By 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.
So what should Trump do at this late date in terms of crisis communications?
- 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.
- Apologize to Americans who have been offended by his harsh personal attacks.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.