Monday, 21 November 2016

TRUMP'S ELECTION; The Greatest Hollywood Movie Produced and Directed by PR

How PR Installed the 45th President of the United States of America.
Ishola Ayodele

According to the washingtonpost, as at November 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign fund was $1.3 Billion while Donald Trump's Campaign fund was $795 Million.

The fortune magazine reported that Clinton built a heavy groundwork across the country, keeping a staff “of about 700 for months,” while Trump, on the other hand, has managed a much leaner operation of about 70.

Mrs. Clinton ran more Ad than Trump, she was the favourite to win based on pre-election surveys and she according to CNN/ORC polls won all the three presidential debate by 52% to Trump’s 39%.

 *So, what went wrong?*

Remember what Socrates said, “if you want to make great decisions ask great questions”.

 Consequently, I think the right question should be “WHAT DID TRUMP DO RIGHT?”.

Whatever your opinion of him, Trump has done something that most marketers in general, and PR people in particular, should recognise. Rather than spending money solely on advertising, he adopted a balanced marketing strategy that was led by PR and social media, and merely supported by TV and other ads.

*Let us explore Trump’s PR strategy*

1) *Understand your audience's concerns and questions.*

The fact is that Apple and indeed many American companies where able to compete favourably with goods from Asia and make great profit because they were able to cut cost greatly especially labour cost.

It is also a fact that America’s revenue from tax will decline sharply if Trump carry out his deportation policies.

The American constitution guaranteed the freedom of association and expression.

But are these facts meaningful to the non-college working class and faith-based American people?

 Certainly not, for if the facts were meaningful Hillary Clinton should have won the US presidential election not Donald Trump.

Facts don’t speak for themselves  because facts just like data are meaningless until they are interpreted to reflect a certain reality that is in congruent with the intended audience’s reality.

Here are facts which are in alignment with the reality of the majority of Americans especially lower-middle working class and faith-based organizations.

According to data published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics,

Since the year 2000, the U.S. has shed 5 million manufacturing jobs.

Professionals are more sort after than factory workers. The fastest growing jobs in America now are nurses, personal care aides, cooks, waiters, operations managers and retail salespersons.

Every year, over 1.2 million students drop out of high school in the United States alone. That’s a student every 26 seconds – or 7,000 students a day.

About 25% of high school freshmen fail to graduate from high school on time.

The U.S., which had some of the highest graduation rates of any developed country, now ranks 22nd out of 27 developed countries.

Legalizing abortion and same sex marriage has not gone down well with religious organizations especially the evangelical who considered it as 'legalizing sins'.

All of the above facts have caused great distress, anger and resentments among the majority of white Americans who grew up working in the field and then in the factories but who are now jobless because many American companies have moved production abroad.

One of the most important tools in PR is Stakeholder’s mapping, Trump did this exceptionally well. Trump knew exactly who his target audience were and what their concerns were by using the data from the ‘data pool B’. They were the non-college lower middle working class, veterans of war and the evangelical churches.

In fact, Trump created an evangelical advisory board, which held calls with Trump’s campaign or RNC strategists every Monday morning since 2015 unlike Mrs. Clinton who relied on ‘data pool A’ and targeted every Americans with her message. She like many American elites pretended as if all is well.

The same scenario played out in the 2015 general election in Nigeria.

‘Data pool A’
Kept inflation at single digit.
Provided Al-majiri schools for Northern children.
Working towards reviving the railway lines.
Empowerment of youth through SURE-P

‘Data pool B’
Massive lost of lives and property due to Boko Haram insurgency in the North east.
Kidnapping of over 200 school girls by Boko Haram.
Unprecedented corruption with impunity among public office holders.

The Jonathan’s campaign team picked their facts from pool A while ignoring pool B but unfortunately for them the facts which mattered most are the ones in pool B where the campaign team of Buhari picked their message. We all know which worked out better.

Lesson for PR professionals

Brands or organizations rarely need to convince the majority; reaching the right public is the critical element of  success. This is the key importance of STAKEHOLDER’S MAPPING.

Prof. Fred Garcia in his insightful book, ‘THE POWER OF COMMUNICATION’ observed that for any communication to make meaningful impact we must find our audience.

2) *Tailor your message to reflect their concerns and questions*.

This is where Message mapping becomes inevitable. In other to capture the heart and mind of your target audience you must be able to design your message in such a way that it provokes actions or followership. And the most powerful effect of message mapping is that your audience will definitely go where you want them to go even if they don’t like you because they feel and believe they are acting in free will without being coerce.

