With the results of the presidential election shocking pollsters and voters in the United States, Trump seemed to go against what PR practitioners would advise their clients to say and do. Because of his success, many PR practitioners can’t help but wonder if this will have an impact on the future of PR in politics.
I feel as though Trump is an anomaly regarding the standard practices that PR practitioners have developed over the years, yet it is possible that his example may repeat itself in politics, either on a local or national level.
Trump has essentially destroyed previous notions of what constitutes a successful PR campaign and how to handle on-air blunders that quickly turn into crisis situations. In Trump’s campaign all press was considered to be good press; that statement isn’t true in most other circumstances.
Possibly due to his experience in the entertainment industry, Trump was able to get the news cycle to constantly revolve around him; he was able to hijack any news cycle and center the spotlight on himself as other news was forced into the background and completely overshadowed.
Whether this was intentional or not, Trump managed to perfectly play into what mainstream media (or rather news sources) focuses on when publishing news articles for their viewers and readers. Most newspapers haven’t effectively transitioned from traditional newspapers to online distribution.
As PR practitioners we strive to use metrics as the beginning to successfully implement business plans or campaigns. With newspapers, however, they’ve become almost entirely focused on metrics and click bait articles that garner the most user engagement, because that’s how their digital pay model is transitioning into.
This isn’t the newspapers fault, depending on what media theory you look at. What the news reports could be considered the consumer’s fault. In the uses in gratification phenomena, “instead of being used by media, audiences actively select from among media to gratify their needs” (Borchers 56). Basically this phenomena states that we’re only going to use or watch particular media if it interests us, teaches us, or gratifies our needs in some way.
Another theory dealing with media is the cultivation theory, which explains that media helps create our social reality because what we see on television or new media has an impact on us. Trend’s and people’s values rub off on us, but in this theory it’s a “chicken or the egg” kind of viewpoint: do we have the power to control what the media deems newsworthy, or does the media have the power to control what kind of content is distributed?
There’s also the agenda-setting theory, which ascribes to the idea that the media is the one with the power and influences what we talk about/where our focus should be. With multiple online sources touting the same information, we immediately assume that information is true and factual. Because of the way content is distributed online, it can also cause mass reactions from the viewing population, which can be dangerous due to large amounts of people acting on a whim without proper fact-checking.
These trends and theories contribute to the idea that the media is shifting what is shows viewers during a news cycle. They also show that we as a population have shifting ideals in what we want to view in the news cycle. Media is also forced to adapt to this shift because of its focus on metrics and engagement rates as an effective revenue model. As a result of all of these things, Trump might either be an anomaly and nothing will change, or he will have a major impact on the future of PR in politics if the media and the general population continue to trend in the way that they currently are.