Trump’s Lesson for Communicators: Be Fast

November 8, 2018

For all the plays that President Donald Trump runs it might be speed more than strategy that gives the president his unique political edge. Even when he’s been beaten.

In the wake of a midterm thumping, Trump delivered another clinic in perception management and information warfare. By 8 a.m., he tweeted to House Democrats that he too could play the subpoena game. By noon, he was brawling with reporters. And by 4 p.m., he’d fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions and named his acting AG.

It was a withering barrage of threats, insults and dictates that, once again, the president’s detractors didn’t see coming. Perhaps they’d war-gamed their morning too. Perhaps they’d vetted and distributed their talking points. But never in the day’s news cycle were Democrats, justifiably delirious to have retaken the House of Representatives, ever first or on the front foot of the news making game. They were bested by the man they’d beaten the day before. And not because of the plays that Trump ran (pings, call outs and preempts, if you’re curious) but because of the velocity of his delivery (see graphic).

Of course Trump’s promise to fight investigations with investigations amounts to an abuse of power. Of course Trump’s rough handling of CNN’s Jim Acosta was the stuff of dictators. Of course his firing of Sessions suggests an illegal removal of Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But in the race to set the narrative, winners are usually better in two respects. First, they are the most entertaining. And, second, they are quickest out of the gate.

The scene reminded me of so many engagements where a better client with better people and better product gets bested by a lesser though quicker and more confident rival. It’s not scale or scope they lack. It’s time-to-know and time-to-go that confounds and usually kills them.

And that’s the thing: Donald Trump, barely hours after his most meaningful political defeat, won the communications game. He didn’t deserve to but his rivals were slow and he is, if anything, hard to ignore and always up early.

Post by Alan Kelly