(I have discussed the step by step method of Message mapping in my previous post)

Trump also looked authoritarian in is communication. This was not by accident; it is a style of communication that has been proven scientifically to be effective in the present situation of America.  According to the Premiumtimes, a new research shows that for people experiencing significant mental distress caused by adverse life events, authoritarianism could be psychologically protective.

So for Donald’s supporters “their brain responses are automatic and not influenced by logic or reason because there is security fear, job loss anxiety and resentment of politicians.
Trump’s strategy was to communicate his audience’s fear back to them in such a way that they feel they need to do something about it and the man they can use to get this done is him (Trump).

For instance,
Trump stood in the shadow of a Ford Motor factory during the Michigan primary; he threatened the corporation that if they did indeed go ahead with their planned closure of that factory and move it to Mexico, he would slap a 35% tariff on any Mexican-built cars shipped back to the United States.

It was sweet, sweet music to the ears of the working class of Michigan, and when he tossed in his threat to Apple that he would force them to stop making their iPhones in China and build them here in America, well, hearts swooned and Trump walked away with the heart and mind of the audience.

 Despite everything Trump said about the Latinos he was still able to secure 33% and 26% vote of the male and female Latinos respectively according to dailymail UK.

Trump was accused of seducing women even married women and he has been accused of saying all sort of negative things about women (he even called Mrs Clinton a nasty woman on a live debate) yet according to CBSnews Exit polls Trump secured 91% vote of the Republican women and also 49% vote of the independent white women (non partisan) compared to Mrs Clinton’s 41%.

This has nothing to do with being liked in fact CBSnews’ Exit polls also revealed that 20% of Trump’s voter thinks he is not a favourable candidate and 57% thinks he is not honest or trustworthy.

According to,The evangelical voters accounted for a record 26% of the electorate on the November 8 election, and more than 80% of white born-again voters voted for Trump. Clinton received just 16% of the white evangelical vote.

Why did they voted for him you may ask?

Robert Jeffress, Southern Baptist pastor of First Dallas answered it correctly when he said, *“both Clinton’s ‘corruption’ and Trump’s commitment to anti-abortion judicial nominations were key factors for evangelical voters”.*

Another thing Trump got right in tailoring his message was his ‘slogan’ which is “We Will Make America Great Again” used by Reagan in the the 80’s (“Let’s Make America Great Again”). Trump was nailing it with this slogan unlike Clinton’s “Stronger Together”, and “Clinton For America”.

Just like Buhari’s “Change” slogan motivated more Nigerians than Jonathan’s “Moving Forward”.

Lesson for PR professionals

Communication can be more successful by identifying your stakeholder and tailoring your message to reflect you understand their concerns and pain.

This is why Prof. Fred Garcia in his insightful book, ‘THE POWER OF COMMUNICATION’ observed that for any communication to make meaningful impact the speaker must meet the audience where they are in order to move them to where he/she wants them to be’.

3) *Attract as much attention as possible by understanding what the media want.*

Here another wonderful tool comes to mind which is ‘Media Mapping’. Trump has been a frequent guest on 'talk shows' for decades and hosted NBC's Apprentice and its spin-off Celebrity Apprentice for 14 seasons. So, he understood perfectly well what the mainstream media loved and he gave them more than enough.

If you carefully analyze all the stories that made media headlines that have generated readership/viewership you will discover that they fall into three categories

Now let us explore how Trump used this to his advantage

a. Invite an unpredictable guest.

Trailing in the polls to Ben Carson and Ted Cruz before the Iowa caucus, Trump needed to shake things up.  Sarah Palin, one time vice-presidential candidate and former governor of Alaska emerged from the political wilderness to give the Trump campaign a shot in the arm.

She endorsed Trump with a mystifying speech. *"They didn't want to talk about these issues until he brought them up. In fact, they've been wearing a, this, political correctness kind of like a suicide vest,"* she said among other things. For a whole day the focus was off his rivals.

b. Forge a (temporary) Alliance.

Trump partnered Ted Cruz to host a rally protesting against President Barack Obama's Iran deal in front of the US Capitol. "I like Donald Trump. He's bold; he's brash... I'm not interested in Republican-on-Republican violence," Cruz said in July. Ted helped Trump clear the crowded field of candidates, only to find himself the victim of Republican-on-Republican violence.

c. Throw someone under the bus.

Although, Trump started out as a friend of Ben Carson but when he discovered that Carson crept ahead of him in the polls as the Iowa caucus drew closer he changed his tone.

Trump went for the jugular calling him "pathological" and comparing him to child molester. Ouch.

d. Conflict, conflict, conflict.

