Media and Donald Trump
News • September 28, 2017
Julieta Lugones, partner of Fusion Communications INC with outstanding experience in the American market as well as with the Latino and Hispanic audiences, gives us her impressions on this complex topic.
What is really happening between the new President of the United States and the American media? What is real and who is right? Julie Lugones is partner at Fusion Communications INC., the latest PR agency that joined the Worldcom Publics Relations Group. Through her outstanding professional experience working in the American market and with Latino and Hispanic audiences, she can give us her impressions about this complex relationship, which impacts on the audiences and determines the clarity of the information projected in media. How does this phenomenon affect the Corporate Communication industry? Lugones leaves us many reflections in this interview.
- How is the balance of the relationship between media and Donald Trump?
With more than 100 days in office, there is still no clear balance between them. Part of his campaign was based on blaming the media for what he calls “fake news” or not to accurately report of what he believes should be of interest to everyone. In fact, the media can sometimes be distorted; but it all depends heavily on who is on the other side of the microphone. There is a little understanding of roles and responsibilities in general. The media is there to create and raise awareness on current events and issues that matter to their audiences.
For example, a columnist writes his opinion on a particular issue, a guest panelist will give his opinion on what he believes is correct and will show evidence, while the responsibility of a journalist is to provide his audience facts without a predetermined opinion of the circumstances.
At a time when social networks seem to have their own political inclinations into their DNA, it can be very difficult to decipher the truth. And to top it all, now we have to deal with what Kellyanne Conway called “alternative facts.” Alternative facts are never right, it is ethically wrong and completely false. So who can blame the public for being skeptical about everything they read and especially what they see on television?
Social media has been an incredible tool to reach the masses in a matter of seconds, but they have also proven to be lethal by providing inaccurate content that spreads like fire and causes confusion among many. Earlier this year, the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) issued a statement condemning the use of alternative facts by saying:
“Truth is the foundation of all effective communication. By being truthful, we build and maintain trust with the media and our customers and employees. As professional communicators, we take our responsibility to communicate with sincerity and accuracy very seriously.
The Public Relations Society of America, the largest association of communicators in the country, sets the standard of ethical behavior for our 22,000 members through our Code of Ethics. Encouraging and perpetuating the use of alternative facts by a prominent spokesperson is reflected poorly in all communications professionals.
The PRSA firmly opposes any effort to deliberately misrepresent the information. Honest and ethical professionals never modify, falsify, or alter facts. We applaud our colleagues and professional journalists who work hard to seek and denounce the truth. “- Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA, President of the Society in 2017.
The current media environment in the White House is one of discomfort; briefings are being limited and the White House’s communications team is always belligerent. As for his most recent speech, President Trump seemed to be more structured and many experts say he communicated efficiently. However, just a day later at a rally in the city of Arizona, it looked like he was not ready.
Is there any hope they can achieve a balance? Yes, they can, but it will take a lot of work. The appointment of General John Kelly is a step in the right direction. The President’s advisors cannot aspire to change their personality, as it has been proven to be an impossible mission. However, they may try to explain the different facets of the media and how to bring them to their side if transparency is maintained. The President has been extraordinarily successful in reaching millions of people through Twitter. Now we can only hope that his advisors keep him focused on the messages that really matter.
- What factors have been determinant and have conditioned that relationship?
It is simple; his though personality is always active. He really does not have much relationship with White House correspondents and probably has not made any effort to work on it. President Trump needs to understand that not all the observations or stories that appear on television, or are reported in the newspapers need to be answered with anger through a tweet. There are recent reports that General Kelly is trying to limit the information he receives. I guess the idea is that the less you know, the less you’ll feel that you need to respond.
- In perspective, how could this scenario evolve or change in the upcoming months?
It is time to step back and get a better understanding of who is who in the media group. President Trump has to understand that he is no longer on the campaign, and that blaming ex-members and former cabinet members is not going to change things. You need to be a leader with more empathy, communicate the issues when they are important. In this case, less is more.
- Does this reality, before audiences became more sensitive to aggressive speeches, have forced companies to change their tone way of communication?
No, I think the White House communications style has given companies and executives the freedom to say and act what they feel. There is a need for reflection that should not be confused with political correctness. It is a difficult time for PR professionals, but at the same time it presents an opportunity to provide an additional vision and educational value to our clients. In addition, there is now a greater opportunity to incorporate crisis communication in all corporate PR strategies. It is not a question of whether or not a crisis will occur; and for this they must be ready on all fronts.
Another phenomenon we are seeing is that some companies are facing a different kind of crisis, which some call ‘the Trump crisis’. This happens when the president uses Twitter to attack a company or person.
- In this context, what happens to be essential in business communication vis-a-vis audiences sensitive to these speeches?
There are three fundamental things that must always be maintained in any communication: First of all, transparency, facts and their respective tests; second, the choice of timing, the ability to respond quickly and effectively; and finally, empathy, the demonstration that he is human. We must treat our audience with the same respect we want them to have toward us. Your trust is not negotiable.