It was ‘the Sun wot won it’ in ‘92, but last year’s politics turned the media on its head, with unpredictable results from Brexit and across the pond in the Presidential elections.
Donald Trump romped to a shock victory in November and journalists across the world were left dumbfounded by the result; but should we really have been surprised? Trump is a shrewd businessman and though his campaign may have appeared erratic at times, he knows how to manipulate the media effectively, overshadowing Hilary Clinton with his ready-built social media following and a series of stunts, outrageous claims and soundbites guaranteed to generate enormous media coverage.
This was the first American election in years where newspaper endorsements had little effect on the outcome. According to a report by the Guardian, in partnership with Columbia Journalism Review, The Nieman Lab counted 360 titles that backed Hilary Clinton in the race for the White House, including the Dallas Morning News, which voiced its support for a Democratic candidate for the first time since 1940, and USA Today which endorsed its first Presidential candidate ever.
Trump was supported by just 11 publications, but it made little difference. In fact, the media’s willingness to attack Trump is thought to have turned many people towards him, with broadcast channels whipping up such a frenzy around the Trump campaign, they inadvertently gave him substantial coverage at a critical time. According to a study by mediaQuant, Trump benefited from the equivalent of more than $5 billion worth of free airtime from earned media. In return, television channels enjoyed a massive ratings spike – meaning Trump’s messages were front of mind for the American public when going to the polls.
As for social media; this was pivotal in directly communicating with Trump’s supporters, and his tweets are more popular than those of any other American politician. Whilst his aides revoked Tweeting rights during the final weeks of the campaign according to the New York Times, the appeal of Trump’s stream of consciousness, un-edited, often late-night views led to direct media coverage almost every morning of the campaign as he attacked people and organisations with outrageous statements.
If the election campaign has taught us anything, it’s that anything could happen next. Trump is explosive and unpredictable and his Presidency is likely to be the same, with far-reaching consequences.
Last week, we saw BuzzFeed publish an unverified and unsubstantiated report detailing potentially classified information. Trump responded in typical fashion, but really we must question what level we have come to when a platform can run such a potentially damaging, and as yet unfounded, report, just days before the inauguration of the next President, a day after the farewell speech of President Obama and just hours before Trump delivered a press conference to journalists and media outlets who have made no secret of their dislike for the President elect.
And his media strategy doesn’t just impact on international relations; a San Francisco-based tech company, Trigger, has just launched a special feature on an app that will alert traders to the President elect’s latest comments about publically-listed companies, based on which they can then trade, due to Trump’s potential to “eradicate billions of dollars in market cap from large companies.”
Shares in Toyota plummeted within minutes of a negative tweet from Trump in January, causing the company to lose more than $1 billion in value.
In many ways, last year showed us traditional media cannot influence politics and democracy in the ways it used to and social media is becoming increasingly important in connecting individuals and brands directly to their audiences. The media landscape is changing so it’s important to have a professional on your side when you’re navigating the journey – something we know more than a little bit about. We might not use Trump’s tactics to get you in the press, but get in touch today to find out how we can help your business generate great coverage – or avoid a crisis!