It’s important to recognize the "first 100 days" narrative is a media construct and communicators must know how to navigate the construct, whether you are communicating on behalf of a CEO, a nonprofit, or the president of the United States.
The first 100 days of the Trump administration have been a sea change for communicators and present new day-to-day risks and opportunities. Here are three key learnings for all communicators that can guide them through the next 1,360 days of Trump’s term.
Every organization needs its own ‘nuclear football’
Every president is accompanied by a military aide carrying "the nuclear football," a briefcase filled with the command codes and contingency plans in case of a surprise nuclear attack. The point of the football is to have contingency plans and responses ready to go immediately in the event they are needed. Now, more than ever, communicators and organizations need to be prepared for contingencies and risk mitigation. This means strategizing early about what potential issues may arise, whether it’s a presidential tweet or something more substantial, and having plans in place that are pressure-tested and executable.
Every organization should have a number of contingency plans for the most likely scenarios, and even a few put aside for unlikely ones. Planning ahead will enable communicators to rapidly respond to address any issue, which inspires confidence among key stakeholders from employees to policymakers to shareholders and beyond.
The showmanship of the presidency
Much of what the president has been focused on during his first hundred days is the political theater of the presidency. Trump has hosted dozens of meetings with business and labor leaders, has held massive campaign-style rallies, and even the daily White House press briefing has become must-see TV for millions of Americans. One of the difficulties organizations have to grapple with is determining what is political theater, and what is real policymaking.
For instance, the president received considerable news coverage of the release of his budget, but when Congress passed an omnibus spending bill just after the 100-day mark, the bill did not include most of his priorities, such as funding for a border wall and cutting programs such as the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. In fact, Congress increased funding for some the programs the president proposed be shuttered. Communicators must work with public affairs and government relations professionals to understand what isn "showmanship" and what is real policymaking that may affect their organization.
The importance of digital media
Digital media is a core communications tool for this administration. If you haven’t already, you should engage several types of listening and monitoring with the goal of understanding the sentiment of various audiences and proactively prevent and prepare for crisis activation. Among the listening you should activate are external communication, internal communication, and issue tracking.
Like the stock market, past performance is not indicative of future performance when it comes to politics. So what’s in store for the next 100 days? Or the next 1,360? We know this administration will continue blazing its own trail and shirking conventional wisdom. Communicators need to be prepared for the new normal. Planning now will enable them to be nimble and responsive in the future.
KayAnn Schoeneman is SVP and practice director of public and corporate affairs at Ketchum.