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Ever since 1789, America has had a president; through success, scandal and social distrust, we have always had a great story to tell when it comes to each office held. But, here in 2017, we have mass communication platforms that Americans did not have in 1789; we have social media. Social media, the average anybody’s soapbox, the voice of the unheard, the gathering of the masses and the potential uprooting of how press has always worked coming from the White House.
Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States, is the first politician to take Twitter by storm. His password is now considered by some as being equally as lethal as the nuclear codes. If you’re like me, you patiently await the next car manufacturer announcing their investment into the American job market or a blow to SNL or Meryl Streep. The consistent unknown is both compelling but potentially dangerous, and it certainly has ramifications. How can you predict the unpredictable? That is precisely the polarizing brand that Trump created and then rode to become the new leader of the free world. We are on the cusp of a new presidential frontier, where news media is “dishonest” and Twitter is the unofficial pressroom for the White House. What does this mean for presidential public relations from here? More importantly, what are the implications of Trump’s abrasively unfiltered brand now serving as the face of America’s venerated and vulnerable reputation, both at home and worldwide?
Protecting America’s Brand
California. New York. Hawaii. Turkey. Panama. India. These are just a few of the numerous states and countries that Trump owns and operates businesses in; from real estate to modeling agencies to his own production company, he is not just on the business map, he helped create it. Before he was President-Elect, we knew Trump as a socialite, businessman and Don the “You’re Fired” Dom. He has always been opinionated, thin-skinned, and social savvy. (These things have not changed.) But because of his penchant for outlandish statements, when Trump said, “I am running for president” in passing so many years ago, the majority of Americans never thought it would actually come to fruition. I think we can compare this to a tongue-in-cheek moment and the seriousness to the current Kanye 2020 drivel circulating news feeds.
With Trump being an extension of America’s brand his behavior on social media, and during his rallies, are having a negative reaction internationally. Colombian cartoonist, Vladimir Flórez was quoted as saying to The New York Times, “The excess of this eccentric millionaire have proven that the number one enemy of the U.S. is not beyond its borders, but rather within. This threat called Trump is a product of American society; a nightmarish mutation of the American Dream”. The divisiveness he has promoted within this country has proven that we are already in a war within our society. It is no longer simply about what’s right or wrong, but a taxpayer-built wall between us to keep the other side out. The leader of the free world is now positioning himself as a coward behind a keyboard and not a force to be reckoned with.
How is “Trumpness” affecting the American brand? Howard Pulchin was quoted as saying, “Before the campaign there was a balance between the brand Trump and Mr. Trump himself, the individual has usurped the business, and when the individual strikes this much controversy it can’t be good for the brand”. Trump is drastically affecting American culture by demolishing political correctness, adding fuel to civil conflict of bigotry and racism, and setting boundaries on the once sought after American Dream. While he explicitly states he is inclusionary, his actions speak volumes in the other direction. We are fighting for our American identity to be an accepting, diverse population but at every turn Trump proves he is inclusionary if it fits within his personal agenda
The only way Trump can restore faith in Americans is to apologize to the people he has offended over the course of his career and his campaign and offer compassion. If he does not, the next four years will conclude in a dramatic divide between the right and left, which we have already witnessed happening.
However, where there is negativity, there is always positivity. Trump has an extremely loyal following, which is how he got to where he is–the new POTUS. The conservative public has banded together to support his political and personal agenda. You only have to look at your social media newsfeeds to see how quickly and fierce his supporters will come to his defense. We all witnessed Trump completely shatter the Republican primary vote record, we saw YouTube videos of his rallies and the war cries of middle America. There are also those who accept the election results for what they are, win or lose, we are one nation under God. We are in a time of great social alliance, when it comes to conservatives.
Many assumed that Trump, once elected, would potentially conform his behavior and persona to one more seeming of a traditional statesman, and while that seemed to be the case initially, it certainly didn’t last long. He is the first president-elect to undermine the long-standing tradition of “America having only one president at a time,” and his primary method is through, of course, Twitter. He is cutting deals and actively tweeting his successes before he has even taken his oath, with the most recent being: Fiat/Chrysler invest $1B into America and creating/saving jobs.
Watching this all unfold is not unlike riding on a roller coaster. You pull away from the platform, slowly ascend to the peak and once you drop, you don’t know what types of twists, turns and loops you’re about to be thrown for, but you’re forced to finish the ride. That is what I am expecting of Trump and his social realities, we don’t know what we are getting but we are now trapped until 2020. Tomorrow he becomes President of the free world, let’s just hope his goal of making America great again isn’t derailed by a Twitter (TWTR) tantrum.