Trumped by a foul and effective earned media strategy

You’re going to read lots of highfalutin’ talk about how Trump’s victory is a howl from the dispossessed, and so on.

While it’s true that our new President-Elect benefited from a surge from rural voters, if you believe that Trump represents some sort of ventriloquist for the socially excluded then explain this:

screenshot-2016-11-09-10-39-07

Let’s slam the brakes for a moment and ask a much more ‘boring’ question about marketing. Since The Donald is, above all else, a professional brand marketer, we may want to start with what he’s been doing for a living for more than a decade.

Why, for example, has Trump been on our television screens every morning for the past 2 years despite around 20 people running for President all scraping for airtime?

Trump was their ratings machine. Let’s review. He started almost every day of the last 600 plus with a sensational and outrageous claim, threat, accusation or insult. It often took no more than a single tweet, or a phone call to a TV show, to set the media reaction in motion.

(Which reveals more about how the media works than any coherent ideas Trumpian ideas about policy and the future of America, especially since his tweets were almost never about ideas and almost always about other people.)

As ever more norms and boundaries were transgressed by Trump, the media would react. Every. Single. Day.

Some commentators would pontificate and protest, others would agree, but all would react. Every. Single. Day.

This was an earned media strategy par excellence.

It was almost as if the guy was a reality TV star who knew how to generate publicity…

Trump didn’t win a battle of ideas. The man won a battle for traditional media exposure.

So much for the collapse of civilized discourse following the rise of social media. No, not so fast MSM. Trump’s campaign was built on a mastering of the TV ratings model.

Without the air-cover of mainstream television exposure – Every Single Day – his direct digital marketing tactics on online social channels would never have caught so much fire in the first place.

For many of us, we’d rather spend more time discussing ideas and issues online, than listening to the echo chamber constructed by television to suit the loudest voice in the room.

Yes, online discourse can be as wild as any new frontier. But it can also be a place of nuance, long-form, considered critiques, including many written by experts, and shared by people interested in more than being entertained.

Following this 2016 debacle, can television claim the same?

Unfortunately, 2016 has proven one thing. The traditional media model still has enough power to carry an empty suit – a brand – to the Presidency.

Strategic Communications Consultant, located in Washington, D.C.

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