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.

Will 100 Million People Really Be Watching Tonight?

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

Another Monday night. But of course, not just any Monday night in America, or the world for that matter.

tn_combomag_header_logo-jpgYou know what I’m referring to: Tonight’s presidential debate, which the smart people who know lots more about elections and the media say will draw something like 100 million viewers.

All to watch Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump communicating to the American people and the world why she or he should be voted into the most powerful job in the world.

By now, the smart people say, many voting Americans already have made up their respective minds on who they will vote for on November 8.

So, I must ask: Why watch the debate? We can learn the candidate’s positions by visiting their respective websites.  And, for your convenience, here they are:

As for the rationale behind why so many people will comprise this proposed Super Bowl-sized television audience?  I have two:

  • Crash and Burn. Those in strong opposition to either candidate want to “be there” when the opposition nominee says something stupid, loses their composure or gets caught in a lie. There’s something about seeing it all live.
  • Morbid Curiosity. Hey, let’s face it. This is reality TV without those good-looking castaways surviving on an island and lots of beer and automobile commercials. We HAVE to watch the debates for the entertainment value.

As for me, I’m not sure.  Heck, yes I’m going to watch the debates, which start in around 30 minutes.

But, if things get boring, I might just switch on the Cubs vs. Pirates game.

And you dear readers: Will you watch tonight’s debate? Why or why not?

 

One Image, One Question: August 9, 2016

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

Way back in August of 1979, a scion of one of the most powerful and successful political families of the 20th century demonstrated the need to be prepared when put on the stage in search of the highest office in the land.

The scion: Then U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy, (D-Massachusetts), brother of a president and brother of senator who was running for president– both, as you know — assassinated.

Trump

Mr. Donald Trump, Republican candidate for president, do I have a question for you.

The situation: The Senator was being interviewed by CBS News reporter Roger Mudd on what should have been Kennedy’s chance to demonstrate why he deserved the Democratic nomination for president in the 1980 national elections. The interview took place in a safe and controlled environment: The Kennedy compound at Hyannis Port.

The question: “Why do you want to be president?”

The result: Senator Kennedy delivered a remarkably rambling, decidedly disconnected and certainly confusing response to Mudd’s simple question.

The outcome: Kennedy’s campaign was sunk. Sitting President Jimmy Carter was granted the Democratic nomination, but was trounced by Ronald Reagan.

(Read more from this online report, or view this video posted on YouTube.)

The relationship to the 2016 presidential race: Republican nominee Donald Trump, as you know, has been asked many questions since the campaign began last year, and unquestionably, he’s delivered some rambling, disconnected and confusing answers. But I’m not sure if Mr. Trump has been asked perhaps the most poignant question for any candidate running for president.

And, now for the question — pretty obvious I trust — and subject of today’s post:

Mr. Trump, why do you want to be president?

Throughout this often bizarre and contentious campaign, Mr. Trump has been asked a lot of questions, but I’ve not heard an interviewer pose the simple one above. Given his proclivity for bluster and bombast, I would guess Mr. Trump would not shrink and retreat in the manner as Senator Kennedy.

And, in the interest of fairness, I would pose the same question to Democrat Hillary Clinton. But I think we know what her answer would be.

 

 

Trump + Public Relations = Scandal?

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

When candidates for the Republican nomination for president were jockeying for position last summer, I asked a friend what advice would he give to then long-shot Donald Trump.

how-much-donald-trump-makes-in-speaking-fees-compared-to-everyone-else

Presidential candidate and reported publicist Donald Trump. Image source: Business Insider.

My friend, a very experienced and accomplished public relations strategist, said, as I recall: “If I were to offer Mr. Trump counsel, I would advise him to start speaking on the issues and address why he’s qualified to hold the office of president.”

In the 10-plus months since that conversation, Mr. Trump has, indeed, spoken about a lot of things. Some, okay many, would argue that he really hasn’t tackled critical issues facing the nation — the economy, immigration, terrorism threats come to mind — in light of the fact he sure knows how to talk and has done so voraciously.

And, as to why he should be president: The candidate flaunts his business acumen and success as a builder of buildings and creator of jobs.

Another skill required by presidents is to interact effectively with the media. According to a report last week, Mr. Trump has practiced this skill by returning a reporter’s call in 1991 under the guise of a Trump publicist named John Miller.  And, on other occasions, he was publicist John Barron.

As a public relations professional who has done his fair share of media relations, I offer Mr. Trump this advice: Please refrain from posing as a member of the public relations community.

Doing so is unethical because it violates many accepted values and provisions established by the Public Relations Society of America,  like honesty and open disclosure of information for starters. Plus, it takes away billable hours from a real public relations guy or gal!

In another era, the “Trump-posing-as-publicist” story might have ended the candidacy.  It would have been a scandal.

Today, it’s just another chapter it what is culminating in one of the most bizarre and “spirited” political campaigns in history.

Think I’ll reach out to my friend and ask what counsel he’d provide presumed Republican nominee Trump now.

 

One Image, One Question: March 15, 2016

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

Okay, by the date cited in the title of this post, you probably know what’s to follow, especially if you live in Illinois. (Or Florida and Ohio.)

Yes, today we juxtapose an image and question related to today’s Primary Election in the state of Illinois.

Did you, or do you plan, to make your vote count during the primary election in your state?

Did you, or do you plan, to make your vote count during the primary election in your state?

In the days leading up to the election, citizens in and around metropolitan Chicago have been pummeled with campaign messages via broadcast media, fliers and signage, and of course, those always annoying robocalls, which usually arrive when I’m preparing or worse, eating dinner.

Yes, I cast my vote this morning. And, no, I won’t share any information on my choices for the national, statewide or local candidacies.

