Calling all puppeteers! In anticipation of the presidency of Donald Trump, there is an immediate need for talented string pullers, aka public relations professionals. Candidates must be skilled in discreet manipulation, the art used so masterfully to control the actions of Howdy Doody, the President-elect’s popular wooden doppelganger.
It is an unfortunate truth. Manipulating the actions of self-centered performers, executives and politicians is a standard role for the successful public relations counselor. As president of Greenbaum Public Relations for nearly four decades, I unapologetically admit to a dual responsibility. We diligently managed this hidden agenda in order to preserve relations with dozens of difficult clients. Simultaneously we have advanced hundreds of important causes and progressive programs. In my mind and experience, oftentimes the end does justify the means.
Both in principle and practice, our profession’s challenge is to identify and exploit the coincidence of private gain and public interest. It is a precarious act, to be sure — balancing the demands of ambitious, egotistical clients with the best interests of society. But because these seemingly competing concerns do produce mutually beneficial results, the extra-ordinary effort is justified. Society is bettered. Personal agendas are satisfied. And clients are retained.
Over the years, GPR’s most challenging clients have become our greatest opportunities. For example, we persuaded a very conservative and indecisive director of a top government agency to launch a statewide recycling campaign featuring a Disney-animated blue “spokesdinosaur” named Recycle Rex. On a national scale, we orchestrated an initiative to compel once-dismissive law enforcers, educators and parents across the country to acknowledge the severity of schoolyard bullying and tackle the escalating problem. And most recently, we’re educating short-sighted state political officials to recognize the long-range, all-inclusive goal of healthy, purposeful longevity.
Evident with each victory is the understanding that as much as they want power, leaders want to be popular. The more vainglorious the client, the easier they are to win over. Securing good publicity is a strategic advantage. Ensuring they receive recognition for all successes big and small is mandatory.
IT’S HOWDY DOODY TIME!
With due respect, P-E Trump presents every indication he is susceptible to professional public relations and its art of persuasion. This proclivity presents opportunities for marionettesque manipulation by agile advisors, allies and adversaries, alike. And why not?
All’s fair in politics and war, which is probably why it’s no coincidence that public relations tactics parallel those of The Art of War, the historic combat manual of the Chinese General Sun Tzu. Definitely consider these battle-tested instructions:
Know your opposition as well as you know yourself is the foundation of successful negotiations. Trump has mastered the concept, but that doesn’t mean he is impervious to its application. Ironically, he tends to telegraph his plans and expose his every desire.
Provide your opposition a way out, with some dignity. Trump is inclined to fight to the bitter end if he sees no respectable way out. Yet show him an honorable escape route to avoid likely defeat, one that allows for future co-existence, and he will astutely accept compromise.
More advantageous insights into President-elect Trump:
- Despite his bluster and dogma, Trump is malleable. He was a Manhattan liberal not that long ago. He is already showing signs of recalibrating his campaign positions on climate change, Obamacare, immigration, and the Clinton prosecution.
- Trump tends to extend respect to those who respect him. Public relations counselors learn to check their pride at the door. As noted, the end can justify the means. Conversely, confrontation triggers his ego, bullying and uncompromising resoluteness.
- Trump considers everything is a negotiation. He is quite comfortable testing extreme stances if only for shock value. Compromise is almost always an option, regardless of his initial offering.
- Though he doesn’t admit shortcomings, Trump does rely heavily on the advice – and independent validation — of a small cadre of trusted authorities. Learn to “play billiards instead of pool” and pursue these sources as an indirect route to influencing his decisions.
- Above all, Trump craves good publicity and the popularity it generates. Use traditional and social media to strategically place olive branches and plant seeds.
So, “Let’s give a rousing cheer, cause Howdy Doody’s here, it’s time to start the show, so kids let’s go!”