Trump Rule 5150: Deflect via Freak Out

King Trump

Donald Trump tweets most weekday mornings at 7 am (give or take a half hour) in an obvious attempt to direct the day’s news coverage. The over-the-top tweets create great controversy and drama, rallying his core. Similarly, his press conference was a live epic lambast moving from 140 characters to more than an hour of live ranting. These crazy communications deflect attention away from Trump’s real political problems.

Rarely about the actual work performed, bombastic posts and crazy media interactions embellish his accomplishments while often attacking the media corps. In turn, the media scrambles to disprove Trump, and defend themselves.

This misdirection keeps everyone off their game, and in many cases distracts journalists from focusing on core issues like the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. It is the Trump Administration’s favorite red herring. And it works every time.

Consider that Trump’s unhinged media conference on Thursday happened at an opportune time for the young Trump Administration. In the previous five days the young presidency suffered the following problems:

  • The loss of National Security Advisor Mike Flynn due to the growing Russia hack scandal.
  • Andrew Puzden’s failed Labor Secretary nomination.
  • Several additional embarrassing stories about the Trump White House and its staff’s behavior, including an unbelievable roasting by Saturday Night Live.

The ultimate live freak-out turned into a media spectacle, dominating every major news network and even causing conservative news source Fox News to rebuke Trump and his team. Being crazy worked again for Trump. Now everyone is focussed on the President’s mental health , the media, and how dysfunctional the White House has become in just one month.

What happened to the Russia story? Or the bad hires? Everyone I know has been talking about Trump’s crazy presser for the past few days. Mission accomplished!

Accomplishment 2: Solidify the Core

Trump’s mastery of public relations misdirection extends to his messaging. Part of attacking the media includes reinforcing messaging to the Trump core of right-wing extremists and conservatives. Over and over again, you hear the mnemonic telling of fake news, of the heroic people’s President Trump versus the dastardly enemy, the media.

Going back to this week’s presser, Trump’s core saw the ultimate beat down of self-righteous, snotty liberal journalists. Trump supporting Americans and their media outletsthink Trump did just fine, and that the liberal media got their just deserves.

Online, the battle continues. Right wing supporters parrot Trump’s anger, attacking the media and dissenting voices on social media as “snowflake libtards.” Arguments happen, likes occur, and as a result, combatants are rewarded for the attention by their brain: Dopamine is literally released.

As a result, entrenched opinions become firmer, and Trump’s core intensifies its support. He only needs a significant minority to keep his reelection hopes alive.

Not bad for a loco con man.

Acting “5150” in the face of facts benefits Trump. It distracts journalists and perhaps hurts their credibility, though increasingly these attacks help besieged media outlets with higher ratings.

Fighting Off the Crazy

How does one combat this kind of craziness? It takes some courage to go out on social media and state your views, but increasingly this seems to be the digital battlefield for Trump.

Twitter is where he wages his war on most days. Facebook and Twitter are where his core attacks the media and those of us who care to dissent. Thank God the Instagram post doesn’t lend itself as well to Trump’s message

I have decided to reply as much as possible to Trump’s Twitter rants, and contribute to his negative tonality ratings. Afterall, he is a ratings obsessed narcissist. Don’t think he isn’t aware how the conversation is faring online.

Yes, I get called a libtard snowflake, which is funny since I used to be a Republican voter before the Iraq war. Names are all the baby Trumpers have to throw, and it’s pretty easy to ignore, mute, or block them.

Those who are firmly set against Trump must demand accountability from the media and elected representatives. The media must be held a countable to the larger Trump story, which is corporate corruption, conflict of interest, election fraud, and empty promises. With elected officials, find ways to communicate with them, even when they refuse to answer their phones and cancel the town halls.

The Battle of Inches

Wage your battle publicly so it can be seen in peer networks. It is a battle of inches, and you don’t know when you will activate an acquaintance.

Generally, the battle of inches seems to be going the wrong way for Trump. His approval ratings are dropping ever so slowly and are now hovering at or below 40% (His Fox and Friends amigos say under 40%).

