Wednesday, April 24, 2024

PR lessons from Trump's CNN town hall—some good, some bad


I’ve long said that PR people can learn valuable lessons for free Which is not taught in communication school, especially after the happenings on the political scene. And politics aside, former President Donald Trump’s appearance on CNN’s town hall provided many of those lessons—some good, some bad.

Below are several that our business people should add to their “Know This” book.

Positive Lessons:

1. Mr. Trump said he knew the moderator, Caitlin Collins. He probably agreed to have her as the interviewer because he believed he could overwhelm her.

Lesson,: PR people when arranging an interview should always make sure that the reporter is not a journalist seeking a “got it” headline.

Lesson,: Before the interview the PR people should help the client to choose the talking points during the interview.

3. Because of the town hall format, Mr. Trump was able to successfully connect with the audience.

Lesson,: PR people should always arrange to interview journalists who write for publications that the client is trying to reach,

4. The town hall provided Mr. Trump with an opportunity to tell his version of the story, and he didn’t let Ms. Collins’ questions stop him from doing so.

Lesson,: Clients who are being interviewed should be told to disregard questions they do not like and, like all politicians, to answer those questions with prepared comments that contain positive points.

Lesson,: It is essential for public figures to anticipate the questions that will be asked and be prepared to answer them. For high-level national interviews, PR people should consider hiring a former investigative reporter to act as interviewer during pre-interviews. media training,

2. Mr. Trump answered a question which he did not like, he answered it jokingly.

Lesson,: Not answering a serious question seriously should be “no” and PR clients should be warning clients that a flippant answer can destroy a successful interview.

3. Mr. Trump called Ms. Collins “nasty.”

Lesson,: PR people should create opposition ads for Mr. Trump, showing how their opponents can turn “nasty” remarks into anti-Trump TV commercials.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of Mr. Trump’s CNN town hall was that he demonstrated that he is young at 76 and still as sharp as when he ran for the presidency in 2016.

His biggest mistake was not using the town hall to reach a non-Trump audience. Instead, he still played to his base, which was not enough to elect him for a second term in 2020.

Below is my opinion about Town Hall:

CNN missed a great opportunity to position itself as the premier hard news cable channel. Instead, the town halls were some of the saddest journalistic political programming of the year so far. CNN acknowledged that it intentionally “filled the auditorium with citizens representing a range of conservative views.”

And despite her best efforts, Mr. Trump steamrolled Ms. Collins, who was no match for the former president’s mud-wrestling style. I also fault Ms. Collins for not insisting that Mr. Trump answer her questions before moving on to other questions.

CNN has three hard-nosed reporters who have successfully gone toe-to-toe with Mr Trump in the past – Chris Wallace, Jim Acosta and Jake Tapper. Any one of the three would have been a better choice than Ms. Collins, although it is possible that Mr. Trump would not have agreed to the town hall if one of the three had been inquisitive.