Staying on message: A basic PR lesson

You undoubtedly have heard the phrase, “stay on message.”  It is currently being used widely by the Republican leadership to advise Donald Trump who, it appears, will be the Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election.

What does this mean in terms of public relations, marketing and branding?  Or is it just a meaningless cliche?

In the world of politics, messaging is tested over and over again, day in and day out.  Pollsters and advisors want to know what issues resonate with certain segments of the public.  When the statistics fall in line, they advise the candidate to focus on those messages — at least in that State or to that group.

Trump is a different animal, it seems.  He speaks his mind to whomever, with some notable exceptions.  Lately, he has been going way, way off message by pounding a Federal judge hearing a case against Trump University.  While one would think capturing the presidency is foremost on his mind, he seems obsessed with this case, which he could afford to quietly settle and make it all go away.

So during precious airtime, when he could be delivering messages about the economy, foreign affairs and a million other issues that impact Americans’ lives, he spends it blasting the judge as being “unfair.”

This has not gone unnoticed by the Republication leadership who are screaming and yelling for him to stop with the judge and “stay on message.”  You only get to be president once, maybe twice in your life, and why squander the opportunity over a court case that is essentially meaningless to him.

But in the case of Donald Trump (our firm is apolitical and doesn’t do political consulting) it is obvious his emotions get the better of him and he simply can’t control his impulses.  When he gets angry, when he feels wronged, he lashes out.  And it is obvious he doesn’t care where the chips fall.

There is a lesson to be learned for all companies and organizations in this.  Staying on message means keeping focused and maintaining a connection between yourself, your organization and your audiences.  By wandering off message, for whatever reason, you are loosening or cutting that connection and losing the attention and support of your audience.

Find out what messages resonate with your target markets and audiences, and when you have opportunities to communicate to them, don’t waste those precious opportunities on trivial matters.