It’s going to be interesting over the next few months to watch the battle
between President-elect Donald Trump and mainstream news media.
It could be a tipping point for news companies, because whether you like the man
or not, he makes some valid points about reporters. Journalists are incredibly hard to control – most say even impossible. If you want to challenge news companies you need well-honed media skills and deep pockets to sustain the battle. We know Trump has the money, but he’s proven time and again he finds it difficult and often even impossible to manage reporters effectively.
Donald Trump is however the kind of guy to have a substantial impact on the way the public regards media, and on the resulting trickledown effect it could have on the media industry. He’s intelligent, driven, and assertive, many even argue overly aggressive. It takes confidence, courage, and a thick skin to go head to head with a reporter, let alone the reporter’s entire news agency.
Trump recently cancelled at the last minute a meeting scheduled with the New York Times because he claims “they” changed the rules. The NY Times however tells a different story.
As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Trump was scheduled to meet with the NY Times on November 22, 2016. When his people called shortly before the meeting insisting that the meeting be “off the record” the NY Times said, sorry, no. Everything you say will be fair game.
That’s how it works in a democratic society. In the past it was fully expected that media’s purpose was to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” although many argue that today it is no longer the case.
Pollsters already claim most people do not trust reporters or news companies, so for Trump, raging against media is a pretty safe argument to make, and also an opportunity to use a basic compliance strategy to have the public agree with you and support your cause. All Trump basically did was pick the public side of a contentious issue and argue for it with the conviction that his word would be the last word. Trump has trouble one-on-one with reporters, but he’s brilliant at using compliance to manage crowds. He is after all, a successful promoter who knows how to sell tickets to a Mike Tyson heavyweight match and to showrooms in his now bankrupt Atlantic City casinos.
Even less people will trust media if reporters allow
themselves to be censored by the people they interview.
Compliance works like this – to use a very simplistic example;
I say “Nice day.” You can’t help but agree and say “Yes.” I then say “Beautiful blue sky.” Once again, you agree and say “Yes, it is.” I then say “I’m warm, are you?” By this time you think, ‘wow we seem to have a lot in common,’ so you say, “Yes!” That’s three yes’s in a row, and while you’re innocently “complying with me,” the fourth question will be something like, “I think all this stuff about global warming is right. Don’t you agree?” Bingo! Odds are many people will say YES, even though it might not be their true feeling.
Basically, pick a favorite argument you know a lot of people will agree with and leverage it for your own benefit. i.e., Yes! The media is untrustworthy. Trump says so, I say so and coincidentally according to Gallup, so do almost 60% of people in North America. It feels great to be on a winning team!
Always keep in mind there is a big difference between delivering a message to news media as a spokesperson, and actually convincing news media to report a story the way you want it told. Reporters love to report a spokesperson’s controversial ideas and inadvertent sound bites because they creates headlines. It’s easy, but that’s not the definition of managing news media. The hard part is getting a reporter to publish your ideas in a nonpartisan way when they don’t necessarily agree with what the spokesperson is saying. It’s up to the spokesperson to convince the reporter to share his or her idea with the news company’s audience, which is quite hard to accomplish, but not impossible if you’ve had training and know what you’re doing. You need the benefit of experience and practice to do it effectively.
At the end of the day President-elect Trump is right. The news media are hard to manage, but if you think you can go toe to toe with news companies the way The Donald does you’re in for a scary ride. Yes, it’s possible the pressure Trump is putting on news media will eventually have a long term positive effect for the public in general. As a result of him attacking reporters so aggressively everyone is now paying way more attention than ever. It’s deceiving though, and a big mistake to think your power and Trump’s are similar. Do you really want to mimic his behavior and risk being another of media’s sacrificial lambs?
You’ll need more than luck if you want to go down that road, but if you decide to take on news media, we should talk so you at least have an idea of what you’re up against. It’s probably not what you think. Nothing ever is.
Thanks so much for reading.
I’m Jeff Ansell, be well.
P.S. If you’re wondering what happened re the NY Times interview, Trump
caved and did it “On the Record.” Smart man. Good bluff though.