By: Donald Smith
This election has been the one to break all molds and previous held theories for politics possible. The one I find myself mulling over the most though pertains to my future career, public relations.
In this election President-elect Donald Trump went through his campaign slashing
through anyone in his way. This list included celebrities who spoke out against him, his fellow Republican president nominees during the primaries, Democrat president
nominees, the media and many others. Here is a list New York Times made compiling all of the people, places and things Trump’s campaign insulted through Twitter. Along with his Twitter campaigning were PR catastrophes such as the feud with former Miss America Alicia Machado, when he appeared to mock reporter Serge Kovaleski who is diagnosed with arthrogryposis, or the latest video on his “locker room” talk about grabbing women.
Now, I am not here to bash Trump, although it may appear so. The reason I bring this up is because relationships are important for candidates running for elections, especially presidential elections. They are what help secure funding and votes. However, because of Trump’s list of trips and spills he caused alienation among Republican, women, minority and LGBQT voters. The alienation shows how Trump lost many relationships throughout his campaign. Yet, he still won, by a fairly large margin as well; 290 electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 228.
So, I am left wondering if public relations and relationships mattered in this campaign. Turns out they were essential, but in a strange mix of modern and classic ways. The classic aspect is we are going back to Phineas T. Barnum’s definition of public relations where any publicity is good publicity. Then the modern aspect is the use of Twitter and social-media’s impact on public perception.
Two months after Trump announced his campaign for presidency in August 2015 New York Times released an article showing his Twitter numbers. He had been mentioned in 6.3 million conversations, which was eight times as many as any other Republican candidate and three times as many as the Democratic candidates. Then he was retweeted more than twice as often as Clinton and 13 times more often than Jeb Bush. His Twitter account had 4.36 million followers. Then by October 2016 his Twitter account had 12.2 million followers, almost tripling in size.
Next, because social-media almost simulates an one-on-one conversation with those one follows, including celebrities who are usually thought to be far out of societal reach, it creates a feeling of intimacy with said people. This is where Trump excelled. Instead of trying to create a loose relationship with most Americans he created an intimate relationship with a strong core of Americans. And continued to increase this audience by creating a stir with his PR controversies to draw people’s attention. As stated earlier, any publicity is good publicity in this election.
Therefore, I reach the conclusion that not all relationships matter. At least not in this election. Then again this is the one election to flip all conventional beliefs on their head. The only way to tell would be to study elections with outcomes similar to this one.