Public Relations

“Trumped”: Get Your Narrative Right and You Could Win the White House

Love him or hate him, few would disagree that Donald Trump is a master storyteller. Politics aside, Trump was the true underdog both within and outside of his own party.

Obama and many others skewered him in public. The media would often sway between sensationalism to downright skepticism in their reporting of all things Trump. Yet what the skeptics didn’t know or understand was that Trump was playing right into the hands of the American electorate.

People love the underdog story. Most can identify with what it’s like to be the outsider. It seemed that no matter what Trump said or did, he couldn’t lose. And people want to support a winner.

Perhaps even Trump himself was surprised that he was able to win over America to claim the highest office in the land. The fact is that Donald Trump is a genius at getting inside the zeitgeist of a population and in reading what it is exactly that people want. And it was time for change. Fed up with the status quo and their place in life, Trump gave his supporters what they wanted to hear. Like Superman rushing to save the screaming masses from a burning building, he was their hero and promised to fix things if they gave him a chance.

Many underestimated Trump. What his opponents and skeptics did was fail to see that through his storytelling and ability to read the current narrative playing out in America, he was able to tap into something so deep that no one else was able to reach it.

While there were many reasons that led to Trump’s victory, from a story perspective he hit all the right buttons.

Here’s what Trump did right:

  1. He tapped into people’s emotions and took them on an emotional journey. Great stories are built on great characters and he was able to create a persona for himself that instinctively drew people to his rallies by the tens of thousands
  2. He focused on what was really going on with the American people in a way that more seasoned politicians just failed to see. He read the narrative and followed the script. America was fed up and wanted to be great again. Trump offered a way out and his unconventional personality was able to draw people to his ideas
  3. His journey had many similarities to those experienced by heroes in the classic book by Christopher Vogler “The Writer’s Journey.” It’s almost as if Trump’s actions followed those in a dramatic movie script. There was a Call to Action, which led to the Hero’s Journey. Along the way, there were antagonists (or one key one – Hillary Clinton), tests, allies and enemies. After numerous challenges the hero crosses the threshold and returns with the ultimate prize – the White House

To quote Campbell, “Every storyteller bends the mythic pattern to his own purpose or the needs of her culture. That’s why the hero has a thousand faces.”

Great stories are mythic in nature and speak directly to the human spirit.They tap into a mythological core that teaches us something about ourselves.

From a storytelling perspective, Trump nailed it on all levels. Add to that his brand of authenticity yet unseen in the world of Washington politics and he proved to be a worthy opponent.

For Donald Trump, his final act is yet to be written. In the meantime, there will be more tests, allies and enemies along the way as he leaves the ordinary world and prepares to enter the brand new world of politics.




New Story of PR Lacks Showmanship

Somewhere along the line, we forgot to put the "public" back into PR.  I'm reading a book called the Fame Formula by Mark Borkowski, one of the UK's leading public relations practitioners. His stellar list of clients (past and present) includes Van Morrison, Joan Rivers, Cirque du Soleil and Michael Jackson.  The book discusses the history of the fame making machinery behind some of Hollywood's greatest celebrities - beginning with the roots of modern day PR which had its beginnings in the early days of vaudeville and the motion picture industry.

Borkowski yearns for the days when public relations meant more than the masking of corporate messages behind well-trained and well-groomed spokespeople. To achieve fame in the old days, you had to use a combination of creativity and wit to build and maintain your place in the public eye. Agents representing vaudeville acts were known for their wild stunts that drew in audiences to see their prize acts. Mavericks such as P.T. Barnum made spectacular use of the media of the day by creating stories about his upcoming acts then bombarded the newspapers with letters to create sufficient buzz. Were the stories always truthful? Not necessarily. But at least they weren't boring.

The truly successful PR practitioners aren't afraid to use a little showmanship to sell their story. Look at Richard Branson's tactics as he flies into cities doing wild promos to sell his latest product or service. Some would say his methods are tacky. I say they're brilliant because any true practitioner knows that there's no such thing as bad PR.

To make our mark in this world we have to be more creative in getting our message out. There are so many new forms of media, that it takes a skillful practitioner to determine the best strategy for our content. As we move forward in time, let's not forget the lessons to be learned from the old. And let's make an effort to be less boring.

