Are We Being Trumped?
As a business tycoon (albeit with bankruptcy run-ins), Donald Trump has successfully translated himself to mass media mogul, and effectively branded himself (for better or worse), as “America’s CEO.” So, it actually makes sense that Donald Trump would throw his hat in the ring for the most public job in the world – U.S. President. But to those of us in the marketing business, Trump’s crack at a Presidential run looks more like a PR stunt than a legitimate candidacy. For the past two weeks, Trump’s soundbites and media appearances have dominated news shows, morning programs and social media. From his juicy rants about the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate and questioning Obama’s education to delaying his official decision to run until the next season of The Apprentice, Trump’s “political” platforms looks more like reality TV than reality.
In an actual business setting, Trump’s shenanigans would likely never be tolerated or celebrated; they would be mocked. Some of the world’s most successful CEOs – Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Howard Schultz – have gotten ahead by staying true to themselves, even bowing out when health scares or personal matters beckoned. True, they all have bold personalities and strong opinions, but never have they towed the line of crass. Take a quick glimpse at Trump’s most famous moments in the spotlight and you’ll find everything from extramarital affairs to verbal attacks against Rosie O’Donnell and Martha Stewart. Is this the stuff CEOs, let alone Presidents are made of? No, it’s the stuff of tabloids.
And therein lies the problem. America itself has made mud-slinging, profanity-spewing personalities into celebrities – a testament to the power of media and how fast it moves these days. As consumers, we eat it up and yearn for more. We place more weight on every last Tweet, headline or bad-angled photo we see than the aftermath of natural disasters, financial fallout and healthcare reform. And Donald Trump is the latest, if not most significant, display of America’s inability to recognize the difference between truth and hype.
As PR professionals, we’re often blamed for hyperbole in the name of increased attention and publicity. We know a good hook when we see one, and milk it for all it’s worth. It is a fact that PR is one of the best ways to build buzz for brands, companies and people. But when it comes to something as serious as running for President, we can’t help but wonder if Trump has crossed the line. Is Trump’s tactic good business or just plain poor taste?