Donald Trump – famous businessman, famous reality star, famous hair. And now, a famous presidential candidate as well. Whether you love him, or love to hate him (there’s simply no middle ground in regards to ‘The Donald’), he sure knows how to create a buzz. We’ve looked into the man’s PR strategy.
Donald Trump is an expert in creating controversy and takes advantage of every possible opportunity for getting publicity – of all kinds. Though some might argue that his coverage is mostly negative, polls speak for themselves as he continues to lead among the republican candidates. He knows how to connect with his target audience, and his strategy is ensuring him plenty of support. Here’s four central ways in which Trump is ensuring himself all the coverage he needs.
1. He creates narratives
If you want to make a public appearance in the headlines, you need to give the press something to write about. Most PR pros know the importance of driving a narrative, and nothing drives a narrative quite like conflict (LINK til mcwhopper). Therefore, Trump could care less about staying objective and keeping a civil tone – his harsh strikes on competitors and adversaries has become the rule rather than the exception.
There are countless examples of the candidate’s insensitive way of campaigning. The most well known might be when he lashed out at Megyn Kelly: Trump was enraged by the Fox News moderator’s tough questions during a debate between the republican candidates. In CNN Tonight, on Friday after the debate, he said Kelly had “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever”. Inevitably, his comment drove conflict as well as publicity.
In addition to his appearances in public media, Trump is also a keen critic of opponents on his social media profiles. In this case, Trump bashes Karl Rove, former advisor for President Bush and a long-time foe:
Unlike his competitors, Trump is making the best of social media – his presence is thought-out and consistent, and he is constantly active and speaking his mind. This means that the public can follow him real-time, and it depicts him as a transparent politician.
2. He differentiates himself
Another way the candidate makes himself stick out among his competitors is by differentiating himself from them. Trump puts a lot more emphasis on mocking other candidates’ opinions and characters, than he does on promoting his own politic – and he’s not shy. Like in this video of Hillary Clinton, which the Trump-team posted on his Instagram profile:
Some would probably characterize this as propaganda. However, similar videos of other candidates is also displayed on the profile.
In another incident, Trump lashed out at a republican competitor, Ben Carson, by flicking his belt buckle up and down to ridicule what Carson has described as a key event in his life – that he, as a boy, once tried to stab someone but broke the knife on the person’s belt buckle:
However controversial the differentiating strategy might be, it blurs the differences between the sober-toned candidates and makes Trump stand out from the bunch. It also underlines the fact (and Trump likes to emphasize this) that they are sponsored by people and organizations with interests, whereas he is paying for his own campaign – and thus only supporting his own politic views.
3. He has created an indisputable reputation
Donald Trump is a media phenomenon. His role for 14 seasons as a reality-star in The Apprentice on NBC has established this fact more than anything else (though he is now being replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger due to the candidate’s recent racist statements). This is all a part of his strategy – he knows that having a strong persona or brand is crucial in business. And Trump is, after all, the epitome of a businessman: he knows how to sell things, and now he’s selling himself too.
4. He’s connecting with his target audience
Sure, his bragging and bullying way of leading his campaign has gotten him many enemies, and incidents like the ones above can make Trump appear as a mere sideshow in the presidential race. However, his strong opinions have also created many supporters and the polls speak for themselves – the candidate has now been in the lead of the Republican Party for six full months.
Trump is earning respect among his target audience by keeping it real – the more he differentiates himself from his foes, the stronger he connects with his fans. The people offended by his straightforward ways would never vote for him anyway – but they are playing a vital role in the campaign by causing the massive publicity around his provoking statements.
It goes without saying that professionals should step carefully when applying these methods to PR. After all, only Donald Trump can be Donald Trump. What he does teach us is to not please everyone, but to keep our eyes focused on the target – and that is a valuable lesson. In this way, it might pay off to let yourself be inspired by his strategy for your next campaign.
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