 Before the election Trump had tussled with the New York Times and CNN (claiming they are biased),
Senator Elizabeth Warren,
House Speaker Paul Ryan,
British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, just to name a few.

This generated a lot of reactions from different quarters and journalists reported all of them and in the process also gave Trump lots of coverage.

e. Stair the honey’s nest.

Trump got overwhelming media attention by making controversial statements against different race like Nigerians, Mexicans and Muslims. The entire world’s attention was on him. And some weeks to the election he started claiming the Democrates has planned to rig the election, saying he won’t accept the outcome of the election if Clinton wins. He successfully got Michele Obama and others talking about him in the process.

Michiel Maandag of described it masterfully when he said, “Trump uses language that the general public understands and relates to. He doesn’t just read off an autocue or give speeches that have been refined until there is no meaning left in them. People remember his soundbites and they stand out from the crowd – not just because they are offensive, but because of the type of language he uses. This is all part of his act.”

f. Never let go of your opponent’s scandal.

Trump never hesitated for a moment to take the advantage of the ‘email scandal’ that rocked Mrs Clinton's campaign. While Clinton and her PR team were working tediously to manage the crisis Trump was busy fuelling it. He kept insisting it must be investigated even when the CIA said they have cleared her. His effort paid off days to the election when the Director of CIA came out again that they will investigate Clinton’s email misconduct.

By many measurements, he has been successful. The New York Times in March estimated Trump has earned nearly $2 billion in earned media placements; more than double that of Hillary Clinton who had spent massively on Ads.

How did we know all Trump’s drama was to get earned media?

Trump started changing his earlier stands as soon as he won the election.                                  
According to the premiumtimes, before the election he said President Obama founded ISIS (now he is a nice person Donald would like to consult often);
He said he would throw out Obamacare (now, emmm, some of the pillars will be left intact);
He would erect a wall across the border with Mexico (now, hmmm….part of it will be fence). The count continues, and the world is getting more confused.

While this may not be something we should all encourage, the take home is that Donald Trump understood the biases the western media has for a special type of news. They love reporting conflicts, controversies and scandals (that is how they have reported Africa for decades) and that was their Achilles heel which Trump capitalized on to secure unprecedented media coverage.

Lesson for PR professionals

Do a thorough media mapping to understand the right way to approach each of the media.

4) *Target your message*

Communicate directly with your target audience or stakeholders.

Traditional news media companies in America have lost the power to control or direct public opinion. During the same-sex marriage debate in 2013, coverage by traditional media favored pro-equality views.

 However, discussions on social media were far more polarized and reflected overall public sentiment.

As earlier stated Trump created an evangelical advisory board, which held calls with Trump’s campaign or RNC strategists every Monday morning since the summer of 2015. He used the Social media of the pastors in his advisory board as well as his own to reach his target audience effectively.

Trump twitted late in the night constantly to reach his audience and with over 8 million Twitter followers and 7 million Facebook followers, he has the potential to reach more people than any cable news program.

According to, Cambridge Analytica ran digital ad campaigns for Trump in order to reach undecided voters as announced in a company press release.

The company updated on a daily basis which voters were undecided and then divided these into 12 to 15 subgroups to create highly targeted messaging.

The digital push consisted of 4,000 individual digital ad campaigns backing the Republican candidate, reaching millions of unique viewers and totaling 1.5 billion impressions.

The strategy included native advertising, programmatic Lightbox ads, ad networks, search engines, Facebook, Twitter Conversational ads and Snapchat.

Lesson for PR professionals

Effective communication is not necessarily a product of spending heavily on Ad but the result of channeling the right information through the right means.

5) *Know when to eat the humble pie*.

After a video from 2005 of Trump making obscene comments and bragging about sexually abusing women was released, the Republican hopeful responded by releasing a video to express his regret and quickly add that that was when he was young and now he is a much more mature man.

He swiftly attacked the Clinton’s camp of playing dirty politics to divert the attention of the American people from the real truth and he went on to repeat everything he had been saying about job loss, immigration and so on.

Lesson for PR professionals

Even in crisis find a way to market your brand in a way that shows your brand cares for its audience.

Please share your thoughts with me by clicking on the post a comment box below

Ishola Ayodele is a Public Relations practitioner and a member of the Nigerian Institute of Public Relations.
He offers the following services to Large Corporations, SMEs and Individuals.

Result Oriented Communication,
Effective Crisis Communication,
Effectual Political Communication,
Reputation and Image management,
And Impactful Presentation Coaching.
He can be reached on
BBM 58ED6030,
twitter @ishopr and via

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