Five Media Tips for Donald Trump

U.S. stock markets are at record highs, unemployment is at its lowest in seven years, and consumer confidence hit its peak in nearly 17 years.

All good for Republican Donald Trump, right?

Maybe not. The president has one of the lowest approval ratings of any U.S. commander in chief since Harry S. Truman. Making matters worse for the GOP, the Democratic Party won big in recent state races, perhaps a precursor to next year’s mid-term elections.

Donald Trump speaks at a caucus night watch party in Las Vegas, Nevada on February 23. Credit: Getty Images.

Aside from his own political agenda, many would argue that the problem with the president, well, is the president himself. So much so, that many online daters are telling Trump supporters to swipe left.

In addition to the need of being media trained, here are five simple communications suggestions for President Trump to possibly help boost his approval ratings:

Stop tweeting. No surprise here. While the president’s tweets resonate well with his base, and put him upfront in the daily news cycle, they alienate him from the rest of the country. Mr. Trump needs to expand beyond current supporters, especially if he decides to run for re-election. Since this is unlikely, possibly use an editor to soften the rhetoric, and spell check too. The good news is that he now has 280 characters to do it in.

Be gracious. Humility is not one of the president’s core character traits, at least publicly. Mr. Trump should refrain from “reminding” voters of his election victory or mixing politics with less partisan presidential duties. Remember the Boy Scouts debacle? Also offering a mi culpa from time to time can go a long way and will not diminish any notion of “coming from a place of strength.”

Watch CNN, objectively. Whether or not the president thinks the cable network reports “fake news,” it’s always good to understand how the White House is being covered so that credible, reactive messaging can be developed and implemented. Believe it or not, CNN is far less biased than MSNBC or Fox News.

Do your homework. In other words, be prepared. This will make the president appear more knowledge on key legislative issues such as health care and tax reform. Practice Q&As with key staff on topics relevant to his agenda.

Get a dog. Although it may seem trivial, and not communications related, the president playing catch with man’s best friend on the White House lawn can make for a great photo opportunity. Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has broken a long-held tradition of U.S. presidential pet ownership of being the first head of state since President Millard Fillmore to not have domesticated animals.

Only time will tell if the president can turn the tide and become a great communicator like his idol President Ronald Regan. The trick is to get out of his own way, a task easier said than done.

CNN Pushes ‘Facts First’ with an Apple

It’s an apple, not a banana.

That’s what CNN is telling viewers in its new ad, “This is an apple,” which most likely is in response to President Trump’s repeated criticism of the cable news network as fake news.

The ad is getting lots of traction and national news coverage. For those who have not seen it, a graphic of an apple appears with the voice over: “This is an apple. They might scream banana, banana, banana, over and over again … but it’s not.” You get the point.

Interestingly enough CNN is having a good year despite repeated criticisms, beating MSNBC in total day for 40 straight months among adults ages 25-54, but still failing short to rival Fox News.

So, is the president helping CNN?

Controversy and conflict are main drivers of news, even when the news, well, is the “news.” All the hoopla around “fake news” is propelling people to watch, and news organizations like CNN to act.

The stakes are high. According to the 2017 Global Social Journalism Study, 51 percent of reporters feel that fake news is a serious problem in their area of journalism.

But if statements are made over and over again, even they are not true; does it actually become true, fostering doubt among reputable news organizations?

Maybe. A global survey from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism found that only 38 percent of U.S. adults trust the news they consume. Pew also reports that Americans are divided along political lines when it comes to trusting media, and that only 28 percent of U.S. adults say general news outlets get the facts right about science almost always or more than half of the time.

Media have a credibility problem. But so does the president, with 65 percent of voters saying Mr. Trump is not trustworthy, according to a new Washington Post/ABC News poll.

Americans may never fully trust the media, and President Trump for that matter. CNN’s “Facts First” ad campaign is helping quell innuendo and improve reputations. Either way, trust is essential to effective government relations and media reporting on the country’s affairs.

Stories need angles, however, even if they contradict a point of view or collective opinion. That’s what makes news interesting. And given the country’s deeply divided electorate, trust may be more aspirational than reality.

Facebook’s Image Problem

Now may be a good time for friends and families to rekindle their broken Facebook relationships since it appears Russia was behind much of the hostile engagement on the social network during the 2016 presidential election.

