Be Ready

“Be ready,” is the lesson marketing executives must now take, according to a recent New York Times article, “Planning for Unexpected Criticism by Trump.” Crisis consultant Andrew D. Gilman, who has counseled such brands as Johnson & Johnson, General Motors and Pepsi during crises advises “prepare for Mr. Trump as you would for a natural disaster — an event that is highly unpredictable but poses a big risk if it happens.”

Photo Courtesy of: bceforensics.com

Photo Courtesy of: BCEforensics.com

Mr. Trump’s trigger-finger tweeting is prompting some brands to preemptively draft informal contingency plans, and others, like H&R Block, to spend money shoring up their reputations. One contingency is to line up a third-party spokesman who can help if the brand’s image is dinged. That is essentially what H&R Block did in signing Jon Hamm, the “Mad Men” star and an H&R Block customer for years.

“The fit between H&R Block and myself,”  Mr. Hamm commented, “seemed copacetic and natural. And the tone of the creative was clever and outside the box for something as humdrum as taxes.” Even before the election, Mr. Trump offered to “put H&R Block out of business” with his plan for a simplified tax code.

And what if your company is trampled?

Scott Farrell, a specialist in corporate branding and the president of Golin Global Corporate Communications, said “The only thing that applies, no matter what the issue, is speed. Slow kills companies fast in a Twitter conversation.”

Vanity Fair’s swift response after Mr. Trump reacted to a negative review of a restaurant in one of his buildings by saying the magazine was “dead” could be an example for others to follow. Mr. Farrell explained, “its message — including banner ads on its website calling itself “The Magazine Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read” and asking for subscriptions — captured the magazine’s voice and identity. More than 40,000 people signed up for new subscriptions.”

“If you’re a CMO, Mr. Gilman, concluded, “you need to put another filter on your plans. Normally, you’d never have to worry about a president singling out your company. Now you do.” Amen.

 

 

Trumped Up

In the game of bridge, when you don’t have enough cards in the suit that’s being played, the trump card wins. And Donald Trump appears to be winning in the Republican presidential race of 2016.

But he’s not playing well with others or winning the media game that is ultimately required in presidential politics.

Following Mr. Trump’s complaints of Fox News host and co-moderator of the Republican debates, Megyn Kelly (“I don’t like her. She doesn’t treat me fairly”) the network responded by saying that regardless of who Mr. Trump is, he cannot pick the journalists who will ask the questions.

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

So, Mr. Trump absented himself from the seventh Republican debate, in a version of stomping his feet, picking up his toys and going home from the playground. Seldom a winning strategy because, tirades aside, the Office of the President requires substance of thought and the traits and temperament of diplomacy and tact.

Media coverage is an opportunity to reveal your strengths in cogent, compassionate, and hopefully charismatic soundbites aired before the voting public. It’s essential to stay courteous when presenting yourself to and through the media. To disrespect reporters tarnishes your own image. Interviews are free advertising which show you to best advantage, if you learn how to spar and play the media game.

Jeb Bush came perhaps the closest when he teased Ms. Kelly about being in the same position as he, when it comes to Trump wrath.

“Acknowledge (the question) and Bridge to the Soundbite you came to give” is the guidance we give in media coaching to politicians and executives alike.  As in a dominoes game, if you don’t match your opponents dots and offer a side of your own, you’ll stay on the defensive forever. Far too many interviewees wait until a difficult question is asked and stumble to try to find an answer that won’t be harmful. Instead, bridge to a substantive answer to give the journalist something she can question. Leading the interview with your ready answers is the name of the game.

Megyn Kelly has voiced pride in women in politics on both sides of the aisle, “because I think there’s still a general approach to female candidates where people try to tar them as either nuts or sluts.”

But journalists have responsibilities, too. While Ms. Kelly purports to be doing her job without fear or favor, she gave Mr. Trump and his Twitter followers fuel for their Conservative fire with her provocative poses in white lingerie and a black slip and red stilettos for Gentleman’s Quarterly.

We do wish someone would ask the respected lawyer-turned reporter about her own judgment and good taste in creating the public trust a reporter requires. In short, “What were you thinking!”

