Successful media relations in the ‘era of Trump’

Trump and media relations in 2017These days, it’s hard to believe that there is any other news out in the world that isn’t somehow related to President Trump or his administration. News organizations in the U.S. and around the world, for that matter, have quickly figured out that the name “Trump” in a headline gets people’s attention.

Unfortunately, for stories without a “Trump angle,” it has become much more difficult to break through the clutter on readers’ Facebook feeds. It’s an all-out battle among news outlets to get people to click on, read, like and share their content. At the center of the battle are the journalists staffing the ever-shrinking newsrooms. While it’s true that many news organizations have seen a bump in readers and viewers since the election, the economics of the news business continue to be challenged. Fewer journalists in newsrooms means that many are now doing double duty–juggling quick-breaking news articles, writing on so-called calendar news events and researching enterprise stories.

For many financial news journalists, the markets’ open and close means there is a relatively fixed schedule that they follow. The day often begins in the 6 am-7 am ET hour when many companies release news so markets have time to digest it before the opening bell at 9:30 am. Beat reporters will be looking for commentary on any breaking news in the early am hours. By 10 am, most newsrooms have a good idea of what the focus of their coverage will be for the day. Lunchtime and afternoons are usually devoted to making updates to earlier stories, covering any stocks that are moving since the markets opened, and working on feature stories for publication the next day. Between 4 pm and 6 pm ET, most journalists are watching for more breaking news from companies that waited until after the market close to make their announcements. It is also during this time that many journalists have down time to read any pitches they thought were interesting and might want to consider.

But these days, covering the news is only half of a journalist’s job. Journalists have also become social media gurus. They post their articles and videos to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Snapchat and Instagram. The more readers or viewers you get to view, like and share your content, the more valuable you are to your news organization. More content views = more revenue for your news outlet. And pushing their content onto social platforms is only half of a journalist’s job; editors also want them to interact with their readers through comment replies and taking questions on Facebook live or Periscope. Now, more than ever, journalists are crunched for time. No reporter wants to get a pitch from a PR person that looks like it is going to create more work. Pitches need to be short and to the point yet also include all the relevant information that a reporter needs to make a judgment on whether to pitch the story to his/her editor. For journalists who can sometimes get upwards of 100 pitches a day, giving them all the news they need in the subject line is key. This requires the PR person to think like a headline writer. What is going to grab the reporter’s attention? What will stand out from the clutter of 100 emails? Unlike click-bait articles, the person pitching can’t over-promise in the subject line and under-deliver if the reporter opens the email. The pitch must be short. If your pitch is more than one paragraph, it’s probably too long; you can always attach a more in-depth press release to the email.

The first email a PR person sends to a reporter must include details on the name/title of the person who is being made available to speak, plus any multimedia elements and links to any other reports/data the reporter might find useful in writing their article. It’s also helpful to include two quotes from the company’s CEO that the reporter and/or editors and producers can read to get a better sense of what the spokesperson might say in an interview.

While not every story can have “Trump” in the headline, some of these tips could help your pitch break through the email clutter in a reporter’s inbox.

Did Trump Run the Best PR Campaign of 2016?

TrumpThis article first appeared in PRNewser.

Who ran the best PR campaign of 2016?

A survey by Bospar, a boutique tech PR firm, asked more than 1,000 Americans to rank the following top campaigns:

  • Donald Trump‘s presidential campaign
  • Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign
  • JetBlue offering discounts when babies cried
  • Krispy Kreme “leaking” new Nutella donuts
  • Pokémon Go launch
  • Always Feminine Care #LikeAGirl campaign
  • Similac’s Sisterhood of Motherhood campaign

Similac’s Sisterhood of Motherhood campaign received four percent of the total vote. JetBlue offering discounts when babies cried received five percent. The Always Feminine Care #LikeAGirl campaign earned nine percent. Krispy Kreme “leaking” its new Nutella donuts received 11 percent.

Hillary Clinton didn’t win here, either. Overall, she came in third with 12 percent of the vote.

That left Donald Trump to duke it out with Pokémon Go.

Among Millennials (18-34 year-olds) and Gen Xers (35-44 year-olds), Pokémon Go was the clear winner, with 34 percent of the vote to Trump’s 22 percent. But once you get to the Baby Boomers, the rankings follow the election results: Trump’s PR campaign won the vote of 45-54 year-olds, 55-64 year-olds and seniors.

“Whether or not you supported Donald Trump for president, there is no doubt that his use of public relations and earned media played a vital role in his victory,” said Brian Peterson, marketing and communications exec at Esri. “Throughout the primaries and the general election, he spent considerably less on traditional advertising than his opponents, yet he dominated media attention. His PR team kept the media talking about the issues Trump wanted. In a cat-and-mouse game with the media, PR was the weapon with which Trump bludgeoned the press.”

Tanya Plotnikoff, chief experience officer of Viewpost, added, “Trump’s tactics are nontraditional and rather distasteful. But they are also undeniably effective.”

By gender, men ranked Trump first, followed by Pokémon Go and then Krispy Kreme “leaking” their new Nutella donuts. Clinton came in fourth. Women, meanwhile, ranked Trump first, followed by Pokémon Go and then Hillary Clinton. Nutella donuts came in fourth with women.

So overall, unsurprisingly, Trump wins at PR. Certainly, he had an early lead. Back in March, the New York Times estimated he had secured nearly $2 billion in earned media placements, more than double that of Hillary Clinton.

“The lesson that comes from the Trump campaign is a simple one. Know your target audience,” said Mitch Leff, president at Leff & Associates.

Dee Gibbs, CEO of Liberty Communications, agreed. “Love him or hate him, Trump’s rhetoric hit home at a time when the country wanted change. I’m not advocating the untruths, but he stuck to the game plan. He knows how to say what some people want to hear.”

“Trump has taught us that hyperbole and controversy will continue to drive PR practices into 2017,” added Peter Galvin, vice president, global strategy & marketing, of Thales e-security. “Ongoing accessibility and outlandish statements are cannon fodder for today’s news media. Even mainstream publications want click bait.”

Steven Palmer, senior vice president, government affairs, at R&R Partners, rightly points to the value of Trump’s social media tactics. “Trump changed the paradigm for campaigning. His direct tweets to voters drew ire and passionate support. Few candidates have ever run a campaign with such velocity and aggressive messaging tactics.”

Media analyst Sam Whitmore provided a practical perspective.

“Trump’s win will allow PR firms to compete for election dollars at the national, state and even local levels. Any agency with proven social media prowess can chase spending that historically would have automatically gone to local TV,” he explained.

So what does this all mean for PR practitioners? To recap:

  • Be brash, be bold, be daring
  • Be unrelenting and unafraid of controversy
  • Double-down on social media
  • Stick to your messaging

However, these tactics will only work if they are on-brand. Maybe another secret of Trump’s success is his unique mastery of his own brand.