Let me sheet my colors to the mast: I don’t like Donald Trump. I think he is bad for the United States and bad for the world. Not a day goes by when I don’t shake my head in wonder and to paraphrase the 70’s alternative rock band, Talking Heads, ‘how did we get here?’
But for now it’s beside the point, because regardless of what we think about “The Donald” the plain truth is: he is a master communicator. Why …
Trump knows his audience and he knows how they digest and receive information. Step one for any communications professional – know your audience and then drive relentlessly: right message through the right channel, to the right audience at the right time. Or put another way, consistently communicate, consistently.
Trump keeps it simple – it is what his audience wants and understands. In many ways, Twitter forces him to do so – although with the move to double tweets – now 280 characters – has almost turned the Donald into a waxing lyrical orator.
Related to simplicity, Trump boils everything down to its essence – for the Donald it is black or it is white, no in between. Again, this is what the audience wants and understands. Through this approach Trump polarizes and forces people to develop opinions. In communications practice this is what you want – a gray undecided mob in the middle ground serves no one in terms of message resonance.
Tell them. Years ago as a young bureaucrat, when it was established that I was not a great economist, but I was reasonably good at talking about things, I was sent to a speaking and presentation skills course. 25 years later I still remember the key platform of the training: “tell ‘em”, which is the art of the short speech or presentation: Tell them what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you have told them. Using this approach you can be more certain that your message will stick – it gives you a simple framework and when combined with the simple language that Trump uses, it makes for a powerful combination.
Trump is the chewing gum of messaging – he sticks to his message and he relentlessly repeats it, until he decides to change it. Trump does not divert from his message for the day and so the more people hear it, the more likely it is to stick. Any political campaign manager will tell you, relentless repetition rewards.
Trump is a master of the medium – which in this case is Twitter or the campaign stump. He dominates both spaces and adjusts his message to suit the channel. He communicates with a confidence that most likely belies both his belief and his capability – and while as a professional communicator, I can never support deviating from the truth, Trump believes himself and carries his message through the medium with confidence which leaves his target audience believing him, even if the rest of us do not. Keep in mind, most of us who don’t believe Trump or get frustrated at him, don’t matter to Trump – we are not his audience and we will not re-elect him.
Trump controls the debate and we hate it. He occupies the space and sucks the oxygen out of the room, which any master communicator will do. While Trump is “speaking” no one else can be heard and that is exactly the situation he wants to create.
Trump creates a compelling vision – whether we agree with it or not, we are not left wondering what the vision is: America First. And it is broad enough that anyone who wants to follow Trump can attach themselves to. And from his vision flow key messages and from key messages, proof points – the classic message house approach.
So next time the Donald starts to invade your universe, rather than rail against the insanity and injustice of it all, look at his mastery of communication and try to learn from it.