The other day, I wrote a crisis communications strategy for the Trump White House. It was the conventional crisis communications strategy that would normally apply for any Administration facing the issues that President Trump confronts. Yet in another sense, he doesn’t need a conventional crisis communications strategy, and if he followed one it would actually do more harm than good.
What’s that you say? “Look at all the negative media coverage the Trump Administration is earning! It moves from one crisis to another (his press conference attacking the media was just the latest example).” That is true in the conventional sense. Yet, what we are forgetting is that Donald Trump’s presidency, much like his campaign, is anything but conventional.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump was discounted. His attack against John McCain inferring that McCain was not a hero was supposed to doom his campaign, yet his poll numbers increased. Trump’s running feud with Megyn Kelly was going to be the end of the campaign, yet it reverberated in Trump’s favor. There was no way he could win the Republican nomination with all of his verbal stumbles… yet he emerged as the Republican nominee. Hillary Clinton was a sure winner against Trump, conventional wisdom held. The debates were viewed as a disaster, and of course there was the infamous Access Hollywood tape. Yet, rather than bow to traditional crisis management, Trump doubled down attacking his enemies and never backing down. On Election Night, he scored the greatest political upset since Harry Truman in 1948.
Trump’s success can be attributed to one thing more than anything else – his brand. The public has known the Trump brand for decades. It is flamboyant, never backs down, and bucks conventional wisdom. This is what voters bought into during the 2016 election – the Trump brand. Voters believed in the brand and that Trump was not a regular politician.
For Trump now to follow a traditional crisis management response would go against the brand story that his voters bought into. Based on polls, Trump’s base is staying with him. In many ways, Trump is like Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty who apologized if his remarks offended anyone but never backed away from his remarks and the public rallied around him because it was consistent with his brand story. For Trump to change his strategy and eschew to traditional crisis management steps would be to go against his brand story.
Brands watching Trump should realize that consumers buy into a brand’s identity during both good and bad times. During a crisis, if a brand approaches a response not consistent with its identity it runs the risk of alienating its consumers and losing its unique identity. Donald Trump understands that lesson, and that’s why we can’t expect to see traditional crisis management from him.
(See the original article on CommPRO)
About the Author: By David E. Johnson, CEO, Strategic Vision PR Group, a public relations and branding agency that specializes in crisis communications, branding, and media relations. Additional information on Johnson and Strategic Vision, LLC may be obtained at www.strategicvision.biz.