Trumping Trump: Quality versus Quantity

While the news media take advantage of the lift received from reports about Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton needs to determine how best to benefit from a less aggressive communications approach. Trump will say anything he likes to journalists as frequently as he can, while Clinton is more measured with reporters.

So how do you win against a competitor who can rightly or wrongly command the majority of headlines? Especially when it’s hard to convince mainstream media, and just about any other news outlet focused on ad dollars, to not cover the person that more people want to read, watch and hear.

The answer is to use the more measured communications approach to your advantage and to use your competitor’s more aggressive style against him. Additionally, by getting people to challenge how the news media focus on ad dollars at the expense of balanced coverage, the conversation could increasingly become about the problems with mainstream news, featuring Trump as the poster boy.

There’s already coverage in the New York Times about how the “television news industry is wrestling with how to balance fairness, credibility and the temptations of sky-high ratings.” Ongoing negative Trump and mainstream news outlet coverage, showing Clinton as the victim, could influence voters her way and force outlets to be more balanced.

As for using Trump’s aggressive communications against him, foot-in-mouth mistakes will need to be amplified and the upside of all those people tuning in to hear what he might say next is that many of them will be reminded that they don’t like him. Similar to the response to most loud mouths, just because we’re listening, doesn’t mean we like what we hear.

Clinton doesn’t need to be as loud as her Republican opponent, she just needs to be smarter by playing to her strengths, by providing quality over quantity, by seizing on Trump’s blunders and by using the news media’s ad-focused biases to her advantage.

Public Relations for the Greater Good

You can buy all the advertising you want in all its digital and traditional versions. But nothing beats the immediacy and staying power of a compelling news story.

Kathryn Borel, my new hero, slammed Jian Ghomeshi by confirming his abusiveness and winning the day for all his victims and everyone who believed them. She took his apology and, within the parameters of the peace bond, delivered a clear message about the rightly disgraced, former CBC star.

Her brilliantly brave decision to read her letter to a captive audience of reporters enabled Borel to turn Ghomeshi’s apology against him by highlighting exactly what everyone feared, suspected, denied, doubted or shrugged off.

Now there’s proof about the quality of the man.

Another well-coordinated bit of PR for the much greater good was The Hollywood Reporter piece by Ronan Farrow. With his father, Woody Allen, about to bask in the glory of the Cannes Film Festival, Farrow’s guest column dropped and effectively focused headlines on concern about Allen’s dark side.

Talk about stealing thunder and trumping a powerful PR machine with a better PR move! Who says all public relations is bad.

All this to say, these two stories benefitted from a timeliness that used the news media and public’s interest in Ghomeshi and Allen to turn the story against them. They also benefitted, in my opinion, from having the truth on their side.

Good for them.

Pope Francis, Pontiff of Communications

Two years ago I remember reading an article about Pope Francis receiving a call from Italy’s leading atheist, Eugenio Scalfari, co-founder and former editor of La Repubblica. Mr Scalfari had apparently asked for an interview and the Pope called him back himself.

The same article highlighted the Pontiff’s focus on helping the poor, the elderly and children. Simple messages that should resonate with anyone, including famous atheists.

Fast forward to 2015 and the leader of the Catholic Church is hugely popular, as seen during his visit to the US last week. Why so popular? Well, as outlined in this article by PR pro, Careen Winters, it boils down to three things:

  1. Stay close to the front line
  2. Don’t ignore the elephant in the room
  3. A positive message elicits a positive reaction

Simple but true.