 

 

Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Taking artistic license with Marshall McLuhan’s edict: the medium is the message, consider that the media is the messenger. Media coverage is designed to convey a subject’s agenda, thoughts and opinions. Donald Trump was unaware of how to use the media to his advantage when he took broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper to task after his questioning of Hilary Clinton during a recent Democratic Presidential debate.

AndersonCooperBlogPicture

Photo Courtesy www.bluemassgroup.com

He accused Mr. Cooper  of giving “all softballs” and not one tough question to Hilary Clinton. Mr. Cooper seemed baffled and defended himself by saying that the panel asked her not one tough question, but many:

  • Being inconsistent  on issues for political expediency
  • Representing the middle class from her perspective in the 1%
  • Underestimating the Russians

Instead of concentrating on promoting his own campaign, Mr. Trump wasted time and opportunity berating Mr. Cooper’s questions while creating potential alienation with a distinguished journalist. Further, the candidate focused on a competing presidential candidate, by name and on a debate in which Mr. Trump was not even involved. This off-topic dispute sabotaged Mr. Trump’s own campaign progress.

The interviewee’s job is not simply to answer questions or, as in Mr. Trump’s case to criticize the media for the questions asked, but to advance his or her agenda. This is the basis for our Los Angeles media training, as we coach clients not to merely answer; ignore (as most politicians do) or demean (as Mr. Trump did) the questions but address the question with a Ready answer. An excellent answer prompts the next question and the next. And the interview is following the interviewee’s direction.

Every interaction with the media is an opportunity to advance your agenda, by using the media as it is intended: the means not the end. There’s no win, but simply a lose-lose proposition if you shoot the messenger!

Trump Gets Dumped

“You’re fired!” became the rallying cry of Donald Trump’s legendary NBC reality TV show, “The Apprentice.” The billionaire presidential candidate has now been fired himself from many partnerships after a recent speech.

“When Mexico sends its people, they aren’t sending their best,” Mr. Trump stated, “They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists, and some, I assume, are good people. But I speak to border guards and they tell us what we’re getting.”

Donald Trump Fired

Photo courtesy of conservativehideout.com

 

Due to this statement, many of his business partners have dumped Trump. These companies are some of the nations most powerful and well- recognized, and the list of those firing Mr. Trump is growing, as Macy’s has recently joined NBCUniveral, Univision, Televisa, Farouk Systems, NASCAR, Serta, ESPN, PGA, PVH, Jose Andres, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria, and Ora TV.

Jose Andres, once an immigrant himself, backed out of his agreement to open his Spanish style restaurants for Mr. Trump. Mr. Andres said, “Donald Trump’s recent statements disparaging immigrants make it impossible for my company and I to move forward with opening a successful Spanish restaurant in Trump International’s upcoming hotel in Washington D.C.  More than half of my team is Hispanic, as are many of our guests. And, as a proud Spanish immigrant and recently naturalized American citizen myself, I believe that every human being deserves respect, regardless of immigration status.”

Macy’s statement was more community-oriented, “Donald Trump’s remarks were disgusting and offensive, and this hateful language has no place in our city.” It continued, “Trump’s comments do not represent the values of inclusion and openness that define us as New Yorkers. Our Mexican brothers and sisters make up an essential part of this city’s vibrant and diverse community, and we will continue to celebrate and support New Yorkers of every background.”

Trump was not cowed when he heard this news, declaring “Macy’s, NBC, Serta and NASCAR have all taken the weak and very sad position of being politically correct, even though they are wrong in terms of what is good for our country.”

Candidates and companies often employ public relations specialists and media trainers to craft messaging and help clients relate to the public. With media training, he would have avoided his rude and racist comments, and perhaps preserved his business ties. Consideration of the audience is an important factor in the messaging process. At READY FOR MEDIA, we explain that audiences listen to WII-FM, What’s In It For Me.

As a spokesperson for a company, a cause or a candidacy, it is also important to note that personal opinions are not relevant. In learning to be a political candidate, one should consider whether to sacrifice political correctness for a popularity contest.