Like Him or Hate Him: President Donald Trump Is Changing PR

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Editor’s Note:  CommPRO reached out to our community, seeking their thoughts about President Donald Trump’s impact on the public relations industry.  We welcome your comments.

Can It Go Back to Normal Once He Leaves the White House?

Andrew Blum, Principal, AJB Communications

President Donald Trump has changed the way political PR operates and how the press covers the White House. As a former reporter, a news junkie, and now a PR consultant, this has been jarring to watch.

Let’s talk a look at some of the areas where Trump and his staff have changed PR.

Twitter

By using Twitter, Trump has changed the way presidential announcements and comments are made. He has made the press cover what he writes on Twitter. This is not a good PR thing since much of what he says on Twitter ferociously attacks people, companies, or groups of people and American allies, or he goes off on defensive rants. “No collusion” is a favorite tweet on the Russia probe.

Bashing the Media

Trump has taken attacks on the press to new lows, calling them the enemy of the people, those failing outlets, threatening to change libel laws, and saying the name of the anonymous New York Times op-ed author should be unearthed. But in a way, the more Trump bashes the press, and the more the press investigates Trump, media audiences increase.

The White House Press Secretary and Press Briefings

Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders may be one of the word press secretaries ever. Her disdain for the press oozes out of her. She is following the Trump PR m.o. by attacking the media and dodging questions. Briefings themselves have gotten fewer; on September 10, they held a press briefing for the first time in 19 days.

Trump’s General PR Approach

Everything for him is a show or a lie or an attack on someone; it’s not good PR. For Trump, PR is all about him. This kind of PR is worse than reality TV. What he says and how he handles PR is important as it has an impact on so many people.

Fake News and Alternative Facts

Trump’s way of going after stories he doesn’t like is to call them fake news.  Then there’s Kellyanne Conway, counselor to Trump, coining the term alternative facts during a cable TV interview. Both of these don’t sound like we are living in the United States where freedom of the press is a right. They sound like propaganda, not a well-reasoned PR approach.

Lessons to be Learned

Besides the policy decisions of the Trump administration which may or may not be challenged or partially undone in the mid-term elections or the 2020 election, what will happen? I think Trump’s PR tactics are an aberration and things can change if he loses Congressional power in 2018 or leaves office after 2020 or after 2024.

Let’s hope no one else who follows him uses the same PR approach.

Despite all of this, not only has Trump helped boost media circulation and viewership, he and his PR tactics have helped Trump book authors sell a lot of books.


About the Author: Andrew Blum is a PR consultant and media trainer and principal of AJB Communications. He has directed PR for authors and publishers, professional services and financial services firms, NGOs, agencies and other clients. He recently did PR for a new book, The Real Trump Deal, a look at how Trump negotiates. 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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