Three lessons every PR professional can learn from Team Trump

Donald Trump's campaign may have divided the opinions of people the world over but, if we can separate the politics from PR, there are elements of Team Trump's strategy that serve as a useful lesson to the comms industry.

The Donald: Love him or loathe him, PR professionals can learn from him
The Donald: Love him or loathe him, PR professionals can learn from him
Despite investing only a fraction of what his rivals have spent on above-the-line, Trump’s campaign team has amassed a much larger volume of earned media mentions – an ROI that most PR teams could only dream of. 

So what’s the secret to his media success and what can PR teams learn from Trump’s unorthodox approach?  
 
Get personal  
While the other hopefuls have all spent big on TV – Camp Clinton alone had already spent more than $47m on commercials – Trump has picked social media as his preferred battleground instead. Already a prolific tweeter, the self-declared ‘Ernest Hemingway of 140 characters’ has conquered social by playing up his personality. 

His 15-second Instagram shorts, weekly live streams on Periscope, uncensored live tweets, #AskTrump Q&A session and family-oriented evening tweets have an authenticity that many politicians still lack. PR professionals can learn a lot from this. 

Whether in a b2c or b2b context, people want to follow other people, not brands. Giving CEOs a more candid, real voice on social media can pay dividends. 

Take a risk 
Trump is an inveterate risk-taker and bold statements have been a hallmark of his campaign. Some of his more controversial pronouncements have got him huge traction on social platforms and endless column inches. 

In an age of ‘analysis paralysis’, it’s a timely reminder that taking calculated risks can pay. Turning on a sixpence to respond to the news agenda in real time has also served him well. 

All publicity (can be) good publicity
Trump’s combative style has won him a host of enemies – anti-Trump groups have spent upwards of $67m on ads aimed at derailing his presidency – but he’s managed to turn even this to his advantage. It’s a master class in crisis communication. 

The more his adversaries have tried to turn him into a pariah, the more Trump has used his distance from other politicians as his main selling point to a disillusioned electorate. 

In the process, he has tapped into the zeitgeist of a population fed up with Washington bureaucrats.

There’s no way any business can avoid external criticism, but rather than shying away from it, comms teams should think about how they can ‘do a Trump’ and turn it to their advantage. 

This is particularly true of crisis comms, where a business’ reputation can be impacted more by how the PR team responds in the face of a crisis, than by the crisis itself.  

The Donald may be an unlikely inspiration, but his comms team is definitely one to watch as they steamroller towards the White House. 

Marcus Gault is managing director of insight at Kantar Media

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