Apparently 10 million people on Facebook saw 3,000 Russian-backed sponsored posts before and after Election Day, fueling racial, religious and political divisiveness. Initial investigations also show that content was geo-targeted in key swing states that may have tipped the scales in favor of the GOP.

Photo credit: Cnet

The frenzy forced many to take action. Thirteen percent of Americans reported blocking or “unfriending” someone on social media because of their political postings, according to a survey by PRRI, with Democrats nearly three times more likely than Republicans (24 percent vs. 9 percent) to shut off opposite-minded friends and family.

It’s hard to quantify the actual impact of the ads. The bottom line is that Trump supporters came out in full force on Election Day, and Hillary Clinton failed to win over white women and female voters without a college education.

Whether the “news” was fake or not, the content fueled an inherent bias on both sides of the proverbial aisle. Moreover, after the 2012 presidential race, the Republican Party ignited its online presence and get out the vote operations that most likely help propel Donald Trump to victory.

No doubt Facebook has an image problem. Shares of the $500B social media giant started to rise from earlier in the week when the stock took a hit from its 52-week high of $175.49, closing at $172.23 on Friday.

The brouhaha led Facebook founder Mark Zukerberg to post a Yom Kippur-inspired mea culpa, writing, “For the ways my work was used to divide people rather than bring us together, I ask forgiveness and I will work to do better.”

Things may only get worse for Facebook if and when Zuckerberg testifies before Congress or the slew of investigations into Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election show the social network at fault. Zuckerberg, however, has repeated many times Facebook’s platform for candidates to communicate directly to voters had a much greater impact that any misinformation on the network.

Facebook fosters engagement unlike any other social network. That engagement needs to be free of any censorship for it to work best. But with more than two billion active monthly users, and more than 200 million in the U.S. alone, there certainly isn’t any shortage of opinion.

Most times people believe what they want on social media regardless of any fact checking. The paradox is that that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say they get at least some of their news from social media. In the end, Facebook will recover from this so-called crisis. The network is engrained in the social fabric of American politics, sort of like the ubiquitous seatbelt. People need to be more open-minded to determine what’s fake “news” and what’s not. Unless that changes, stand by for more of the same in 2020.


Why Can’t We Stop Talking About Donald Trump?

No time in recent American history has one president been regularly talked about online, in the press or at the proverbial water cooler as much as Donald Trump.

One thing for certain is Donald Trump knows how to make news, which usually is done in 140 characters or less. Policies aside, many factors contribute to this phenomenon, such as Trump’s unorthodox style, recklessness or lack of a media filter.

President Donald Trump during a signing ceremony for the Department of Veterans Affairs. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

But all publicity is not good publicity. A recent Harvard Study found that 60 percent of Trump’s media coverage during his first 100 days in office was 80 percent negative, at times hitting the 90 percent mark. Even GOP-friendly Fox News had him at 52 percent negative.

No doubt all this is taking a toll on Trump’s approval ratings. According to FiveThirtyEight, only 37 percent of Americans say President Trump is doing a good job, the lowest of any U.S. commander in chief since Harry S. Truman.

The Pew Research Center finds a majority (58 percent) of Americans do not like the way Trump conducts himself as president, and nearly half (45 percent) do not agree with him on any or almost any issue.

Trump’s conduct also is having a negative impact on his fellow Republications. Forty-six percent of GOPers expressed mixed feelings on Trump’s behavior, while 19 percent say they do not like his conduct.

As support dwindles among those that helped him get elected, President Trump is finding it harder to get key legislation passed even with a Republican-dominated Congress, as several attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act fell flat.

Not so says Donald Trump. He boasts his administration has accomplished more than any other president except Franklin Delano Roosevelt, citing his own election as historic, stretching the truth and transparency.

Political pundits have called him a liar, many times. But it’s this behavior that lands Trump on the front pages. Forget about the old ad age of kids saying the darndest things, Donald Trump has made comments as president that go beyond any logical reasoning.

Whether it’s threatening nuclear war with North Korea or blaming Arnold Schwarzenegger for bad ratings on “Celebrity Apprentice,” Trump says and does things – good, bad or indifferent – that makes news and prompts reactions from people.

Unfortunately, that’s bad for Trump … and can be bad for America too.