Today’s media world is 24/7, and reporters are hungry for breaking trends and stimulating story ideas. Pressure is high for brand communicators to create a steady stream of captivating stories.
A major challenge is that not all news is the breaking kind — and sometimes there’s a drought of fresh information altogether. What’s a brand to do?
Here are the tips to get the coverage you need:
- Don’t depend on someone to hand you newsworthy information; find it. Identify trends that have press buzzing, and figure out how your brand can add an interesting perspective to the conversation.
- Media coverage is cyclic. Flip through a lifestyle magazine in January and you’ll find some version of a “New Year’s Resolutions”, “Healthy Diet Tips” stories. April’s issue? “Springtime”. You can bank on the consistency of seasonal reporting and devise new hooks to sell existing content that will keep your brand relevant.
- Give reporters a complete story idea with multiple points. Even consider referencing a competitor if it’ll strengthen your case (strategically, of course). Journalists don’t have time to take your news and find the missing pieces to make it a trend worth sharing. You have to do the work for them and reap the benefits.
Businessman and Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump continues to dominate the media as he has since announcing for president. His latest firestorm is his proposal to ban Muslims seeking to enter the United States. Trump made his proposal as the focus of the campaign has shifted to terrorism following the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California. Trump’s proposal has created a firestorm with fellow candidates, House Speaker Paul Ryan, former Vice President Dick Cheney, foreign leaders, and the White House all condemning it. Pundits are predicting this latest from Trump will spell his demise. Yet despite this, Trump is not backing down and all campaign coverage is about him drowning out his opponents. So far voters are still backing him and in many ways he seems to have a better understanding of what is motivating voters than experienced politicians.
So how should Trump proceed from a communications point on this proposal?
- Ignore his critics and stand by his proposal. His proposal is audacious, outrageous, decisive, unrepentant, and brash all in one. It also falls in line with what the Trump brand is all about and why so many voters have bought into it.
- Continue in his interviews and the upcoming debates to point out that his plan is no more extreme than Franklin Delano Roosevelt interning Japanese-Americans during World War II. But go beyond that and point out that we are engaged in a real war with radical Islam and during previous times of war that American leaders have gone to extreme – Lincoln suspending habeas corpus during the Civil War and Woodrow Wilson jailing war critics and deporting radicals during World War I.
- Point out that the job of the President is to save lives and if his action saves one American life and thwarts one terror attack the price is worth it.
- Point out that his proposal is for the duration of the war against ISIS and then will expire.
- Point out that the Obama Administration has failed not only to destroy but even contain ISIS.
- Emphasize that we are war and war is not pretty or politically correct.
- State that he is who he is, he isn’t politically correct but a decisive leader and this is what this nation needs.
- Challenge his critics to show a plan that would be foolproof to prevent terrorists from entering the nation.
Donald Trump has billed his candidacy on the fact that he isn’t politically correct but is a strong leader in a time that America needs just that. With his master showmanship, he has caught the attention of voters by appealing to them on the issues that matter most to them in language that they understand. He has shown that he knows the most important rule of communications – know your audience, a fact the other candidates have failed to grasped. If he communicates his latest proposal convincingly, not only will he be poised to win the Republican nomination but perhaps the White House as well.
Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has set off yet again another media firestorm. The Republican frontrunner has called for all Muslims seeking to enter the United States to be barred from doing so. This came as the focus of the presidential campaign has turned to terrorism after the terror attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California and what many see as the Obama Administration’s ineffectual response to the war on terror. Polls show anti-Muslim sentiment on the rise in the United States as a result of the attacks. Trump’s Republican rivals many condemned his proposal as have other leading Republicans such as former Vice President Cheney. Florida Congressman David Jolly, a candidate for the United States Senate has called for Trump to withdraw from the presidential race because of his stand. Pundits believe that this stunt will cost both Trump and the Republican Party.
So what should the Republican message be in response to Donald Trump?
- Condemn him and his antics once and for all as having no place within the Republican Party. They have become a distraction from serious issues facing the nation.
- Refuse to let him participate in the debates. One of the sources of Trump’s success is his access to free media especially the debates.
- Have House Speaker Paul Ryan address the nation on the Republican position on the war against terror.
- Ryan should point out we are not at war against Muslims but radical Islam in the form of ISIS. In doing so, he should point out how during the Cold War, every President from Truman to Reagan made the point that it was the Soviet system of government not the Russian people that were opposed too. In World War II, Franklin Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Dwight Eisenhower made it clear that it was the Axis leadership not the peoples of Japan, Germany, and Italy.
- That discriminating against any religion or ethnicity is wrong and goes against not only the values of America but that upon which the Party of Abraham Lincoln was founded.
- Explain that this is a war and there will be civilian casualties. It can’t be fought by words but by strong actions and define how Republicans if elected will differ from both Donald Trump and President Obama in prosecuting and winning the war.
- Arrange for Republican leaders and figures from the Reagan and the two Bush Administrations along with Tea Party leaders to address the Trump issue and state that his words are an insult to the memory of Ronald Reagan and if Reagan was alive today he would denounce Trump.
- Dare Donald Trump to run as an independent if he wants too but let him and the American people know there is no room for him in the Republican Party.
- Use humor to belittle him not his followers.
Donald Trump is a showman and also a bully. In some ways he is reminiscent of Joe McCarthy. Attacking him as Republicans have done by treating him as an equal and with seriousness has failed. Rather they should take a page out of their two greatest post-war Presidents – Eisenhower and Reagan. Isolate Trump and use humor at his expense, in doing that and the above mentioned strategy, Trumpamania will disappear and Republicans will be stronger with America at large and it will be their Sister Soulja moment.
