I’m a huge fan of Saturday Night Live and to be honest, one of the biggest personal benefits of a Trump presidency (at least so far) has been seeing how the SNL cast will play off of his weekly PR snafus every Saturday night.
In last week’s episode, comedian Aziz Ansari was the guest host of SNL and he concluded his monologue with these words, “If you’re excited about Trump, let’s hope he does a great job. If you’re worried, you’re going to be ok too. If you look at our country’s history, change comes from large groups of angry people, and if day 1 is any indication, we’re all going to be just fine.”
This struck me. Change does indeed come from large groups of (what I’d prefer to label) “passionate” people – those who feel strongly about one topic or another and rally together to make change. And while many may not agree with some of Trump’s publicly stated initiatives – one thing is certain – we’ve all become a lot more passionate in the past couple of months as a result of this historic election.
At the foundation of all this is the art and science of public relations (PR) – which is essentially the planned and sustained effort to communicate in a way that results in mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics – in this case – between Trump’s administration and the American public.
As a PR practitioner, I’ve been thinking about the power that lies within this new administration to make serious, positive change in our country. In PR, we work tirelessly on behalf of our clients to raise their profile and influence change and decision-making in their industries. For Trump’s administration, the profile is certainly there. That’s half the battle. Now it’s time for the good PR.
Trump was elected fairly, so I will respect him as our president. However, I do have some PR advice for him and his team, as he works (I hope) to make positive change for our country. In my opinion, following some of this advice will lead to more buy-in from your American constituents (and likely Congress) – allowing you to achieve your end goals. My thoughts…
- Someone take over Trump’s Twitter account pronto! Preferably a seasoned PR team! While I’m all for free speech and the power of social media, I believe that in order for the American people to truly respect Trump they’re going to have to hear from a respectful, actively listening administration that interacts with account followers in a way that garners respect. It’s a lot easier to get people on your side when they respect what you have to say – and so much of that is in how you say it.
- It’s speech time. When you are a high profile brand (like Trump), you have significant power to influence public commentary. This power should be handled very thoughtfully. In PR, we prepare business leaders to influence their target audiences through carefully planned communications – speeches included – that will resonate with listeners and guide them to positive action. With all the dialogue lately tied to gun control, the construction of a border control wall and continued Islamophobia, the way Trump’s administration crafts its public messaging matters more than ever. And the truth is, with all the current attention focused on the way Trump speaks off the cuff with banter fit for a football party, I have a hard time knowing if his intentions and planned actions would possibly make sense! I’m too distracted by the chaos! If he and his team were able to tone down the locker room talk a bit and focus on gaining the acceptance of the American public through more eloquent, thoughtful messaging, I might actually agree with some of his initiatives and help support them! But right now I – like much of the American public – am distracted by the theatrics.
- Allow your spokespeople to do their jobs. We surround ourselves with knowledgeable people in business that help us meet our end goals. None of us knows how to do everything well – and I’d have to say that one of Trump’s major weaknesses to date has been his PR skills. When you’ve had a spokesperson – in this case Kellyanne Conway – who is in a position of influence with the American media – it’s important to let her message in the way she knows best to help Trump achieve his goals. Whenever I see her speak on a news program I can’t help but think she’s being told what to say beforehand. And I believe her reputation is taking a serious hit as a result. If you take a look at her background, she has quite an impressive resume. She’s been the CEO of The Polling Company for 20+ years, with high profile clients ranging from American Express and ABC News and Major League Baseball. She has served as a consultant to former vice president Dan Quayle, current vice president Mike Pence and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. She has appeared as an expert political commentator on every major television news and cable network.
I’m assuming these responsibilities were given to her because she is quite capable and qualified. So… she (and the new press secretary) should be allowed to do their jobs – which are doing everything it takes to make Trump look good and get his plans adopted. If they are – as I assume – being mandated to make Trump-authored statements in public – they will certainly be less effective. They – and all who are entrusted with being the mouthpiece of an organization – should be empowered to do their jobs in the way they know best.
My point in all this rambling? We have a new president who has incredible power to influence American action. It’s Trump’s responsibility to use that power thoughtfully and respectfully. And I truly believe that the smart use of public relations will make all the difference in what will be achieved over the next four years.