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.

    Six for Six

    Day 71 - Dreidl Die
    Image by slgckgc

    Next Monday marks the six year anniversary of my first blog post. As I’m blogging less these days, I decided my final post of this year with six reflections based on my experiences over these years. Here are my observations about social media, blogging and marketing based on my journey:

    1) The Idealism of Better Business Through Social

    When I began blogging, I believed in The Cluetrain Manifesto. Its raw message that businesses would be forced to act better thanks to social media spoke to me. Cluetrain inspired hope that conversations could change the very fiber of business in favor of people. I was full of passion for that change, and my first book Now Is Gone reflected this idealism.

    Continue reading

    Fixes for Three Lousy PR Pitches

    pitch
    Image by Melvin Schlubman

    We all know how bad the state of media/blogger relations is: Bad pitches abound! But there are some pitches that are worse than others, and as a blogger for the past six years, my in box has become littered with them.

    Here are three that all too common, and some suggestions to improve them another:

    1) The XXX Blogger Already Wrote About It Pitch

    This one is really annoying. It usually comes from someone you know in a passing manner, or is a cold pitch from a PR person. It goes something like this:

    “Hey Geoff. I was hoping you would write about xxxx. Joe Schmo (or Mary Doe) already wrote about it here: (INSERT URL). So you should, too.”

    OK, let’s make that Super Annoying. If another blogger already wrote about it, why would I? Seriously, and beyond that, it’s insulting to infer that because x A Lister covered a story I should kowtow and follow suit (with a schmoozy link, too).

    DELETE!

    Suggestion: Provide some sort of unique angle or information that will make my story somewhat unique.

    2) The Pre-Written Pitch with Added Fields

    This one is the best, a result of publishing an eponymous blog. Invariably, it reads something like this: “Hey Geoff, we were hoping you would feature our new Facebook application in Geoff Livingston.”

    I wasn’t aware I could feature an application inside of me.

    DELETE!

    Suggestion: Stop using email programs to send your pitches. If you don’t have time to do this and reach your full list, cultivate a smaller list so it is must have contacts instead of a list of bloggers.

    3) The “We’re So Awesome!” Pitch

    This pitch features exaggerated facts, hyperbole and a wonderful amount of pomposity and clichéd buzz words:

    “As the leading provider of wireless widgets (which were awarded the greatest on earth by J.D. Power & Associates), Acme helped save 799,291 lives through $1 donations as part of its service.”

    Of course this means I should absolutely write about said company. Um, no.

    DELETE!

    Suggestion: Stick to straight up facts. Instead of talking about how great your company is, talk about the relevant issue that I write about, and how your company fits into the puzzle.

    What are some of your favorite bad PR pitches?

    Journalists, PR Pros and Bloggers, Oh My!

    by Jeremy Pepper

    Lion

    The past month had two interesting data points on content: ProPublica noted that public relations professionals now outnumber journalists 3:1, which is changing the face of journalism. Then the FCC noted that the dearth of local journalism is, well, hurting journalism and local communities (a nice overview off the stories and the story is here).

    Neither of these stories are surprising: the death of local stories has been happening for the past 10 years; it has less to do with the economy but more to do with the profit margins of the large media conglomerates – who are in business to make their shareholders (and owners) money. Picking up a local paper in the past five years, the steady decline of coverage – both local and of importance – is obvious and quite sad.

    With journalism becoming a weakening industry, though, the obvious switch to public relations from journalism makes sense. Public relations has this aura of being a well-paying field, and that people still get to work with journalism and journalists in telling a story, and sometimes you get to change and help the world. While thought of as the dark side, there is value in the public relations world to get a story told.

    What both these big stories ignore is the growth of the local website – Patch, et al – and the growth of the bloggers. Are PR professionals just outnumbering traditional journalists, or is that taking into account the growth of local media and blogs? Is the dearth of local journalism affecting the world, or has social media changed journalism so much that people no longer want differing opinions but only want to see similar opinions and viewpoints to show that “yes, I’m right!!” That narcissistic world-view is already amplified (and helped) by Facebook and Twitter streams – note that most people only friend and follow those with similar opinions, so the middle tends to get drowned out and disenfranchised as the right and left noise becomes overbearing.

    The fact is that local journalism is hurt by the profit motive in journalism – but oddly enough, it’s not easier for people to hide the crisis because of the growth of the local social media person digging for the stories. Without social media, would the Representative Weiner story broken so quickly and so fast? But on the flip side, without the traditional, local journalists, stories like the Bell, California corruption scandal would likely never come to light.

    The question for what is good for the public is becoming amplified with the army of PR people out there to hide the story for clients, and the lack of local journalism to uncover the dirt. Are the next Woodward and Bernstein going to be bloggers, or is there immediately going to be a call of bias because it won’t be the middle, but left attacking right and right attacking left?