If Trump drops below the Mendoza Line (below 30% in political terms), you can expect cracks in the foundation to widen and the GOP to finally stop protecting him. Elected Republicans will feel safer rebuking and perhaps even removing Trump if they know their party base will permit it. This can happen, especially if Trump is unable to fulfill his job promises.

Until then, the burden of responsibility relies on the average citizen to actively support factual reporting, decent government behavior, and of course, resist. And persist.

Originally published on the Huffington Post.

Red Herrings, Misdirection, and the Destructive Art of Spin

All Americans Are Muslims

Don’t kid yourself. When you see Donald Trump and his flacks attacking the media and its accuracy, they are not always protecting his ego. These attacks intend to destroy the credibility of the media, and distract the American public from focusing on the critical issues that threaten our Democracy. The Trump Administration is serving a daily dose of red herrings, misdirection tactics, and spin to the American Public.

Red Herring

Worse, some members of the media are incapable of seeing through it. They take the media war bate like a cupcake waved in front of a child.

Consider how much time the media wasted this week on whether or not to call Donald Trump a liar. Instead of name calling, they should seek the smoking guns that prove Trump is intentionally lying. Regardless of the fine points of proving someone a liar by ethical media terms, Trump’s false words are not the issue. The real issue is the systematic destruction of the American democracy.

Meanwhile, Trump’s spinmasters have taken several actions to directly threaten the United States well-being:

  • Trump single-handedly destroyed U.S. Mexico relations in a matter of 36 hours.
  • He banned more than a hundred million Muslims from entering the United States saying “We don’t want them here,” on International Holocaust Rememberance Day. Think about that.
  • Trump promised an investigation into systematic voter fraud, an intentional move to suppress minority voting eligibility.
  • Replaced the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Director of National Intelligence on the National Security Council with Alt-right leader Stephen Bannon.
  • The Trump leadership team directly assaulted women’s rights, starting with abortion.
  • We as citizens and members of the media need to focus on the core actions being taken by Donald Trump to destroy the democratic institutions that make the United States of America.

    A Company of Spinners

    King Trump

    Mr. Trump is a malevolent and perhaps disturbed PR genius with zero ethics. His counterparts Stephen Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, and Sean Spicer are even worse, taking the art of deception to new lows unseen since the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. This is what happens when you let power-hungry PR people run the country. Retaining power through spin matters more than right actions.

    Let’s be clear. Trump won on an electoral plurality, not a general vote majority. He knows that maintaining the plurality is crucial while he attempts to suppress the majority. That is how he will eventually achieve a stranglehold on national power.

    Misdirection

    Keeping the media on its heals with misdirection and fake drama helps achieve that objective. The misdirection bates the media into attacks so the Trump team can tell their sycophant following the media are liars.

    Journalists are getting played like a violin when they fight with Trump and his three spinning lieutenants about lying. The media drama furthers the Trump cause.

    Then the narrative becomes about the much maligned Trump attacked by a liberal media corps who don’t want him to make America great again. Pathetic, right? But it’s working with the plurality, and therein lies the long-term danger.

    Puncture the Spin

    Proud Muslim and American Military Family

    Jay Rosen had it right in his suddenly frighteningly titled blog pressthink about sending the interns to the white House briefing room. The Trump story is somewhere else.

    The Trump PR machine will continue to spew alternative facts and attack the media as part of its attempts to deceive the American public and implement its malicious agenda. The media should not cooperate, nor should they treat such blatant attempts to deliver spin as news.

    Spin

    Instead, journalists need to focus on the Trump story from outside sources. Trump team tweets and PR announcements are just spin. Prove Trump wrong through sources, documents, and investigative stories.

    The best two political stories I read this week came from investigative reporters. The first was the Washington Post accounting of the acting director of the National Park Service Michael Reynolds about a phone call with Mr. Trump in which the president pressured him to falsify visual evidence about the inauguration crowd size.

    The second story focused on the Republican retreat in Philadelphia this week. Again, the Washington Post obtained private information — this time in form of a tape — about GOP’s concerns on how to repeal Obamacare. The story revealed that the Trump Administration does not have a plan to assist in that effort.