However, as in previous elections, the process to vote in my Chicago ward was effortless. There was no line, there was no confusion.  I preformed my civic duty in minutes using a pen and the double-sided ballot.

Which leads to today’s question:

If the process of voting is quick, uncomplicated and painless, why must the primary process be so lengthy, confusing and excruciating?

And, let me add to the debate: That which makes the world go ’round — money.

Call me a simpleton (hey, I’ve been called much worse), but it’s unfathomable that billions of dollars are spent annually on campaigns.  And, like everything in this world, the costs will continue to escalate.

So fellow Americans, please share your thoughts on this quandary, guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.  I guarantee I’ll forward on commentary to those we elect to office.

Once they’re done campaigning, of course.

 

 

 

 

Questions On the Eve of the Iowa Caucus 2016

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

Unless you’ve put away all electronic devices, tuned out conversation on politics and dropped off the face of modern reality in America today (to modify a counter culture phrase from a long time ago) you should be aware that the state of Iowa will hold its caucus tomorrow.

The prize, of course, is first bragging rights in the presidential elections in November.

Pundits and pollsters, people and political animals have stomped and shouted about the virtues and shortcomings of the many men and two women who are seeking the nod to represent their party for the highest office in the land.

Questions have been asked.

But not by me.

So here are three questions — all communications-based because that’s the focus of this blog after all — from the PRDude regarding the national election ahead.

Many people believe America always has been great. I would think a billionaire would agree.

Many people believe America always has been great. I would think a billionaire would agree.

1. The Trump Campaign Slogan. Donald Trump has stormed out of the gate — and continues to rank on top in Republican race — through barnstorming, bluster and bombast. (Won’t mention his casual use of facts, because that’s another story.)

The question: If Mr. Trump believes it’s time to “Make American Great Again!” wasn’t it great these past few decades when he made his fortune? He repeatedly points out that his bankroll is huge, perhaps due in part to our capitalism and economy. Also, one may argue that the nation was great from its founding days.

2. The Creative Use of Punctuation. A candidate needs to

Yes! Great idea!

Yes! Great idea! Who’s next? You never know; there’s still time in the campaign …

stand out from the pack in a crowded primary race. After all, this is an exercise in marketing.

The question: If Jeb Bush can incorporate an exclamation point after his first name — Jeb! — why don’t other candidates employ this simple tactic? Thought for sure someone would have locked in the hashtag (#), the percent sign (%) and for sure the dollar sign ($) by now.

Perhaps a better image would have shown the candidate seated at a desk talking on a land line.

Perhaps a better image would have shown the candidate seated at a desk, sans shades, talking on a land line.

3. Clinton Image with Cell Phone. During her years as Secretary of State, Democrat Hillary Clinton assuredly spent a lot of time sending and receiving email messages. And, as you may know, there was a controversy surrounding her use of a private email server for government-related correspondence.

The question: Given the dust up over the email issue, why is there an image of Mrs. Clinton on her official website holding a handheld and wearing dark glasses? Frankly, she looks kind of suspicious.

There are other similar questions that might surface between now and election day on November 8. What concerns do you have?

 

 

Three Smart Communications Strategies Followed by Hillary Clinton in Presidential Nomination Announcement

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

For the record, I’ve only been involved as an active participant in one political campaign.  More on that later.

But, like many Americans, I follow the political process (locally and nationally), vote in every election (even the primaries) and have my opinions on pressing governance issues (not for publication at this time).

hillary-clinton-just-announced-her-2016-presidential-campaign

Can you find the “red, white and blue” in this image?

And, like many Americans, I viewed the video announcement April 12 that Hillary Clinton has officially entered the race for the Democratic nomination for president in the 2016 national elections. Clearly, it was a decision many — from professional political pundits to the average American (whoever that is) — anticipated.

Count me in that category.

But what I found fascinating was the way the message was delivered, which prompted me to identify three sound communications strategies employed by the Clinton campaign.

1. Delivered Digitally. It was a wise strategic decision to make the announcement through a crafted video. The format allowed Clinton to deliver an entirely scripted message using a medium widely embraced and accessible to most Americans. It avoided the standard practice of breaking the news at a rally attended by cheering partisan supporters. Finally, the video format — comments from people, followed by a message from the candidate — proved very effective. I got the message, and I wasn’t bored.

2. Engaging “Everyday” Americans. As just noted, the production opens with very short profiles of a very representative cross-section of Americans — a home gardener, two Hispanic brothers starting a restaurant, a young Asian woman exploring the job market, a gay couple from Chicago, an African American couple expecting a child, a woman who plans to retire, and others. These are the candidate’s supportive base, without question.  I found their brief profiles compelling and believable.

3. Going On the Road. After the video was aired initially, Clinton took the message to the heartland, literally. She headed west in a van, making unscheduled stops at cafes, stores and service stations in small towns before a planned speech in Iowa. This kept the story alive, gave the candidate opportunities to engage with those “everyday” Americans and probably kept her out of range from answering the substantive kinds of questions that surely are forthcoming.

Now, back to my involvement on the campaign trail, of sorts.  Way back in the mid-1980s, I was enlisted by a friend to help distribute “palm cards” — small handbills — near a polling place on the Northwest Side of Chicago. I don’t recall the candidate or his platform, but I believe he was a Democrat. I do recall that after the polls closed, a campaign organizer invited me and other volunteers — those distributing literature for Democrats and Republican candidates — to a pub for beers.

For the uninitiated, this was a clear example of how politics operated in some parts of Chicago and Illinois back then: Like a combine fueled at times by rewards (in this case a few rounds of drinks, for others a job) rather than political ideology.

And, in a final thought, #4 communications strategy: Candidate Clinton’s campaign managers were smart to keep the candidate’s husband off the stump. For now.