What You Can Learn From Donald Trump: 10 Essential PR Lessons

Despite Trump’s best attempts to paint himself in a much more demure and controlled presidential candidate, he can’t unring the bell.

It’s both unbelievable and slightly genius that Donald Trump has managed to use the second presidential debate as a diversion to try to shift the national focus from his recently released crude sexual remarks. During the debate, Anderson Cooper quickly addressed Trump’s vulgar comments and Trump tried his best to discount his own remarks as “locker room talk,” bridging to everything from emails to Isis. Here’s a look at the good, bad and ugly and what you can take away from Trump’s recent PR tactics to improve your own efforts.

1. Not all press is good press.

This one may seem pretty obvious but for a while, it seemed that Donald Trump had an almost magical ability to defy the traditional laws of PR gravity by turning negative press into a billion gigs of fuel to power his presidential campaign. The bad penny of Trump’s taped predatory sexual remarks, seemingly brought that streak to a scorching halt last week. While most of Mr.Trump’s hardcore supporters, like Foster Friess, immediately forgave his vulgar excess, it was a classic proof that not all press is good press.

2. You’re always on the record.

If For a high-level CEO, or say, when running for President of the United States of America the 11th commandment is as fixed as the North Star: If there is a reporter in the room, never ever say anything you wouldn’t feel comfortable reading on the front page of the Huffington Post. iPhones have turned everyone from Pulitzer Prize winners to bicycle messengers into potential members of the Fourth Estate. Quietly armed with small but potent news gathering devices that can tumble candidates, brands and CEOs in a single news cycle. Even if there are no news crews in the vicinity, bad behavior in public reflects poorly not only on you, but on your brand. This leads to our next essential lesson.

3. Don’t be vile.

I started the week with a plan to write an article about what a great businessman Trump is, but, the same shrewd Machiavellian approach that makes him a such a great businessman makes him not a such a great diplomat. He has likely legally avoided millions in taxes, not great for the nation but great for his bottom line. And, he knows when to cut his losses and say that phrase he’s so famous for, “you’re fired,” when a company or employee isn’t performing. But, after hearing his 2005 comments I’m not inspired by him, I’m pretty much just disgusted. No mater your politics, anyone who claims they can just walk up and grab a woman by her vagina without her consent is vile. No matter how brilliant you are as a businessman, promoting rape culture is wrong. Even the best PR can’t spin that away.

4. Don’t Tweetstorm about sex tapes at 3am.

Twitter is a simple but very powerful tool. During the debate, Trump defended Twitter as just another communication platform. It is, and that’s the problem too many users ignore: because when used recklessly, Twitter morphs rapidly into the vampire of instant communication: nearly impossible to kill, relentlessly bloodthirsty and never, ever to be used in anger. Using Twitter recklessly is a very, very bad idea. If you wouldn’t say it at a press conference, don’t tweet it.

5. Think before you speak, silence can be your ally.

Trump showed much greater restraint in this second presidential debate than the first. It seems he took a lesson from the first debate and was a bit more in control. When answering a reporter’s questions, don’t be afraid to let a little silence fill the space. When you respond too quickly or brashly, you often only harm your message.

6. When the stakes are this high, distractions usually don’t work.

It’s a solid media technique to answer the question you would have liked to be asked, when presented with a topic you’d rather avoid, like Trump’s recent crude remarks. Instead of addressing the issue head on, Trump continued to bridge to ISIS.

When you’re running for the highest office in the land, Anderson Cooper isn’t going to let you off the hook and neither is America. Sometimes, you’ve just got to face the issue head on.

7. Put on your poker face.

Be aware of the faces you make. Donald Trump scowls, he even stands in a hostile fashion and occasionally towers over Hillary. It’s not great body language to support his assertion during the debate that “no one has more respect for women than I do.” Not that anyone believes him, but constantly furrowing his brows, tightening his lips and rolling his eyes at his female opponent isn’t a good look to support how he says he feels about women. If you’re on camera, put on your poker face.

8. Stay on Message.

Donald Trump publicly divorced himself from the comments his running mate Mike Pence (R) made last week during the vice-presidential debate when asked about introducing the use of military forces to deal with the civil war and humanitarian crisis in Syria. When are are aiming to be the leader of the free world, or the head of a major organization, no one believes you when you say you haven’t spoken with your team about such an important issue with far reaching implications.

9. Play to your audience.

Donald Trump can be obnoxious. But, he knows what many of his supporters want to hear. When asked what Hillary would do differently than Obama with handling the situation in Syria, Trump interrupted her response to jump on his hot mic to say he would do “everything” different than Obama. For many of his supporters and some on the fence, that’s exactly what they want to hear.

10. When you show people who you really are, they will believe you.

Despite Trump’s best attempts to paint himself in a much more demure and controlled presidential candidate, he can’t unring the bell, or in his case – delete the tape.

Until next time,

Be Disruptive.

Leverage Your Voice.

Shape the Conversation.



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