Before you declare me insane, out of touch, or just plain “lost it,” hear me out. I have for the past 12 months watched the political shenanigans of the Trump sideshow and like most people, have been utterly amazed. The carnival barker has taken a public relations strategy that conceivably on paper should fail. Instead, he has risen to new heights. With minimal advertising dollars and communications savvy, Donald Trump has managed to retain an unprecedented presence in the media for more than 18 months, and he is not even the president. This level of media manipulation takes a keen understanding of human behavior. We all should be paying attention. Close attention.
Using data from his own reality show, The Apprentice, the Donald learned a few tricks about how to grow and retain an audience. Watching and studying the Nielsen ratings for his show, he learned firsthand what behaviors invoked responses that lead to viewers. From Dennis Rodman to Piers Morgan, idiocracy and meanness were the ingredients for success. Conflict, chaos and ridiculousness seemed to be the tools of greatest response. With years of data and a new platform, the presidency, Sideshow Trump crafted his diabolical plan to woo the masses of the uninformed, poorly educated and pissed off blue collar worker.
The strategy in a nutshell: do whatever it takes to be this week’s headline. When I was in college taking journalism classes, I had a teacher who once said, “All PR is good PR.” Trump is a shining example of that philosophy. The more outrageous and asinine, the larger the headline font. Stay on top of the latest news event – but make sure that any statement is counter to mainstream and the more absurd the better. Incite riots, and when you do, take no prisoners. Create sound bites of sensationalism. At the end of the day, insult as many groups as you can, but remember to stay loyal to your base.
Like giving candy to a babe, mainstream media has been in a voodoo like trance. Leaning in to report every repulsive statement and stance, the Donald found the perfect formula for mass confusion. Assignment editors have scurried to appoint staff to monitor social media for the latest Tweet or post detailing the most current scandal. Only one outlet, the Huffington Post, has managed to back away from the pull the pins out of the voodoo doll and say that they will no longer report the foolishness.
“It was all a scheme.”At least that is what Trump communication strategist,Stephanie Cegielski, penned in a recent post after resigning. According to the strategist, Trump was only supposed to come in second place – a position high enough to shake up the establishment. However, they did not bank on Trump’s narcissism taking control. With each vitriolic statement and stance, his power and control has grown. Didn’t someone once say “absolute power corrupts, absolutely?”
The monster has been unleashed. Imagine how brilliant this would be if Trump actually had substance. Stay with me here. What if Trump really did have the business acumen to create a plan that would grow jobs positively affecting the economy. What if he had stellar negotiation skills and diplomacy to bridge relationships with foreign allies. What if he actually took the time to study and understand the issues of greatest importance to the American people.
That would be greatness. But instead, we’re stuck with the creation of Dr. Frankenstein. Brilliant, in theory only.