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PR, Trumped

The tactics of the man dubbed ‘Cheeto Jesus’ and identify how his PR strategy helped him attain the highest seat in the free world.

pr strategy

Whatever your thoughts are of the man, the US president has shown that he knows how to work the media to his advantage. PR & Marketing Manager at Cubiq, Elyssa Fagan looks at the tactics of the man dubbed ‘Cheeto Jesus’ and identify how his PR strategy helped him attain the highest seat in the free world.

On January 20th 2017, Donald ‘The Don’ Trump took to the makeshift Presidential platform in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC for his inauguration. People across the world and, according to Twitter, most of America, held its collective breath…or, again, citing Twitter, started drinking to forget.

The business mogul-turned-reality-TV-star-turned-45th President of the United States of America will be in office for the next three years and reports have stated that he’s even started his re-election campaign for 2020. Since he won the presidency in late 2016, the President Elect has remained bold, unapologetically brash and continues to create waves of controversy that ripple across the globe.

Everyone will have his or her views on America’s new leader. Vanity Fair editor, Grayon Carter famously called him a ‘short- fingered vulgarian,’ his supporters hail him as America’s saviour and personally, I find some of his policies truly frightening, however, love him or loathe him, we’ve all got to admit that Donald Trump is a phenomenon.

He rose from his gold-encrusted tower in the Big Apple, and took on the biggest politicos in Washington DC. As a man with no political or military background, he’s become the only president who hasn’t had working knowledge of governmental policy. Donald Trump is also the oldest and wealthiest person to ever assume the presidency. He truly is an exception in the political world.

But how did he so successfully mould the American public, and media titles to his agenda throughout his political campaign trail as he hurtled towards the white house?

Trump’s PR strategy throughout his election was made up of:

Consistent messaging

What was Hilary Clinton’s campaign message again? The one slogan I remember was coincidently this re-active statement, “We believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.” I totally agree with her, but the takeaway quote “Build bridges, not walls”, wouldn’t have become a main slogan for her candidacy if not for Trump’s ‘we will build a wall’ speech. If I asked you what Trump’s slogan was, you’d know, and not just because he’s president now. He rammed that message of ‘Making America Great Again’ down everyone’s throats, he ensured the press wouldn’t forget it, and when we all created memes and gifs making fun of his slogan, he continued to splash it everywhere (hats, T-shirts, flags, pins) into the masses, not just in America, but across the globe.

Relentless media coverage and capitalising on his celebrity status

Trump took every opportunity to talk to the media, either by phoning in to networks to comment and share his thoughts on broadcast media or face-to-face interviews with the press in person. In doing so, he could ensure that the media was always discussing him, through the comments he would make.

Being a celebrity, rather than a politician, he was able to utilise broadcast media, and be comfortable in the spotlight, to his benefit. Spouting, mainly hot air, garnered him even more media coverage. We all love to talk, to troll and to moan, and this only fuelled the results. Reuters reported that Trump earned himself around $5 billion worth of media attention, for free, by ensuring he was front and centre in the media arena. Clinton didn’t achieve even half of this.

Man of the people

Despite his huge wealth, Trump was able to become a ‘man of the people’ throughout his election campaign. Knowing that the American populace, on the whole, had become disenfranchised with the government, untrusting of both those sworn to protect them, after police brutality cases, as well as the politicians deciding policy. It had also been reported that mass media was biased and skewed their reporting towards that which would make them more money. Feeling as if the media is biased towards the elite policy makers, the public are more likely to side with a man of the people. Trump used simple language that was understandable to all and he ran his campaign with a clear, human-focused message: standing for those who felt less and less represented over the years.

He skewed his messages away from those of the elitist ‘establishment’ which the people had been used to, and positioned Clinton as a voice of this elite establishment. When she pitted herself as an expert, he called her a liar, pushing her further towards the supposed elite, untrustworthy establishment, and positioning himself as the leader of those who had gone unrepresented in the past. This approach appealed to working- class supporters who felt that their voice was lost in the Obama years, even though Obama implemented various campaigns to try to help them, such as ObamaCare. Trump was a voice of no negotiation. America would be first again, regardless of the impact this might have on the rest of the world.

This tactic was wholly new to the American populace, used to seeing the establishment, and various politicians, negotiate or compromise. With a number of global terror attacks taking place in 2016, and immigration becoming out of control in the States, Trump focused his messaging on protecting America, and building a wall to stop the problem. Simple, understandable language that showed the people that he would control and stop problems, not skirt around them, as he implied the establishment had done, and Clinton would continue to do. When the media, celebrity culture and mass social media supported Clinton, he utilised his own social media to show that the populace was correct, and that the media were biased. This again, contributed to further media coverage for Trump, and as the people distrust the media, they were pushed full-speed towards backing Trump, as in their minds, if the media didn’t like him, he must be a better option.

Focused target audiences

Clinton focused her presidential campaign towards a number of groups of voters, looking for mass support. Trump never swayed from his main constituency, white males who felt that their country was no longer their own. You have seen support from all social groups in society, as well as from affluent female students, but Trump’s main target demographic was always at the forefront of his campaign. He never actively tried to seek votes from other sectors or other groups, which showed his message as strong and unwavering.

Proactive, never defensive

Trump had a lot of mud thrown at him, deservedly, throughout his campaign for the presidency, but he wasn’t defensive, he was always pushing his message. In being constantly proactive and on the offensive, he is able to control the messaging and the agenda of conversation.

Being Trump

Trump is Trump, never one to shy away from critics; he doesn’t take the high road and will always react. If he feels wronged by a company, media title or personality, they will know it… his twitter feed holds no punches. The majority of the time, the media will mock his inability to hold his tongue, but it seems to be working. He throws the rulebook out of the window and somehow he seems to get away with it.

Trump may not be popular, he may be in constant attack mode, but he sure knows his audience. He was able to get to the highest seat in America by sticking to his strategy. He knew who he was talking to, knew whose votes he needed to gain and knew exactly how to attract and keep them. His PR efforts throughout the entire campaign show that the media, and therefore the general public are led by controversy, mixed with telling it straight.

It’s a different step for PR professionals; we’ve always looked to maintain the contextual correctness, but sometimes, the rules we’ve always taken as creed might just need to be altered.