times are leading the media charge on the print side. For cable TV, it’s Trump and Russia all the time. On MSNBC, Rachel Maddow put up a graphic on the screen that listed up to 10 ongoing and possible investigations.

A big part of Trump’s problems here are of his own making. The explanations of the firing of Comey and the Russian intelligence flap are prime examples of bad PR by having more than one version given to the press.

It’s time for lawyers and crisis PR experts to take over. Without them, it will get worse quickly for Trump and the White House.

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 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 crises of the past 25 years. Contact him at ajbcomms@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter: @ajbcomms

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1 Comment

  1. Ford Kanzler on May 20, 2017 at 10:21 am

    Agree Trump’s PR team needs help. That’s not likely coming from their boss, however. The president’s MO is attacking critics and name-calling. An utterly juvenile and ineffective response.