Donald Trump and Public Relations

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

Now that many people in this great nation have collectively has taken a deep breath, we can collectively accept the fact that Donald J. Trump was elected president of the United States on November 8, 2016, in what will be remembered as one of the truly astonishing election upsets in the nation’s history.

trump-website-image

Credit: Photo was borrowed from the official website for the Trump campaign. This blog sincerely appreciates the opportunity to include this graphic in today’s post.

Still, many of us will find it hard — perhaps excruciatingly hard — to come to the realization of a Trump administration. But, the democratic process was followed, and Mr. Trump will be inaugurated on January 20, 2017.

Another thing is certain: Prognosticators, pundits and pollsters will grapple for the unforeseeable future about how candidate Trump, a political neophyte and billionaire businessman catapulted to stardom via reality television, beat an opponent with some 40 years of political savvy, including terms as a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State.

(Okay, we will not address the misgivings and faults regarding Hillary Clinton, perceived or substantiated, in this post as that subject is not germane to subject at hand.)

But here’s one theory I would like to quash and address right now: Mr. Trump did not win the presidency due to a masterful “public relations strategy,” as some in the media have asserted.

As stated in this September 2015 article published by Forbes, the author proclaims Mr. Trump’s campaign at the time had delivered “the proper public relations note” to reach its core audience. (For the record, I have no idea what defines a “public relations note.”)  And, others in public relations have contributed to the discussion by offering examples of the value behind some of Mr. Trump’s public relations tactics.

Hogwash, if you ask me. And, if I wanted to get into the gutter like so many these days, I would offer another descriptive term, one that rhymes with “dimwit.”

No, Mr. Trump and those within his campaign did not propagate sound, ethical public relations strategies or offer many — if any — viable tactics for those of us in the profession to absorb and use. The key reasons why:

  1. At times during the campaign and primary race, his rhetoric was based on fabricated facts.
  2. There was little to no effort to disclose where some of the information disseminated came from.

Want an example? Read this Chicago Tribune story from August of 2016 regarding a reported meeting by Mr. Trump with a “high ranking” Chicago police official. The topic was how the city can curtail violent crime in one week through tougher policing.

I do agree that Mr. Trump and his team did employ marketing strategies and tactics to leverage the brand he built through his real estate endeavors, television show and other business interests.  Well, perhaps Trump University should be kept off the list for now.

So how did Mr. Trump win?

That question will be debated for a long time, probably until the next presidential election; but Tuesday’s victory was not driven by public relations, at least not the public relations I practice.

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2 thoughts on “Donald Trump and Public Relations

    • Hello: Sincere thanks for your comment and for sharing your support of ethical public relations practices. I fear we will continue to face strong challenges in the long term.

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