2017: A Year in the Upside Down (for PR and Crisis Communications)

Whatever one feels about the Trump Presidency and its impact on America, one thing appears to be true: the rules on PR and crisis communications have been seemingly overturned, and seasoned communications executives can be forgiven if they can’t quite grasp what is happening.

Since he began running for office, and since his inauguration, Mr. Trump has been involved in an unending—literally, almost daily—streak of what just a couple of years ago would have been career-ending PR implosions for any politician or businessperson.

Credible accusations of sexual harassment and assault? Check. Insulting and denigrating entire classes of people and cultures? Check. Repeatedly spouting proven untruths (OK, lies)? Check. If Ronald Reagan was the “teflon” president, Donald Trump must be the—well, what’s a better non-stick analogy than teflon?

Crisis communications practice would tell you that any one of these used-to-be-missteps would require a swift apology, acknowledgment of responsibility, and promises to never to let it happen again. Don’t hold your breath waiting for any of those from Mr. Trump. One can complain about this attitude, but one cannot argue with its success. Sure, his approval ratings are at historic lows. But, true to form, he doesn’t seem to care about appearances.

From a societal point of view, the concern is that every political or business leader would adopt this practice. The end result would not be pretty, as bad behavior would have zero consequences. That’s not how societies improve.

The good news, so far, is that other political and business leaders do not yet appear to have followed Mr. Trump’s lead in this particular attitude. Nor are their personal brands so seemingly immune from self-reflection or responsibility. If the president has no sense of restraint, it appears most of the rest of the nation still does.

Even if it seems we’re in the Upside Down, most of us are still right side up.


About Richard Wells

The Wellynn Group provides senior level counsel in marketing, communications, and public affairs. Hey, and we're nice people, too.
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