BarnumBarnum said that "I don't believe in duping the public, but I believe in first attracting and then pleasing them." A lesson learned for any PR practitioner looking to make a mark on the world.

3 Ways to Get Free PR In A Recession

Times are tough, but they call for deeper and more creative measures to get the word out. Here are 3 ways to get free PR in a recession:

1) Find your angle and contact the editors of publications who could benefit from your expertise. If possible, create the angle around a timely issue. For example, does your product or service help the environment? If so, how? How could readers benefit by reading your story?

2) Volunteer to be a guest speaker at a trade show or conference. It's the perfect opportunity to showcase your skills to potential buyers

3) Establish yourself as an expert by joining the Board of Directors of an association. People will learn to recognize you as an expert in your field, and will start to come to you for advice when the time is right

So...selling your story doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg. Be innovative and smart - and don't give up. There are people out there who need to hear your story!

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High Profile Bloggers Hit The Political Arena


We've come a long way fellow bloggers. Once dismissed as mere renegades of the internet, bloggers are now taking their rightful place in the high profile political arena.

The Democratic National Convention in Denver catered to bloggers in a way that is normally reserved for journalists. The "Blogger Lounge" offered free massages, smoothies and leather couches with pillows.

In the world of social media, bloggers wield incredible power and have the ability to sway public opinion. This hasn't gone unnoticed by the political powers that be, and media savvy politicians are taking steps to invite bloggers into the conversation.

Mark Nickolas, editor of, says that "blogs are a hybrid of journalism, editorial writing and talk shows." The official website for the Democratic National Convention features its own blog with video clips and opinions posted by various bloggers.

It's a great feeling to know that blogging and bloggers are gaining the respect they deserve. In a world that's often skeptical of what comes out of the mouths of politicians, blogs are an effective way to put opinion into perspective (something Canadian politicians could learn to do better if they're interested in swaying public opinion).

Word of mouth has now become interactive, and in some ways there's more truth in what's written on the page than what's seen on the mainstream stage of network television.

How have blogs and bloggers swayed political opinion in your area? What do you think of "Bloggers Lounges" - is it an idea whose time has come, or are we allowing too much room for opinion, in a way that could eventually backfire on the politicians who allow it?

(Oh - and by the way, the folks at the 2008 DNCC encourage bloggers to use the official logo as a way to spread the word - so the use of the posted logo for this purpose is officially sanctioned!)

Brand Oprah On Road To Recovery

Oprah0508_2I had a chance to watch the news conference this week as Oprah Winfrey spoke to reporters in South Africa by satellite. As many of you know by now, the dormitory matron in her South African Academy for Leadership for Girls has been accused of indecent assault and criminal injury against six students.

Winfrey, a victim of childhood abuse herself, called the situation "one of the most devastating experiences of my life", and vowed to "clean house." From a public relations perspective, the situation could have damaged her reputation as a broadcast icon and motivational guru who vows to help people live their best lives. Well, it might have damaged anyone else's reputation but Oprah's.

Throughout the conference, Winfrey was the ultimate professional, and answered reporters questions with a skill and mastery only Oprah could perform. At times, she chose to let her personal side shine through, and came close to tears on several occasions as she described her initial tearful reaction to the news.

From a rational and business perspective, one has to wonder what measures were in place to hire and screen someone who was capable of committing such alleged acts. 

During the conference, Winfrey admitted that the screening process was inadequate. With so much at stake, who was in charge of hiring the person subsequently charged with the crimes? Winfrey says she was not responsible for hiring at the school, yet who was the person entrusted to do so, and why were they chosen for this extremely important job?

From a public relations perspective, the Oprah brand will recover. Quick measures were taken to address the issue, and the patch up has already begun. Yet the fact that sufficient measures weren't in place to screen potential employees at the school still bothers me as a communicator and businessperson. Mistakes happen everywhere, but the fact that this happened in Oprah's school makes it seem all the more tragic.

Tragedy or not, it's a good example of how a bad situation can be turned around through the effective use of spin. The incident is being shown in its best possible light - as a chance for the girls to show their resolve and leadership skills, to be given the opportunity to heal, and to hold on to their best possible dream in life.

Do you think that any damage was done to the Oprah brand, in light of this incident? What do you think of the way Oprah handled the news conference, and the incident at the school?