Credibility is one of the most valuable assets a business, institution or an individual can have. That's why millions and millions of dollars are invested in public relations/community relations.
It's not just about getting the word out, but about building trust in that word.
The new administration is on the road to destroying whatever credibility it may have had with the public and the media. The new President already comes into his new job with the lowest public approval rating since polls began nearly 70 years ago. Last weekend should have been a time for him to use the pomp and circumstance to build credibility and pump up those approval ratings. And we know how important high ratings are to him.
Instead, in so many ways he squandered the opportunity that should have been a slam-dunk to win over more of the public.
It began with an uninspiring and dark inauguration speech, painting a bleak picture. It followed with provocative tweets contradicting what we had just witnessed with our own eyes... claiming no rain during his speech, crowds much larger than what pictures and our eyes showed, and telling us he has always had "great respect" for the intelligence community, blaming the “dishonest” media for a false impression despite very publicly calling them liars and shameful only a week earlier.
The President's surrogates -- his PR people -- only made it worse, further destroying credibility with statements directly contradicting what we had all seen and heard and then inventing a strange new term "alternate facts."
Facts are facts. Alternate facts are lies or falsehoods or, at best, partial truths and intentionally incomplete information.
The media are now doing their job, holding the President and White House to the same tough standards they've imposed on Presidents for decades, seeking truth and questioning inconsistencies. They were met with blistering attacks and threats by the Press Secretary and the President himself -- actions that only served to make the President look petty, worrying more about the size of his audience than real issues like reaching out to all sides, especially to his opposition, to mend fences and build credibility and solidarity.
If I were his advisor, here are some things I would have told him, based on 40 years in PR and a bit of common sense...
Tell the truth -- 1
Lies and cover-ups will be discovered. Check facts before you speak and consider having them written down so you don’t mistakenly misrepresent the facts. It’s ok to refer to notes.
Tell the truth – 2
Have your spokespeople also base their comments and statements on fact. We understand “spin,” but lies are not acceptable.
Stick to the script
Avoid off-the-cuff remarks, which risk veering way off-topic. In formal presentations, you’re just not a great improvisational speaker. Stick to your strengths.
Control your anger
Don’t let it come through in your remarks and tweets. It is self-defeating and makes you look small, petty and thin-skinned.
Have a professional prepare your tweets. If you feel you must write them yourself, do not tweet late at night. Do not tweet when you are angry or frustrated. You can draft tweets as a way to vent, but hold on them for a few hours, let advisors see them and edit before hitting “Post.”
You do not have to hit back at every criticism
As President, you are now fodder for criticism, second-guessing, jokes and parodies, just like all the others who have come before you in the White House. Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of you is pretty funny, but I can understand why you don’t like it. Your lower lip doesn’t jut out quite as much as Alec plays it, but remember, that’s what a parody is. SNL teased Obama about his ears, remember? Go with it or just ignore it. You are supposed to be bigger than that. If you tweet or comment about parodies, you only put the original parody into wider public view. If 3 million people see it live on SNL, that number easily doubles or triples after you tweet about it. So just let it go.
Make it less about You
I know, you’ve built your brand on you being the biggest, smartest, richest, best respecter of women, best respecter of the intelligence community, best supporter of “the blacks.” You won, so now make it about “us” – all of us, you and the American people together. C’mon, you can do it for a few years. Once you’re a former President, you can go back to “I’ and “Me”. That’s what your presidential museum will be about and here’s an idea – have Mexico pay for it.
So, Mr. President, those are a few tips, humbly offered.
Sorry Sir, what’s that?
Oh, I’m fired. That sounds like a statement I can believe with credibility.