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Is there anyone out there? Communications in the age of Trump

31st January 2017

US Chief Client Officer, Danica Ross considers the challenges – and opportunities – of communication in the age of Trump.

If you’re looking for a political rant, you can stop reading now. This piece will neither lambast nor laud the Trump administration. That’s not why I’m writing today. Rather, I’m writing to discuss an important issue facing our profession this month – how to do our jobs.

Around Jan. 15 the laments started pouring in from teams around the Grayling network, “we can’t get anyone to write, they’re all focused on the inauguration.”

My esteemed colleague, and ex-pat from London, Jon Meakin calls this (or used to) the “Queen Mum effect.” Quite simply, when the Queen mum dies (which she eventually did), you can give up on getting your client/product covered. It just isn’t going to make the news cycle.

Well of course, that’s what started happening here. The cycle was dominated by inauguration. Even reporters with beats far afield from politics or the issues were either writing about it or so personally consumed by it they weren’t really reachable.

But here’s the rub: This hasn’t changed post inauguration, or post women’s march, or post hearings. We are into week two of the new administration and the news continues to be dominated in a way I’ve not seen in my nigh on 20 year career. 9/11, the Boston Marathon, Trayvon Martin – they came close. But the magnitude and duration of the media preoccupation with those events doesn’t hold a candle to what we’re witnessing now.

The obvious question is: How do you cut through? But a less obvious, and more important question is, should you cut through?

Whether you’re still with her, or want to make America great again, are pro-life or pro-choice, pro-healthcare reform or pro-immigration reform – there is no denying, we are at an historic moment. As the fifth estate, our partners in the media have no greater calling than to help us navigate this moment in time.

So maybe we shouldn’t be trying to jam product stories down their throats. Maybe we should all back off and let them focus on writing history.

A noble idea, but where would that leave us with our clients? Certainly not at a standstill.

Communications is so much more than media pitching. It’s platform building, social strategy, content marketing, branding, employee engagement… the list goes on. If we’re to cool our heels with our media relations, there are a multitude of critical services we can provide to our clients. Services which, frankly, too often get shortchanged in favor of rapid response media pitching.

The time has come for us to accept that the media landscape has, for the foreseeable future, changed. Willing ears are fewer and farther between. Now, more than ever, we must choose our touchpoints with reporters carefully – so as to provide real value and not damage relationships. And let’s embrace this opportunity – the luxury of time to focus on the other more labor intensive aspects of communications that too often get shunted aside, but are critical to truly successful campaigns.

Grayling Team

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