Last week sparked another crisis communications scenario for Trump’s reputation as Twitter was ablaze with the social media storm that ignited after the final round of presidential debates.
Professor of constitutional rights, Nancy Leong, pointed out Trump’s conflicting message when she tweeted:
Trump: “nobody respects women more than I do”
Also Trump: “such a nasty woman”
More Trump: “your husband disagrees with you”#debatenight
— Nancy Leong (@nancyleong) October 20, 2016
This being amongst a host of other reckless comments that left many viewers offended. The world has been thrown into a whirlpool of flabbergast by the wave of sound-bites that only the likes of Donald Trump could confidently proclaim. His initial arrogance has led to a barrage of claims from women who have accused him of harassment, and this has sent his hitherto strong position into a downward spiral. As a result, Trump’s PR team have been left with no option but to buckle down into full crisis control mode to regain a hold of his sinking ship.
Here are three skills in crisis communications that Trump needs to know.
1.Handle criticism with skill.
By dismissing controversy and deflecting the heat onto his opponent, Trump is raising red flags for the crisis communications team.
It takes a brave, or potentially berserk character to decisively lean into a mic and label Hillary Clinton as being ‘a nasty woman’, displaying his anger and frustration perhaps as a response to being challenged by a woman. An effective crisis communications strategy would have equipped Trump with the tools to keep calm and address the issues diplomatically, enabling him to maintain a dignified composure, whilst keeping his tone intact. These skills can be a challenge to master, and particularly during a fraught presidential debate, but are indispensible, when it comes to reputation management.
2. Avoid the blame game.
CNN journalist Van Jones quoted LL Cool J regarding Trump’s performance in the presidential debate saying, “He lied about the lies that he lied about”, and lies will ring alarms left, right and center in the crisis communication field. Blaming others is not only juvenile but it implies inability to take responsibility. Honesty is the best policy. Be direct about the status of your situation and take responsibility to avoid getting riddled in rumours. Being responsible for your actions will also give you a strong foundation to gain the trust of your audience.
3. Do your research and have clear objectives.
How does Trump intend to “make America great again”? If it’s taking you a while to answer this question then you will understand the third and final dilemma.
Having a clear message in crisis communication is essential. However, repeatedly expressing a literal phrase without any elaboration will result in confusion and potential scepticism from your public. In communicating a message the underlying values and beliefs should be present throughout the dialogue to make your key phrase a true representation of what you stand for.
Trump’s conversation with the public may be inconsistent, but he has gained respect for his clear-cut tone, and having a direct approach is certainly encouraged in crisis communications. It’s partly through adopting this tone that Trump has made it this far in the presidential nominations. Although, with the presidential rankings showing Trump currently lagging behind Hillary Clinton at forty-four percent (at the time of writing), he could still benefit from delivering a more consistent dialogue.
Now the debates are over, and the election is imminent, there is precious little time for Trump to successfully implement these strategies, but considering Hillary is the favourite to win he has nothing to lose by trying. This strategy would create a clear message that could competently address difficult situations, and give Trump the scope to discuss vital vote-winning policies.
If urgent crisis communications is not an option that Trump will consider, then there is little else to do other than buckle up for the last stretch on Trump’s self-terminating train to presidency.
Written by Rochelle Alexandra