#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 www.strategicvision.biz.


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