4 PR Lessons from Donald Trump

No, I’m not going to pontificate about whether President Trump’s feud with the media is a brilliant strategy (he did make his mark on reality TV by knowing that “controversy sells”) or just a personal thing (who wouldn’t feel “demoralized” by negative media coverage, as his press secretary says Trump is?).

Either way, there are strong arguments on both sides, as well as thoughtful analyses by people smarter than I about whether treating reporters as the “opposition party” will ultimately make this President more powerful or doom #45 to failure.

But watching all this as a PR professional, the constant discussions about the role of the media bring up important reminders of the current media landscape we should be keeping in mind.

ABC: Always Be reCreating your media list.  Trump isn’t trying to win over every news outlet, his focus is the ones that his followers trust. There are more media sites and content providers than ever, with new ones coming on line every day, so it’s important to recognize that just sharing your message with the same media list you used last year–or even last month–isn’t enough. Identify the people you want to reach, and then learn what news sources they trust; you may have never heard of many of these sites, but it’s time to get to know them now, because those outlets are your next pitch targets.

And don’t forget that lots of people get their news from blogs.

Think like a journalist.  Unless you’re the President or Beyoncé, it’s not news just because you say it is, so you’ll have to be more creative. With a 24/7 news cycle, reporters and news writers are constantly on the lookout for story ideas–either something that hasn’t been done before, or a new angle on a topic that’s getting a lot of attention. Their goal is to quickly produce a story that gets people talking and sharing. What information do they need to meet their deadline? How can you be helpful? Think that through and then make a compelling pitch.

Master social media. Trump makes news daily with 140-character tweets. How can you capitalize on social media to get your message out to stakeholders?

Be helpful and respectful. You’re not the President. You can’t tell a reporter off one day and successfully pitch a story the next day. Of course you can disagree with how your industry or issue was covered and share those concerns, but in the long run diplomacy will always “trump” aggressive annoyance. Even when a reporter is being rude, stay classy.

Above all? Be honest, and stick to the facts. Credibility is your most valuable currency.

Just ask Sean Spicer.



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