People across the political spectrum have become obsessed with Donald Trump. Many have criticized his style and message, but it is resonating and, despite many perceived missteps, his ascendency in the polls continues unabated and his domination of the media unsurpassed.
Why, since he is not really advancing any policy positions as of this writing?
There are a number of reasons to consider.
First of all, Donald Trump speaks his mind – forcefully, unabashedly and unequivocally.
And this is working.
For a number of reasons: Donald Trump is living his message, and his message is his mantra. He is taking accusations and turning them into strengths. And he is being completely himself, comfortable in his skin, and revelling in it with passion.
He is passionate about his message, and delivers it constantly and forcefully, with supreme confidence and determination. “Making America Great Again” is his mantra, and it connects with audiences in a powerful way. So far his message is resonating with a significant number of Republicans who are disgusted with the current state of American politics – despite his unwillingness to get into specifics and describe his policies in detail. He has tapped into a goldmine of resentment against the political class, and is milking it for all it’s worth.
In a CNN interview on August 11, Chris Cuomo accused him of being a “whiner”. Most of us would have recoiled from such an accusation and tried to explain why we were not whining.
Mr. Trump took a negative question and turned it into a powerful and positive message. Rather than cringe, he admitted he is the “whiner in chief”, and that he whines until he wins. And he achieves his results, as demonstrated by two factors – his $11 billion empire, and the fact that he is currently monopolizing the media 24/7. Getting things done is another of his mantras, and this transitioning from the difficult question to the positive response underscored his message with the public.
From a communications point of view, he knows exactly what he is doing, and he is doing it superbly.
Most of all, Donald Trump is true to himself. He is a brash, outspoken, perhaps obnoxious egocentric individual who has built up a strong brand and whose brand is now propelling him to new heights. But then again, to be a successful presidential candidate, one’s ego must be big and one’s ability to drive the conversation spot on.
What has he achieved?
He has made the campaign about himself. No other candidate seems to be able to get a word in edgewise. The media are in his grasp. He is speaking his mind and, when others perceive a misstep, he turns it to his advantage, underscoring his Teflon nature. When he is accused of being anti-women, scores of women who have worked with him – in the Trump organization, the Miss America/Miss Universe competitions, and on his reality show ‘The Apprentice” – jump to his defense. When his chief strategist Roger Smith resigns or is fired (depending on whom you believe), he still defends Trump to the hilt and speaks his glories. This loyalty reflects some positive leadership qualities that underscore that there is more to him than the public persona.
He has also done something unique for a presidential candidate or politician of any stripe. He has gone up against Fox News and won. Fox News President Roger Ailes phoned Mr. Trump after the controversy over Megyn Kelly’s questioning during the Republican debate and appeared to be reaching out to him – preferring to appear to dump Ms. Kelly under the proverbial bus rather than lose access to the candidate. Mr. Trump paints this as a victory and, the fact that Ms. Kelly has desisted from further discussion about the issue seems to indicate that Mr. Trump has won this round.
A unique victory indeed.
Can Donald Trump win in the end? That remains to be seen.
Is he currently winning? Yes, because he has a strong and simple message and a transparent persona. What you see is what you get. And he has the media and many in the public enthralled, and his opponents frustrated.
Are Americans really ready for Donald Trump?
Time will tell.
But in the meantime, “The Donald” is making his mark at every other Republican candidates’ expense, and continues to have a virtual monopoly in media coverage.
And that is what effective communications are all about.
Eduardo del Buey
Crosshairs Communications Ltd.