Trump vs. the Press: A losing media strategy

Farr Marketing Group is apolitical. We don’t endorse or criticize political candidates.  But I found it interesting when presumptive Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a news conference to showcase the funds he said he raised for veterans.

Into the presser, it was clear that while he listed the veterans’ charities that he said received $5.6 million in donations due to his efforts, the real purpose of the news conference was to lambast the news media for their coverage of him and his campaign.  Most presidents have a love/hate relationship with the news media.  They love receiving credit when credit is due, and hate being criticized when things go wrong.  Most people are the same, it’s just that when it comes to the president, the stakes are much higher.

Donald Trump obviously doesn’t like being criticized and he made it very clear “game on” in his press battle.  For most of his career he has shot back at anybody and everybody who dare offer a critical word of him.  So this is nothing new.  The issue is that he is running for president and being at war with the media is not a very smart strategy for a successful presidency (if it comes to that).

It’s hard to image presidential-media relations at a lower point than during Richard Nixon’s Watergate era tenure.  When Watergate was the only thing the press wrote about, regardless of what Nixon did, he almost had a public breakdown.  It was out front and personal when Nixon was filmed pushing press secretary Ron Ziegler towards the media at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention, implying Ziegler needed to get rid of them.  I remember seeing the footage as a journalism student and feeling sorry for the humiliation Ziegler endured.

Trump seems to have thicker skin and more experience dishing it out and taking it.  But if the ultimate goal of a president is to get his/her agenda through congress and approval by the American public, then being at war with the media is not the way to do it.  They will just hate everything he does, because his presidency is no longer about policy.  It’s personal.

Love or hate Trump, it’s clear he is not stupid.  And his “let the chips fall where they may” attitude seems to be working for his candidacy.

Our firm is not advising the Trump campaign.  But if we were, we’d suggest that Donald Trump, who seems to not take advice for anyone, take a look down the road should he become president.

To be hammered day in and day out, minute in and minute out by the press, is not a smart presidential strategy.


The PR-Marketing dilemma. To take the client or not

We get lots of calls from nonprofit organizations asking us to be their PR firm. While the lifeblood of any consulting business is having a full client load, over the years we have learned that it is preferable to turn down a client than enter into a bad client relationship.

What’s a bad client relationship?  It’s simply a client that we can not make happy.  Or, it’s a client that we don’t wholeheartedly agree with.

After decades in the PR business, we can pretty much tell from a first conversation if we can make a client happy.  First, if the organization tells us about their many former PR firms that they fired because they were “no good,” that is a red flag.  Or, if the client starts rattling off the media outlets they expect to be on in the first month, we often will try to bring them down to earth.  If we can’t, we politely say we’re not a right fit.

Client relationships are like a marriage.  Once the contract is signed, we take the relationship seriously and work hard to perform.  We don’t like to fail, and rarely do, mainly because we don’t take clients when we know we can’t succeed.

Honestly, this surprises some organizations who call.  They immediately assume every PR firm will jump at the chance to represent them, after all, they are willing to pay a fee.  We like being paid, but not if our reputation is at stake.

For every client we accept, we turn away one.  That’s about the ratio.  We’re not picky or difficult to work with.  We’re easy.  We just want our clients to win, and we want to get them there.  It doesn’t do us or them any good if we can’t meet their expectations.

So while we are careful what clients to accept, clients should be equally careful what PR firm to hire.  You want a firm with skills, and a passion for your cause.  If they’re just in it for the money, our suggestion is find another firm to represent you.