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.

Federal Election – Communications Do’s and Don’ts

With the federal election set for October 19th and the campaigning officially started, here are a few things for communications pros to consider.

First, be careful if you choose to align with any politician or party. You’re selling to everyone, not just people on the left or right side of the political spectrum. I once posted a political leader’s positive comment about my company’s app. It was an off-the-cuff endorsement which led to a spirited Facebook debate about the Liberals versus the Conservatives versus the NDP that I was happy to see die down.

Also avoid launching your campaign at the beginning of October through October 20, unless your marketing communications strategy plans for the election and/or a golden opportunity emerges. News outlets have fewer reporters and their limited resources will be stretched covering the candidates and election news, including a deep dive into the results the day after the winner is announced. So unless you’re selling something connected to the election, don’t expect editors or writers to care.

Now, if your product can effectively tie into the election and can give news media a consumer or business-focused perspective about what it all means to Canadians, then it might very well be worthwhile to plan to be part of the campaign news.

For instance, since the economy is the lead story for the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP, companies that are growing or selling innovative products that can be tied to any aspect of the election, may have news worth sharing.

I just saw this happen for a company I’m involved with that recently hosted a joint event with one of the federal ministries to announce a new program for Canadian Reservists. The event’s objective was to highlight job creation, which is also a focus of the government and Career Edge, where I volunteer.

Although the government tends to take the lead with these types of media events and what private companies can communicate, there are other ways to piggyback on the current election news cycle. New products made possible by government funding, export growth to the US and overseas, innovation that showcases cutting-edge technology – any story that includes compelling data, something new and a human interest angle could be the next news story that influences consumers to do more than vote.

Just make sure to plan carefully if it looks like this October is a good time to make news.