Written by Luis Gallardo
Everyone knows who Donald Trump is. Pundits love to talk about him, his name comes up in conversations with co-workers and his ornate properties are popular tourist attractions. But how, exactly, has he managed to slingshot himself to the forefront of everyone’s minds?
As controversial and polarizing as Donald Trump might be, he’s clearly doing something right in getting his message to the public. So what are the trump cards of his communication strategy?
1. Differentiate yourself from the competition.
Trump’s strategy for securing the Republican nomination centers on setting himself apart from the rest of the GOP candidates. Trump has ruffled feathers by boldly calling this nation’s political leadership “incompetent leaders” and “horrible people,” and he’s embattled in an ongoing feud with Sen. Lindsey Graham, even giving out Graham’s personal phone number. By distancing himself from the political establishment, Trump is gaining street cred with disgruntled GOP voters.
He’s certainly garnered attention from the media, but it’s not all positive. The Huffington Post rebuked Trump’s campaign, stating its coverage of Trump’s political affairs would reside strictly in the entertainment section of its website. The publisher’s note about the matter simply said, “Trump’s campaign is a sideshow. We won’t take the bait.”
Entrepreneurs, ensure you’re standing out from the crowd but not so much that the industry — or, worse, the customer — doesn’t take you seriously. Try to strike a healthy balance: Be edgy, not outrageous.
2. Seek opportunities for publicity.
Although many of Trump’s comments have been met with derision, they have landed him on more than one news program. There are good and bad points to this strategy. By attracting the press, he validates his campaign and ensures his name is at the forefront of people’s minds.
On the other hand, he’s not on these shows because of the strength of his proposed policies. Often, Trump’s press appearances follow his racist or inflammatory remarks and some such comments have led companies he’s worked with — ranging from Univision to Macy’s — to drop him completely.
When given the chance to promote your business, take a look at why you’re being spotlighted. Is it because of the good work your company is doing, or is it because you said something you shouldn’t have to the wrong person? Despite the old adage, not all press is good press.
3. Create an indisputable reputation.
Any successful communications strategy has a well-defined purpose. It’s not necessarily clear that Trump’s purpose is to win the presidency. Rather, it might be to build his existing persona as a reality TV star and business magnate. Trump is worth billions of dollars and starred in NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice for 14 seasons, though NBC is currently looking to replace Trump after his recent racist comments. He is a salesman, and although it might be unclear what he’s selling, it’s definitely a Trump product.
And this salesmanship makes humility difficult to achieve. A Weber Shandwick survey found that well-regarded CEOs are six times more likely than CEOs with less-than-stellar reputations to be perceived as humble — and that’s important in a business environment where the phrase “CEO humility” is on the rise.
Considering Trump’s combative personality, great personal wealth and high ambitions, it’s easy to see why Trump is making enemies. He’s a threat to Republican candidates because he’s drawing attention away from their campaigns, and he’s a threat to businesspeople because he’s successful and prominent in his industry. The question remains whether he can be successful without any friends in the business.
Trump has proven it’s possible to be successful and daring all at once. To sustain long-term success, you should think of your brand as an extension of your personality and ideals — just make sure your brand is receiving attention for the right reasons.
Even if this is the last presidential race we see Trump in, he likely won’t disappear from the spotlight for long. Whether or not he can win the presidency remains to be seen, but he’s certainly got a knack for getting people’s attention — take a close look at his communication strategy to take your own brand to center stage.
Previously published in Entrepreneur.com