Companies must play new media game to avoid Trump's wrath
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If you ask executives at Toyota or Nordstrom about President Donald Trump’s Washington, they will quickly tell you that the game has changed. They are a few of the nearly 20 companies that have withstood social media attacks from the president.

Businesses that want to thrive in this environment need to know how to avoid the president’s wrath and, when necessary, communicate with the new administration through the rapidly evolving media world. The media landscape has changed from a 24-hour news cycle to a 12-hour news cycle, due, in large part, to social media.

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A recent study by Pew Research Center revealed that 62 percent of American adults receive news through social media. Trump has leveraged this to his advantage, using Twitter to circumvent the mainstream media and take control of the narrative.

 

Companies can do this too. Last month, when Nordstrom dropped Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, President TrumpDonald John TrumpDemocrats slide in battle for Senate Trump believes Kushner relationship with Saudi crown prince a liability: report Christine Blasey Ford to be honored by Palo Alto City Council MORE took to Twitter, accusing the company of treating his daughter “unfairly”. This caused Nordstrom’s stock to dip temporarily due, in part, to the shortened shelf life of news today, but also due to the masterful response by Nordstrom.

The company was quick, thoughtful, respectful to the Trump family, and void of any perceived partisanship. It seemingly placated Trump from further attacks. This provides a perfect case study for playing defense against Trump.

Other companies are taking more proactive measures to engage President Trump and his administration, conveying their message through cable news shows watched by the president. In response, cable news companies have spiked the cost to advertise on shows like Fox News' O’Reilly Factor and MSNBC's Morning Joe. Not all businesses have the budget to pay for a 30-second spot on primetime cable news shows, however.

Under the Trump administration, alternative news outlets are gaining an audience that includes, most notably, the president himself. A survey by Fox News found that a whopping 68 percent of survey participants did not trust the news. People’s distrust for the media, plus the rapid innovations in internet and social media, have propagated dozens of new, alternative news options.

This has led to a great migration away from mainstream monopolies to smaller outlets that are benefitting from the new administration. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has invited numerous small and local news outlets to White House press conferences, either in person or via Skype.

Mainstream institutions, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and CNN, have taken a backseat to smaller media organizations, like Breitbart, The Daily Caller, Newsmax, Christian Broadcast Network, and IJ Review. In fact, it was IJ Review, a four-year-old online news outlet, that broke news on Trump’s highly-anticipated nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court.

The revelation here is that newer outlets have access to the administration. Thus, companies wanting to capture the attention of the administration should target these outlets for advocacy efforts and understand the messages that resonate with the president. Trump wants a quick win and cares little about how he gets there.

The president is focused on success and perceived benefits for the American people. Ford and Carrier have caught on, understanding that President Trump wants the headline. The two companies recently floated new initiatives that bring thousands of jobs to the U.S.

To avoid Trump’s wrath, businesses must strategically tailor messaging to meet Trump’s stated goals — jobs for blue-collar Americans, eliminating waste, strengthening American values and security and generating wealth for the American people.

These are messaging themes businesses should incorporate into any advocacy effort — through social media, public statements, advertisements, or a public relations campaigns — directed at Washington. Trump will praise and amplify any signs that point to him leading America in the right direction.

The president has the largest audience in the world. With over 25 million followers on Twitter, Trump's own account nearly matches the New York Times readership and roughly triples that of the Washington Post. The media frenzy surrounding Trump’s every tweet is a spectacle only rivaled by the hysteria that surrounds every move of the U.K.'s Prince William and Kate Middleton.

This business executive/reality star hybrid has revolutionized the way the president operates. Trump has shattered the conventional relationship between the White House, the media and America’s businesses. Companies can benefit from this new approach if they harness the power of new media to engage the Trump administration, using “America first” themes that will resonate with the White House.

Finally, recall the news cycle is short and so are people’s attention spans. Sometimes, it is best to say nothing at all.

 

Garrett Marquis is a managing partner at Prism Group, a public affairs group with locations in Washington, D.C. and around the world. Marquis specializes in developing and executing full-service political and public affairs campaigns involving media relations, third-party outreach, political grassroots, and coalition management.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the views of The Hill.