I recently read a commentary in The Philadelphia Inquirer by Colleen Sheehan, a professor of politics at Villanova University. As a public relations professional, it struck at the very chord that’s been nagging me about all things Trump. Despite your politics or your opinion of the GOP frontrunner – you can’t discount his camp’s ability to dial directly into what moves an electorate so clearly dissatisfied with politics as usual. It’s a classic example of knowing your audience. Sheehan writes:
“Trump supporters do not fit easily into the categories that have traditionally defined Republican primary elections. They cross ideological, geographical, and religious lines. They are not even all Republicans; Trump is attracting a sizable number of independents and Democrats as well. However, while they represent a wide swath of the American population, they nonetheless are, on average, less educated and more lower and middle class than their more educated and wealthier anti-Trump counterparts. In essence, Trump voters are fairly ordinary people. They are pretty much Middle America.
“We know that Trump backers are tired of politics as usual and frustrated with the talking heads on TV, whether it be politicians or media pundits. While the heads yak, the nation declines.”
Know your audience. Devise a message that’s designed to support your brand goals and move the needle. Test and evolve – or, if it works, stay the course. Be consistent and relatable. It’s Communications 101. And it’s stunning, really, that no other candidate running for president has figured it out to the same degree as Donald Trump. And make no mistake, the message from Trump’s audience is loud and clear. Says Professor Sheehan:
“As for Trump’s supporters, their frustration is not just a passing fad. Neither is their goal, which is to reclaim their country and make it a safe and hospitable home again. And their message to establishment politicians is, if you won’t do it, we will.”
Of course, what remains to be seen is whether his depth of content (read: true leadership ability, policy matters, diplomacy, economic development, and so much more) really exists to support his overall message of “Make America Great Again.” In my world, a good headline is only as good as the product, service, vision or leader behind it.