Post Trump trauma: A lesson in the power of perceived authenticity?




Neil Bayley

Trump has got at least one thing right. His victory represents ‘Brexit times ten’. For the world’s only superpower to take such a punt on a brash billionaire with no political experience and an underdeveloped policy agenda is politically, economically and culturally seismic.

Given how few people predicted Trump’s election, the day of his victory is probably not the time to look at silver linings for the UK, but I think there may be some.

Trump and his advisors will now move to moderate many of his positions. But Trump is still Trump and he is nothing if not unpredictable. During the campaign, he raised fundamental questions over the viability of NATO while talking about cosying up to Russia. European allies, especially those in the East, are likely to be in a state of heightened worry now that he has been elected to office.

The UK’s position, as one of NATO’s principal powers, provides it with the opportunity to act as a much needed interlocutor between the USA and the rest of the alliance, while reassuring European allies of its own steadfast commitment to NATO. Not only does this afford the UK a proactive foreign policy role post-Brexit, but much-needed leverage in Brexit negotiations; trading British security support and expertise in exchange for backing for its aim to maximise access to the European market combined with a creative mechanism to limit free movement. Post-Brexit, the UK will also explore the anglophile Trump’s assertion that the UK would be at the front of the queuewhen it comes to any future Free Trade Agreement.

UK business needs to get in front of ministers if it is to influence the Prime Minister’s overall negotiating stance. The recent Nissan deal demonstrated that the Government is sensitive of the need to be talking to business, but also delivering on economic and commercial opportunities with the support of business.

If nothing else, Trump’s election, like the Brexit Referendum before it, provides corporate communicators with one all-important lesson. Authenticity in communications has almost become a buzzword. It is said that Trump’s ex-wife, Ivana, suggested an alternative slogan for his campaign: “You think it, I say it.” The dog whistle, implicit or explicit, is one that many find ugly and objectionable. But Trump’s seemingly unchecked outbursts are calculated to have garnered him $4.8 billion in earned media coverage. While he outraged many, there was, as it turns out, a greater amount of people who considered what he had to say as refreshing, unspun and ultimately believable.

Since the financial crisis, the public has lost much confidence in business, (as well as mainstream politicians). True authenticity in communications can’t be achieved through nice words, however articulately written or spoken. It must come from communicating core truths about a purpose or proposition which consumers can recognise themselves to be true. Only then can business build and maintain public confidence, engagement and thence market share. Perhaps that is what one of the world’s foremost business personalities has just proved to the political world?

For more information on Good Relations and corporate and public affairs, please contact Neil Bayley: 

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