    That is the future of both public relations and local journalism: content. Both are going to be pushing to produce as much local content as possible to get results and be known as news, but it won’t be real news but product of our cult of personality culture that is ignoring or blind to the real big stories.

    # # #

    Jeremy Pepper has been writing about public relations and social media since July 2003, and is a 15-year veteran of public relations. You can learn more about him here, or watch his rants on Twitter. He also has grandiose plans to launch a food blog and aggregate all his content at jspepper.tv.

    What ARE Influencers Good For?

    Towed Out to Sea

    The influencer hype bubble overvalues the role of popular digital voices in an online marketing program. Influencer attention can’t sustain a community over the long term, and using them often fails to produce strength of online community and actual business measurements. Rather than producing another post deconstructing the influence model, let’s try to take an objective look at what influencers can and cannot lend to an organization’s communications program.

    It’s important to understand what influencers achieve in the larger social context. For the most part that consists of bursts of attention, and a perception of validity. In essence, this is the online version of media relations: Earned social mentions creating an aura of credibility.

    Just like the traditional PR world, this tactical choice has its limitations. Mostly, it simply creates a word of mouth opportunity that needs to be backed by an actual product and service that a real pre-existing community likes. In addition, if deployed in an advisory role, influencers (the trusted servant kind, not the personal brands) can serve as a barometer for how a community will respond to an initiative.

    Conversely, influencers don’t create the day-to-day participation and conversation necessary over long periods of time to develop and sustain a community. They can’t create valuable content for your stakeholders — unless you’re willing to sponsor full time bloggers. Influencers don’t manage communities and distributed networks of loyalists in such activities as crowdsourcing. Finally, influencers don’t produce the business outcomes that a loyal community delivers when it has embraced a symbiotic two way relationship.

    A tow boat can only take a freighter out to sea, but if the actual ship is not sea-worthy it will sink with or without the tow. Similarly, influencers can only draw attention to something, but they can’t make a business, cause or idea succeed over the long term. Far from it. Let’s take a look using a familiar and recent case study.

    Quora’s Mountain of Hype

    Quora Traffic Post Influencer Bubble

    As you can see by the above chart, the excitement over Quora has slowed down after the Silicon Valley influencer-driven bubble that started during the holiday season. It’s also interesting to note the drop in traffic preceded recent criticism and squabbles about Quora from that same Silicon Valley influencer community. Arguably the debates have given the site small, barely noticeable spikes. However, Quora’s overall traffic has increased since November, indicating the social network has successfully retained a minority of its new users.

    The post-influence bubble decrease in traffic occurred because many found Quora’s product to be less interesting than advertised (and somewhat misrepresented as a blogging service). The spike featured industry specific conversations, and did not offer a broader consumer or cross-sector appeal. In essence, the influencers served as trade press, creating an echo chamber, but one that failed to compel non-insiders.

    The higher plateau post influencer attention shows that Quora was able to retain some people who like question-based and information wiki-like products online. This can be credited to the preexisting community that had already seeded many questions and served as moderators. In actuality, the site was already growing in traffic naturally without the influencer bubble. The newly retained traffic after the influencer spike may have hastened Quora’s growth, but not by anything more than a few months.

    Similar to an advisory board’s role, the usage created public feedback about problems with Quora, from its wonky interface and geekiness to popularity based answers as well as questionable moderation and editing. In some cases, influencers complained about censorship and their posts disappearing. Quora will need to respond and address these serious flaws if it hopes to become anything more than a niche community.

    All in all, using the tow boat analogy, Quora has been brought to sea, but there are serious questions about its sea worthiness. The ship labors off the coast.

    The influence bubble brought great attention, but Quora did not fully capitalize on the opportunity. It also needs to get beyond the confines of the Silicon Valley influencer circle and generate a much broader series of topical questions and answers if it intends to become a mass market success. It should be noted that there’s no business model in place to monetize, and given the large influx of traffic, this too can be considered a lost opportunity.

    Conclusion

    While Quora was “discovered,” its experience serves as the perfect example of the positives and limitations of influencers. As such, it should serve as an example of what to use influencers for… And what they cannot offer in the context of larger marketing programs that include product marketing, broader public relations efforts, advertising, as well as additional Internet marketing and tactics.

    As for Quora itself, the question-based social network has work to do, but it still has business value, and should be monitored by professionals. Keep in mind that overall, in spite of the spike, traffic is still increasing.

    What do you think an influencer’s role is in an online program? Does Quora have what it takes to make it?

    P.S. Quora users seem uninterested in the question, “What are online influencers good for?