3 PR Lessons (For Better or Worse) from Donald Trump’s Campaign
By Cedric Brown,
If you’re like me, the best news about this election season is that it’s finally over. Donald Trump became the next president-elect in a race most news outlets believed heavily favored Hillary Clinton. And no matter how you felt about either candidate, data from the Pew Research Center proves this was the one of the most divisive presidential races. Millions of Clinton’s supporters woke up Wednesday morning in despair. And, had the results had been in her favor, the same feelings would’ve been true of Trump supporters.
But for just a brief moment, let’s take a look at these election campaigns objectively. Trump’s campaign often gets dismissed for the attitudes it fostered towards minorities and women, but a closer look reveals that his campaign strategy was stronger than Clinton’s. Here’s why he was able to be successful:
- Inspiring change (for better or worse)—When Americans look to elect new leaders into office, they’re counting on those leaders to change the way things have been done. The idea of change is what led voters to elect President Barack Obama to two terms, and it’s Trump’s form of change that resonated especially well with white men and women without college degrees, who longed for the days of high-paying manufacturing jobs. Meanwhile, instead of promising her own form of change, Clinton’s campaign was too reliant on continuing the successes of Obama’s administration.
- Authenticity (for better or worse)—If you were looking for a candidate who was always politically correct, Trump was definitely not for you. From his rhetoric in the debates and on the campaign trail, to his 5 a.m. Twitter rants about sex tapes, Trump had no filter when expressing his thoughts. On the other hand, Clinton was widely accused of being “calculated” and inaunthentic. Her campaign speeches addressed progressive issues, while her leaked emails revealed a different story. Because of this, Pew discovered only 33 percent of voters viewed her as honest compared to 63 percent for Obama in 2008.
- Branding (for better or worse)—The most memorable campaign slogans have taglines that resonate with both supporters and their opponents. Trump’s “Make America Great Again” was both a source of inspiration and a punchline of ridicule for voters this election season; but either way, you talked about it. As for the Clinton campaign, they relied on two slogans: “I’m With Her” and “Stronger Together.” As TBWA/Chiat/Day NY CEO Rob Schwartz notes in a recent PR Week article, “if you look at ‘I’m With Her,’ it was about the candidate, and ‘Stronger Together’ was really about the party.” Ultimately, what made “Make America Great Again” so successful was that it spoke directly to the people.
Overall, supporters of Trump saw what some skeptics of Clinton realized: she represented the status quo of a nation that they believed ultimately left them behind. It’s also worth noting, even Trump’s authenticity has been questioned as some people don’t believe he stands by his disparaging remarks about women and minorities. Regardless, while Trump’s election victory has left the country divided, there are still lessons to be learned from his campaign—for better or worse.