    These types of stories successfully counter the Trump Administration’s spin and puts the President on his heels. Further, when the Trump Administration throws the media “shade”, journalists should simply ignore it. They are empowered by the First Amendment. It is the Trump Administration that has no or should have no credibility.

    A Time to Fight

    We Are Happy You Are Here

    In my opinion, every person with an Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and/or Twitter account that cares about the United States democracy needs to become actively engaged in the political conversation. We contribute to the overall media story. This is a time to fight. Our country’s principles and way of life are endangered.

    Get active. Here are things I am doing to serve our country and combat Trump’s brand of fascism:

  • Volunteering with ACLU Virginia as a strategic advisor.
  • Taking protest photos when I can, time permitting.
  • Turning down pro-Trump related projects, such as photographing an inaugural ball (truth).
  • Participating in pro-Democracy projects like the UnPresidented book effort on Kickstarter (support us, please).
  • And yes, contacting my Congressional representatives by phone, Twitter, and mail.
  • If Trump succeeds in turning our country into an autocratic state, then we have no one to blame but ourselves. Get active.

    Originally published on the Huffington Post.

    How Disney Revved Up the Star Wars Marketing Engine

    Co-authored by Jason Mollica.

    Do you have kids? Are they pining for new Star Wars: The Force Awakens toys? The new merchandise initiative known as “The Force Friday” brought a brilliant ignition point to what had already been a smoldering word of mouth campaign for the new Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie this winter.

    Until the Force Friday brought Star Wars joy or envy to every child across America, buzz had largely been fueled by trailers, social media posts across diverse networks, and the release of the previous six movies. Now a brand new and perhaps the most powerful group of word of mouth agents have been unleashed, kids under the age of 12.

    Youth success with Generation Z could create an unconquerable tidal wave for Disney’s Star Wars franchise. Heretofore, Star Wars had been a smash hit with Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, the generations fortunate to have been adults and kids during the original trilogy (1977-1983). Millennials are also familiar with Star Wars, but through the less successful and critically challenged prequels (1999-2005).

    Overcoming the Prequels

    Star Wars Site

    Let’s be fair. Great excitement existed for the new franchise before the Force Friday– in large part because of Disney’s stewardship and the hiring of J.J. Abrams to direct the first movie. Social media buzz was high, and a virtual cheer was felt across the Internet when Harrison Ford made his appearance in the second trailer for The Force Awakens.

    But doubt remained. We have been let down before by the prequels. Even though the third movie in that ill-received (though lucrative) trilogy — Revenge of the Sith — was arguably close to the same quality as the original trilogy, the damage had been done.

    In fact, when the third trilogy was announced the great excitement was largely inspired by George Lucas selling the franchise to Disney. Successes with both Marvel Studios and Pixar have shown Disney is good steward to other creative visions. Adding J.J. Abrams as director was the coup de grace. Abrams had already successfully rebooted the Star Trek franchise.

    Star Wars could be reborn. Indeed, a new hope (pun intended) was felt amongst prior fans, and even millennials who had been burned with their generation’s installment. But doubt remained and soft debates occurred at cafeterias and bars across America.

    It doesn’t matter now. Kids across America are demanding the toys. They want to see the old movies. They want comic books and novels. They will want to see the new movie, too. Parents and grandparents are obliging them, and in doing so are reintroducing themselves to the Star Wars Universe.

    At this point, the only thing that could ruin the tsunami of Star Wars hype is a bad movie.

    The Great Tease

    Soleil Skywalker

    The lack of knowledge about The Force Awakens and its storyline — a hallmark of J.J. Abrams productions — is fueling speculation. Part of Disney’s strategy to create word of mouth is the great tease. Every new trailer and now the new toys reveals a character or a new look to a familiar subject (including geriatric heroes).

    People go crazy about what each new wrinkle means. Heck, even reporters are documenting changes that have occurred in Han Solo’s trusty vessel, the Millenium Falcon.

    You have to give Disney credit, they have done a masterful job of inspiring conversations with the general public. Each moment creates incredible amounts of word of mouth marketing for the film, and all of its secondary and ancillary merchandise.

    The merchandising move is one straight out of the Lucasfilm bag of tricks. Before selling to Disney, Lucasfilms had garnered $20 billion in sales of official Star Wars merchandise with the company getting a cut of every transaction.

