Megyn Kelly: “You’ve called women you don’t like ‘fat pigs,’ ‘dogs,’ ‘slobs,’ and ‘disgusting animals’…”
Trump: “Only Rosie O’Donnell.”
This quote from the GOP debate in August 2015 would (by any current definition) be considered a public relations catastrophe. It is easy to imagine Trump’s team of public relations specialists immediately scrambling to write up an official apology and a statement about Trump’s plans to support women’s rights.
We imagine that they would be frantically sending the statement out to all the national news media outlets to overshadow this insensitive comment made by the White House hopeful.
However, Donald Trump in not only shocking fellow candidates and voters, but he is also redefining the world of political public relations.
The Trump campaign hosts a tiny public relations force headed by Hope Hicks, 26. Her unique job is not necessarily to pose Trump as the loved-by-all, favored presidential candidate. Her job is to strategically communicate to the nation that Trump stands out from the other candidates and he will bring success back to America. Their campaign is fueled by three communication strategies.
1. Break expectations
Americans have acquired certain expectations about politicians. For decades they have heard eloquent speeches with beautiful promises of hope and change. However, the follow-up action often doesn’t match the promises, leaving citizens feeling let down.
Trump intentionally does not communicate like one would expect from a politician because he does not want to be associated with empty promises. His lack of sensitivity towards races, religions or women is refreshing because even though it might be offensive, it is honest and it’s different than what we are used to hearing.
Defying the public’s expectations with outrageous comments would be PR blunders for other professional political candidates, but they are the strength of the PR strategy for the outspoken billionaire.
2. Know your brand
Donald Trump knows the American people and he knows how to position his brand to resonate with their self interests. Donald Trump’s brand is luxury, American achievement and entrepreneurism. His communications representatives focus on ensuring that his audience identifies with that image.
Trump told Rolling Stone in September 2015, “I’m owned by the people! I mean, I’m telling you, I’m no angel, but I’m gonna do right by them!”
3. Take a stand
Trump has been an advocate of clear, concise communication with specific goals. His speech is evaluated at a fourth grade level so that his messages are never misunderstood.
Whether it be his goal to build a wall at the border or deny all Muslims from entering our country, his stands are strong and clear. Hope Hicks’ job is to make sure that his stands appear consistent throughout the media. However, she never apologizes for Trump’s strong speech even when it’s interpreted as offensive.
“I think apologizing’s a great thing, but you have to be wrong. I will absolutely apologize, sometime in the hopefully distant future, if I’m ever wrong,” Trump said on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in September 2015.
The Trump and Hicks duo are certainly refuting the reputation of public relations being made up of spin-doctors. Instead they are hitting America with strong, clear, unapologetic communication without regard for ‘what a presidential candidate should say.’
Surprisingly, this #sorrynotsorry attitude seems to be just what the GOP party is looking for. This was solidified after Super Tuesday when Trump ended the day with 319 delegates.
Nicole Richards is an emerging public relations practitioner with a passion for research and public speaking. She is also studying global business with an emphasis in Spanish. Nicole believes that the most beautiful thing in this world is diversity and she loves to experience as much of it as she can. She loves connecting with new people and cultures and one day hopes to see the world through more than just the pages of a National Geographic magazine.