If there’s one thing everyone in America can agree on, it’s that the first 100 days of Donald Trump’s presidency have been anything but quiet. Candidate Trump upended communications principles that had dominated politics for decades with tools he developed while branding and promoting his real estate business. As president, Trump has run into a different set of challenges that are testing the tools he used so effectively on the campaign trail.
So, what can we learn about political communications from Trump’s first 100 days in office? And how can these lessons be applied to help businesses, institutions and organizations adapt to this new communications terrain?
• Integrated communications give depth and balance. With tens of millions of Twitter followers and endless media coverage, Donald Trump’s ability to focus attention on an issue is unparalleled. But it is not absolute. Organizations, businesses and even presidents need well-planned, integrated and coordinated communications to break through and move the narrative about an issue.
• Stay focused. The White House is pulled in different directions every minute, whether trying to manage its own initiatives like health care reform, immigration restrictions and budget negotiations, or fielding incoming crises from North Korea, Syria and Russia. The only way your message will penetrate in such a chaotic environment is to stay focused. Determine your policy priorities, develop and maintain a core narrative for each, and enforce message discipline, starting at the top. Do not chase emotional, shiny objects if they are not connected to your objectives. Stay disciplined and always work toward your end goal.
• Journalism is not dead. Legions of people have written about President Trump and his agenda, but none have had a greater impact over the last 100 days than political journalists. Those tasked with reporting on the administration day-in and day-out have driven far more attention on any given issue than maybe even the president himself. Even Trump sees this. Despite disparaging the D.C. media establishment, the first two reporters the president called after pausing his health care reform effort were from The New York Times and The Washington Post. So while there are dozens of ways to get your ideas in front of your target audiences, investing in relationships with the media is as important as it has ever been.
• Relationships matter. Trump came to Washington as an unapologetic outsider who assailed nearly every institution in town. But getting things done requires people, relationships and experience — those who can define and shape policy, those who can advocate for you and those who can implement. Identifying those influencers and building meaningful relationships with them gives your communications efforts the depth and authenticity you need to succeed in Washington. Without them, you are often left shouting into the wind and ultimately failing.