    The overall excitement may even exceed the hype that preceded the first prequel, the Phantom Menace, in 1999. People waited in line for day, literally camping out, just to be the first to see the new movie. Unfortunately for them, the faux reggae alien Jar Jar Binks and wooden acting from the rest of the cast foiled the party.

    Unlike the prequels, Disney probably won’t get a second, third or fourth chance to get the rebooted Star Wars narrative right. The product had better meet the hype or taxed fans who have been willing to forgive may simply move on.

    An Omnipresent Transmedia Experience

    Have you visited the graphic novel section of Barnes & Noble recently? If you do, you’ll find Marvel’s new Star Wars series tucked into the stacks right before Superman. It’s just part of the onslaught of toys, costumes, movies and books that you’ll find at the super store.

    It’s hard not to go anywhere and not see or hear about Star Wars today. Merchandise, media, Star Wars events at baseball stadiums, and friends alike are abuzz with Star Wars or are trying to push it. Disney’s fans and marketing partners are doing as more to promote the movie than the studio itself.

    This combination of word of mouth, partner advertising, and studio PR and social media is amazing. Disney has achieved marketing nirvana, a perfect storm of pre-release hype. Here is a list of several marketing initiative that we have noticed. Please feel free to add your own in the comments section:

    • Trailers (duh).
    • Comic-con appearances by the original series heroes
    • Media coverage.
    • Toys everywhere!
    • Omnipresent social media activation with trivia and content across most major social networks.
    • Kids and adult T-shirts.
    • Halloween costumes.
    • Guerilla marketing in NYC with Stormtrooper mobiles
    • Limited edition Star Wars cereal products in supermarkets
    • TV shows.
    • MLB team-sponsored Star Wars events.

    As communicators, we dream of having big budgets to execute massive campaigns. Even with such a budget, we could only dream of the successes that Disney is enjoying this year with Star Wars. Our hats our off to their marketing team.

    What do you think about all of the Force Awakens hype?

    5 Tips to Liven Up Long Stories

    We live in the tl;dr (too long; did not read) era of the Internet. How do you make traditional text stories and content succeed in an online world where attention spans are dwindling and success necessitates visual media?

    Over the past year at Tenacity5, we’ve learned a few tweaks to drive more traffic to text heavy copy. Here are a five formatting methods and writing tips to liven up long stories.

    1) Build Modules

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    We know stand-alone long copy doesn’t perform well. Instead of writing essays, build out posts and white papers with sections or modules. In the old day this was creating subheads to break up a story. In a well engineered content piece for the current visual media era, I would say each section must be its own multimedia module.

    Each module has its own mini-thesis or message and can stand alone as a small content piece on the Internet. Modules have both a visual communication of that message and supporting copy. Every module works together to tell a story or support an overarching thesis. Individually, they are unique. Together, they stand as a powerful piece.

    Note the architecture of the visual in context with the text. Ideally, the picture, video or infographic can serve as the lead for the story or even tell it. They should work hand in hand. Do not make “snacks” here. There are many resources on the Internet to find free pictures.

    Bleacher Report does a really nice job of building module-based feature stories.

    2) Architect Visuals from the Beginning

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    One of the biggest issues with content today is simply slapping on visual assets to create a multimedia or rich media post. There’s more on content strategy in point five, but when you add visuals after the fact, you are creating content that serves the words. And that may be OK if you are great photo researcher and can clearly understand your thesis and message.

    However, more often than not when visuals are added after the fact, they have tangential meaning. When visuals are bolted on haphazardly, they don’t help content discovery and the overall meaning is less understandable.

    When you know what you want to say, figure out what the right visual media is from the beginning and build it with the text in mind.

    In some cases, you may illustrate points in the text after the fact, like Gaping Void did with Brian Solis’ What If PR Stood for People and Relationships. Nevertheless, GapingVoid was part of the content from the very beginning, and the content was created knowing that we needed sound bites that could be illustrated.

    If you don’t already have a visual media library, start building one or research photo libraries for relevant images before you begin creating content. Drawing from a wide variety of assets makes life easier.