Many brands base their marketing and publicity strategies on a public spokesperson. Lincoln has Matthew McConaughey. Priceline has William Shatner of Star Trek fame. Wendy’s used its CEO, Dave Thomas before his death. Men’s Warehouse used its founder, George Zimmer until he was ousted from the company. Very often the brand becomes identified with its spokesperson. To the public, the spokesperson equals the brand, its products and values. A brand’s reputation rises or falls with its spokesperson.
Subway, the restaurant chain is finding the downside of having a spokesperson as its public face. Jared Fogle shot to fame when his story of losing over 200 pounds went public. Fogle based his weight loss on visiting a Subway restaurant and ordering a low-fat sandwich. From that sandwich on, he dropped more than 200 pounds in about a year while eating Subway’s turkey subs and veggie subs with no mayonnaise and cheese. When Subway learned of his story, he became the face of Subway promoting their healthy alternatives to fast food. His story became the Subway story. Consumers identified with his everyman story and could relate to his weight struggle. Franchise owners reported increased sales when commercials and other promotional material featuring Fogle ran. All told he made over 50 television commercials for the chain. The company hyped him as the perfect family man whose values were those of Subway. To the public, Fogle and Subway were one and the same.
On July 7th, that perception became a nightmare for Subway. The FBI, Indiana State Police and the U.S. Postal Service raided Fogle’s home seizing electronic equipment with the clear implication from media reports that he was suspected of being involved in child pornography. A Florida woman came forward and said that Fogle had made remarks to her that were so inappropriate and shocking that she had contacted law enforcement officials. This happened two months after Russell Taylor, the former executive director of the Jared Foundation, which Fogle started to raise awareness to and combat childhood obesity, was arrested on federal child pornography charges. Fogle has not been arrested and his attorney issued a statement saying he is cooperating with authorities. Overnight, Fogle became the punch line for late night comedians with Subway included in the jokes. There was also a sense of public revulsion.
Subway issued a statement expressing shock at the events that had unfolded. Then the restaurant chain went further and announced that they were suspending it relationship with Fogle but they were not terminating it.
The question for Subway is what do they do next?
- They need to terminate their relationship with Fogle straight out. Whether Fogle is cleared or not, he is damaged goods and will remain so. Comedians will continue to joke about him and if Subway remains connected with him, Subway will be included in those jokes. There are three things people cannot fully recover from – scandals involving race, animals, and children. The sooner Subway formally severs all ties with Fogle, the better for the company.
- Develop a new branding strategy that doesn’t focus on any single person but rather on the company’s food and brand. Or if they want a person as the spokesperson have that person be Suzanne Greco, Subway’s president and sister of founder and CEO Fred DeLuca,
- Refresh the look of Subway and introduce new menu items with the new strategy the company is launching.
- Support organizations that battle exploitation of children.
- Develop a crisis communications strategy and have it in place if and when Fogle is indicted that separates the company totally from Fogle and condemns such actions that he may have committed.
The Jared Fogle/Subway story is a cautionary tale for a brand becoming to identified with its spokesperson. The important thing to remember when using a spokesperson as the face of the brand, the brand’s fortunes becomes tied with that person for both good and bad.
Since announcing for president, billionaire businessman, Donald Trump has catapulted in many of the polls to second place as the Republicans’ choice for the Republican nomination. Much of this momentum has been based upon his remarks regarding illegal immigration from Mexico. When announcing for president, Trump addressed the red button issue of illegal immigration by calling for a wall to be built between Mexico and the United States and saying, “The U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems. When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” According to polls Republican voters loved the remarks giving Trump equal news coverage over the past several weeks with Republican frontrunner, Jeb Bush while other candidates tried desperately to get coverage, any coverage.
While his remarks might have been good politics for the Republican primaries, it was bad business for the vast Trump brand. Trump’s remarks led Univision which broadcasts his ‘Miss USA’ pageant to announce that it would no longer broadcast the pageant. The co-hosts of the Miss USA Spanish-language simulcast—Devious Maids actress Roselyn Sanchez and actor Cristian De La Fuente announced that they also would no longer participate in that pageant. NBC announced that it was severing ties with him. Macy’s stated it would no longer carry his clothing line. Serta opted not to renew its contract with Trump Home. The PGA, ESPN, and others all followed suit. This has led many to speculate that the Trump brand is damaged beyond the pale.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Yes, the brand is taking a hit as he runs for president. The Trump brand will not only survive this but be as strong as ever after his foray into politics is concluded. The reason is Trump is being authentic to his brand.
The Donald Trump brand has been based over the years as one part serious businessman, one part entertainer, and one part somewhat buffoonish. Over the years he has insulted nearly everyone possible, declared bankruptcy, yet still the brand has survived and prospered. People have bought into that brand and believe in it. People read about Trump and watch him on ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ to see what off the wall remarks he might come out with. Trump is the ultimate showman. These people who believe in the brand are not going to change their viewing habits or purchases because of his remarks. If anything they are more likely to have their loyalty to the Trump brand be reinforced by these comments (very much as we saw with Duck Dynasty and the furor over comments made by Phil Robertson). After all, they view this as just Trump being Trump.
Brands can rebound and even flourish after a crisis if during the crisis they were true and authentic to their brand identity. After Trump’s presidential race is over, it will be business as usual for the Trump brand. Indeed he may have won even more followers with his rhetoric. That is why all the talk about the demise of the Trump brand is very premature.