President Trump’s attitude to the main media outlets and his use of social media to communicate directly with his audience warrants further analysis.
While he obviously sees his tweets as a useful way to pass his opinions and fabricated view of the truth to his own supporters, it doesn’t by-pass the mass media in the way he seems to want. The media still reports and analyses his comments to a much wider audience, both domestically and globally, than his tweets could ever reach.
Indeed, it appears that the Trump war with the media and the media’s continual correction and questioning of Trump, is actually helping newspapers and magazines in the US. They are reporting an upsurge in subscriptions over the last several months – surely proof that many people still look to the media to provide facts and the real news.
There’s a communications strategy lesson here for all organisations.
While Trump’s approach certainly reinforces messages to the already converted, it doesn’t seem to be influencing others or adding to his supporter base. The rest of this year will be interesting as we see how the White House handles what is a growing credibility gap in communications.
It reinforces my own view that social media has not yet killed mass media, which still sets the news agenda and far outreaches most social media commentary in contact and influence.
This isn’t to argue that organisations shouldn’t have social media strategies. In fact they must build on, and reinforce, traditional public relations approaches, and in particular media relations activities, with “new media” techniques. But by definition, social media only reaches people who are already “followers” and have therefore been influenced.
Trump’s approach is increasingly showing that being at war with the wider media and its reporting is likely to be at best a massive distraction, and at worse (as I believe time will show) fatal.
Another interesting aspect of the Trump communication phenomenon is that it shows how politicians and political parties can (to put it politely) be misleading in a way that other organisations such as corporate and financial institutions simply couldn’t get away with.
Senior executives or directors, especially of public companies and investment houses, would have any one of several regulatory bodies descend on them if they gave “alternative facts” (or “core and non-core promises”) that were misleading in the same way politicians do.
There is a far greater onus on commercial organisations in their communication activities than, as Trump has shown, there is on their political counterparts. The question remains, will he continue to get away with it?