    3) Use Lists

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    When building modules, or at least creating subheads and sections, number and title content with a list. A list signals an easier more digestible content experience to your reader. Should every piece of content you write be a list? Probably not, but lists make long content pieces much more likely to be viewed and read

    I used to sneer at list posts as the “BuzzFeedization” of the Internet. That was until I dug deeper and started re-engineering BuzzFeed posts. Then I built a few of them. I titled some with the numbers and others with a traditional headline. Then I watched the numbered post traffic go crazy.

    I was little disappointed in this, but the fact of the matter is we are living in the tl;dr era. Breaking up long content into digestible lists and bullets just makes it easier. Or, you can run the gauntlet and try to architect the perfect long business essay that will actually be read.

    (Original image by Ian Muttoo)

    4) Write Ad Copy

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    A writer with advertising training will fare better in the current content environment than a PR or literary writer. Ad writers focus on tight punchy headlines, snappy subheads (or module titles), and short compelling short body text.

    If you go my the maxim, “If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter” then your copy is going to fail more often than not. People don’t have time for long blathering posts. Write short, tight compelling copy.

    When I analyzed Buzzfeed’s style, more than anything it read to me like ad copy. In that regard, it is concise and brilliant.

    In the same vein, do your readers a favor and edit the bejesus out of sections. Make all copy as tight as possible.

    5) Composition

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    Last but not least, composition is becoming a critical focus for communications, in my opinion. Some would say it always has been. In large part this is because of data. We have so much data, we are either lost in it and don’t know what to communicate or we are over-informed by it, allowing our communications to become scientific and lifeless.

    When we have more data — or even better — precise data, we can inform composition. Creativity infused outreach provides the opportunity to wow people. Or we can fail, amused with our data-inspired bells and whistles. Let me give you a photographic example.

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    I liked the above photo when I took it. I thought it was so cool to get all of the Cleveland Flats industrial grid iron works AND also include the bright fountain, too. After all, people love bright colorful lights in night settings.

    Except one thing: Though it hit all of the data points that I know people love in night shots — long exposure, color, industrial details, bright luminescent orange fountain, etc. — the composition sucked. The fountain overtakes the rest of the photograph, and because the fountain is not well placed in the image, it doesn’t work. The composition failed in spite of the elements.

    We cannot fly blind with our communications just because we know people like certain aspects of them or because we satisfy some data requirement or messaging requirement. Any communication — written or visual — must have meaning. That is why we must be intentional about composition.

    What is the thesis — the message — of the conent? What are we trying to achieve with our outreach? How are we accomplishing that goal? Does the data we have support that the approach will work? Does the approach inspire our intended recipient? Composition is an area that can always evolve and improve.

    What tips would you add?

    Other posts you might like:
    4 Storytelling Methods
    12 Ways to Boost Your Visual Media Performance

    Getting Lost In Tech Again

    Tenacity5 Media’s client Vocus and Cision released a new eBook, “What If PR Stood for People and Relationships” authored by Brian Solis and GapingVoid. The primary gist is to stop getting lost in technology, or suffering from Shiny Object Syndrome.

    Shiny Object Syndrome has been an issue ever since blogs and social networks took over the Internet. Today, you can see it manifest itself in the way marketers and communicators talk about data, social tools, and mobile technology.

    Let us consider data. More than ever before we see how our actions inspire people to act. Data is fantastic, and it can inform our every step. Yet, when we let the outcomes manifested as precision results drive every action, our outreach can become lifeless.

    Just look at the current iterations of ad retargeting. Marketers realize people have visited us and if we offer them something worthwhile or a coupon, x % will become customers. We engage in campaigns to yield this percentage, and in doing so we sacrifice good will with a much greater population of potential customers, because they are annoyed with cheap ads and tricks.

    As Brian says in the book, we need to make relationships the guiding principle in our communications, no matter how powerful the technology may be. In the case of ad retargeting, offering additional quality content with real value for a limited period of time after a visit (like three days) would be a significant change in approach. Data is great if it is used wisely.

    I hope you will check out the book. It’s a fantastic read with great illustrations. The Tenacity5 team was thrilled to have worked on the project, and hope it makes a great impact on the PR business.