Brands and reputations could suffer in the US elections; the comms industry must be on its guard

In an uncertain world, where COVID-19 has shone a spotlight on just how interconnected we are, there are reasons for PR pros to take notice of the battle for the White House between incumbent President Donald Trump and challenger – and former VP – Joe Biden.

Comms professionals must be on their guard whoever wins the US election, warns Andy Sawford
Comms professionals must be on their guard whoever wins the US election, warns Andy Sawford

As the world’s largest economy, the US' Presidential election will have a far-reaching impact on markets and businesses.

Trump’s unconventional style, the hallmark of which is his use of Twitter, has lost some of its power to shock, but it still causes share price volatility and reputation management challenges.

Just last week, the President called for Amazon to pay increased postal costs, and started a fight with Goodyear tyres over alleged guidance to employees on wearing political slogans.

Trump-style diplomacy, in 280 characters, such as a call for 10 per cent tariffs on goods from China, directly impacts the UK.

Chinese government irritation at UK policy on Huwaei, clearly influenced by President Trump, combined with UK criticisms of the treatment of Hong Kong, have caused a new low in UK-China relations at a time when the UK is looking to develop new trade deals.

President Trump is an enthusiast for Brexit and recommends the UK breaks with the EU and the single market as decisively as possible.

A Biden administration would take the Obama line and encourage the UK to stay close to the EU.

What of a US and UK trade deal?

While the Trump administration has been supportive of a fast-track negotiation, a Biden administration, characterised by his 40 years’ experience of deal-making, could get it done.

A Biden administration will restore the US' commitment to multinational institutions, starting by rejoining the World Health Organization to co-ordinate a global response to COVID-19.

Biden will also reaffirm the US commitment to NATO, at a time when there is significant volatility on Europe’s borders – not least in troubled Belarus.

On climate change, too, a Biden administration will recommit to the Paris Agreement.

As the Goodyear incident showed, populism has created an environment where organisations can find themselves pulled into political debates, something familiar to UK businesses over Brexit.

The US President seems to have set that tone and influenced public debate on key issues in the UK as well as US society, from diversity to climate change.

The so called ‘culture war’ is more pronounced in the US, but is present in the UK too, and significantly influences the environment for marketing, communications and reputation management, as well as the political sphere.

Both Biden and Trump have tapped into the US culture wars in their own way.

Biden is seeking to present himself as the 'healer-in-chief', while Trump’s playbook, which helped get him elected, is to divide.

Expect some twists and turns and keep an eye on the campaign, which is as interesting as it is consequential for PR pros around the world.

Andy Sawford is managing partner of The Connect Group

Thumbnail credit: Getty Images/Alex Wong

Click here to subscribe to the new, FREE public affairs bulletin to receive dedicated public affairs news, features and comment straight to your inbox.

Make sure you register for the site to access more than one story per month.

To submit a news, comment, case study or analysis idea for the public affairs bulletin, email

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in