White House news “gaggle” block, good political PR or unprecedented PR disaster?

Today the White House held a “gaggle,” journalist lingo for an informal news briefing, but didn’t invite CNN, The New York Times, L.A. Times and other news organizations.  In the five weeks that President Trump as been President Trump, he has made the media his enemy.  Is this a good PR move for the White House?

While this blog is not political in any way, it is an extremely rare occurrence for a president of the United States to purposely block providing information to major news outlets, even though they can get it from other sources.  Press secretary Sean Spicer tried to explain the move as a news pool — where a limited number of media are briefed and they share it with others.  That is not unusual, but this is.  There are literally thousands of news outlets in American and tens of thousands around the world, and the White House can’t fit them all into a room.  So there is a selection process.

However, President Trump is on another campaign, and it is not to “build a wall” or to “lower taxes” or to “repeal and replace Obamacare.”  His campaign is to attack the media, and rally his supporters to this cause.

I think back to my days in journalism school.  We learned that the media don’t always get it right; often have an agenda; are often sloppy; and almost always are critical of the president.  And most presidents don’t like the media because they tend to focus on the negative.  But even Richard Nixon, who was legendary in his disdain of the media, didn’t go so far as to bar major media from news briefings.

It’s been said that Donald Trump is at his best when he is campaigning against someone or something.  He beat 17 Republicans for the nomination and one major Democrat to win the presidency.  He talks about the great things he is going to do for the country, and hopefully they will happen, but he has lost what really gets him going — someone or something to attack.

He has found it in the media, and hopefully it is a passing phase.

It will just be curious who is next.


Trump’s public relations strategy. Brilliant or disastrous?

Since I am essentially apolitical, I can’t comment on President Donald Trump’s political savvy.  But I can comment on his public relations and media savvy.

For decades, Donald Trump has made it a point to be in the media.  If it wasn’t a whirlwind marriage, or divorce, or a new skyscraper, or a new product, show or whatever, it was a regular appearance on the David Letterman show and countless other programs.

It is obvious Trump craves attention and PR.  Oddly, he doesn’t seem to care if the PR he gets is positive or negative.  If it is positive, he will re-tweet it.  If it is negative, he will attack the person or news organization that reported it.

It is clear his voracious need for media attention propelled him into the White House.  Maybe it was an accident, maybe it was a grand plan.  In either event, it worked.

The president of the United States is the most watched and reported person in the world.  His every word, every action, every nuance is recorded.  He can cough at the wrong time during a speech and send the financial markets into a spin.

One would think that a president would want a good relationship with the media.  John Kennedy was a master media manipulator.  He loved his news conferences and the press repaid him by keeping his secrets secret.  Richard Nixon hated the media and they virtually ran him out of the White House with relentless Watergate reporting.

In office a mere two weeks, it is clear Trump marches to his own beat.  He doesn’t care.  If he isn’t attacked, he attacks first.  He seems to relish a good fight and will often raise issues nobody is talking about and nobody cares about.  He just wants the attention.

It is a very strange strategy for someone like myself who has spent a lifetime working to curry favor with the media.  I want the press to like my clients and to report favorably about them.  Negative press is never good, in my view, but not in President Trump’s.

We will have to just wait and see if the friction between President Trump and the White House press corp. is a fluke or a permanent reality.  If it continues for months, it will continue throughout his presidency, and for Donald Trump, that may be just the way he wants it.