Sure you don’t like Trump (or maybe you do), but you must admit there is much to learn from what he does and how he goes about doing it. After all, didn’t he prove almost everyone wrong by trooping into the Whitehouse? Tell you what, there is enough you can learn from Donald in the arena of what I call ‘combative communication’. Make no mistake, it was such a form of communication that got Donald into the White House. Mark my words, this combat will continue. It is what will keep Donald in the news, and on the top of the publicity charts. So in all fairness, it’s worthwhile to watch and listen to the current POTUS and learn.
Here are 5 principles of ‘combative communication’ I’ve gleaned from Donald Trump’s electoral and other successes. So the next time you are in a business or a brand battle, knowing these principles of combative communication will stand you in good stead, and will probably be the reason why you, your brand, or your business will come out on top. Note the caveat. Combative communication is only relevant when it is time for battle, so use it wisely and sparingly. Remember, you need more allies than enemies in the world of business and beyond.
Combative Communication Principles.
1. Read the context
Before going into battle, decipher the circumstances that will form the backdrop to your taking up arms. Ditto for communiques used in business battles. Read the circumstances or the context from both sides, yours and your opponent’s. Figure what got the other party to the point of battle. Decipher the wave you’re riding. Then ensure your battle cries are aligned to your ‘favourable circumstances. Donald did this to perfection. He tapped into the circumstances that propelled him into the battle spot better than, first his republican rivals during the primaries, and later during the presidential battle. The angst among conservatives and others was best read by Donald. It’s no wonder then, almost every agenda item he talked about struck a deep chord with his supporters, and even fence-sitters.
2. Re-frame the context
Aligning your communiques to the battle context should be the first act. Once that’s done, step into opposition territory and reframe the context that is working for your opponent. Once Trump was done with the primaries, he moved into Hillary space. He reframed Hillary’s circumstances via communiques that pointed out Hillary was where she was due to the elites and the establishment. Pretty soon, most people started to see Hillary in a new light. That ‘new light’ was courtesy Donald reframing his opponent’s context to suit him.
3. Pin labels
Once the context is reframed, start pinning labels to your opponents. Do it quick, so the labels make perfect sense. Keeping the establishment and elite interference as the backdrop, Trump pinned labels in a tearing hurry. Hillary was painted as ‘crooked’. Bernie was called ‘crazy’. CNN became the ‘Hillary Channel’ and so on. All of those worked big time. Guess why? ‘Cos Donald had framed and reframed the context to ensure the labels made perfect sense. Even at the primaries, Donald pinned labels all around. Remember ‘little Marco’ and ‘Lying Ted’. Now you may think of the labels as unfair, but guess what? They worked!
4. Reinforce labels
Labels work as long as the association between the bearer and the label is fresh in the minds of viewers and listeners. So the rule is to reinforce. Donald kept at it through the whole campaign, and continues even now. Remember the latest Press conference? Donald reinforced the ‘fake news’ label pinned on CNN via repetition, and just so there’s no fatigue amongst listeners to the labels, he tweaked it to ‘very fake news’. A possible opponent in Elizabeth Warren brings out the ‘Pocahontas’ label, one Trump had picked for her a while ago.
5. Dig in
Dig in for the long hard run at battle. Meaning, the war’s looming. Make no mistake. Liberals hate Trump. They will do everything to bring him down. The truth is, there is no middle ground on issues such as immigration, security, religious liberty, abortion, government control and so on. There won’t be any common ground with liberals. So dump all talk of bringing people together. That’s just wishful thinking. Also remember, the Alinsky schooled former President, Barack, is still hanging around. So the threat of ‘war’ is real. I think Trump sees that, and my gut tells me he will keep fighting. He will combat via his communiques and other means. Just like in politics, business battles too last a long time. So taking the eye off the battlefield assuming all is at rest is a sure-fire recipe to disaster. So businesses and brands must dig in for the long run.
What Donald Trump has done, is doing, and will do are lessons to learn from. For business, and for brands. So tune in, keep watching, and learn.