Can the publicity machine known as “The Donald” actually succeed in propelling Trump to the White House after his sudden leap onto the campaign trail? While the answer ultimately rests with the public, the first place to look is the media, which has changed dramatically since the last major election. Trump may be making the headlines he adores, but in my opinion, he’s making all the wrong moves in the long run, because he doesn’t understand the media in 2011.
Donald’s approach is simply very 1990s, a one-way blast of messages without nuance (or much substance) with little, if any, interest in who’s absorbing this information or how they feel about anything. It looks like the only thing he’s tracking is the gaggle of 24-hour news-cycled reporters of mainstream print or TV.
And when he’s criticized for his policies, intellect or hairstyle, he fights back like an angry Rottweiler, tearing apart the critic’s perceived weaknesses, whether it’s Rosie O’Donnell’s weight or, more recently, Jerry Seinfeld’s failed TV show. Seinfeld dared to excuse himself from a Trump charity event because he couldn’t, in good conscience, stomach the Donald’s divisive campaign tactics.
This “I’m-great-and-tough” style will not work today. Despite the fact that no one wants a president who’s primed for a brawl any time he’s criticized, his response to criticism will backfire now that the “story” can spin for days and practically everyone on the planet can chime in.
You’re already seeing reporters and bloggers digging deeply into Trump’s business success, the one thing people think they know about him. Scorching information on past bankruptcies and poor business decisions are starting to hit the Ethernet like a swarm of angry bees. It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts when they’re stinging him from all sides.
The fact is, our society consumes information and images more profoundly and rapidly than we can gauge, and the explosion of online and mobile images is transforming the way politicians or corporations operate. So much is out there, in fact, that a bunch of web start-ups have launched just to help journalists and others sift through the explosion of online content to publish and amplify the most relevant information. There are even talk shows in the works based on perspectives collected from the social media.
If you can exploit this shift intelligently, you can gain and keep the attention of people whose impressions, decisions and behavior will determine your success. It’s no longer about how loud you can rant.
The opportunities can be great when we reach audiences on their terms, target them more narrowly, and interact with them continually. But the downside is just as great, when we – and the Donald – don’t.
The new technologies, especially video, are democratizing the media to such a degree that virtually no politician, celebrity or corporation will be able to communicate in the future without a clear, two-way strategy.
Donald Trump doesn’t do two-way, and at this point, I’m convinced this will be his downfall as a candidate.
With his one-way, two-decade old approach to communicating, in fact, Donald Trump won’t be able to win an election to dog catcher, let alone the presidency, though it’ll have nothing to do with his birther rants.