I was sat in the back of a taxi in Washington DC recently, listening to my driver Kwaku slate Donald Trump for his politics but celebrate him for his ability to communicate. Whilst I also believe that Trump's beliefs are pretty insane, Kwaku got me thinking: what if we could learn something from 'The Donald's' incredible rise to presidency?
Let's ignore the politics (Trump certainly does!) and focus on the methods. We have got something to learn from this billionaire property tycoon who has gone from 'You're fired' meme to arguably the most powerful man in the world. Here's how he does it.
1. Timing is everything
Trump had actually considered running for presidency from 2000, and even set up executive political committees within his organisation to explore the possibility. But he didn't have the widespread public support at the time - or the social conditions that led people to consider drastic political change - to make it happen. So he waited nearly 16 years until the conditions were right (unstable racial relations, social media influence at its peak, and his own growing interest in politics) and he actually had a chance at winning. One of those conditions was the arrival of Twitter as a thing, and a growing number of tweeters calling for him to run.
Apply this to our own communications as business owners and there are valuable lessons here: when is the most appropriate time to post something on social media, make that call, have that meeting? The most appropriate time being when we are most likely to be heard, and we are in the frame of mind and power position to put across a compelling case.
2. Know your audience
Regardless of what Trump is saying, he knows EXACTLY who he is speaking to: a lower class, white, male and nationalist populace who feel voiceless and powerless in the current political landscape. Where do they hang out? Twitter (it seems) and rallies. And what do they need to hear? That their America will be great again, and their identity will be preserved above all others. Massively disagree with the sentiment, but Trump has his audience to a tee with what they need to hear and where they will hear it. That is why he garnered so much support and got elected; he understood that there was a voting population that wasn't represented by current political candidates and exploited that.
We can apply this to our own businesses: all communication is designed to provoke action in some way - use my services, buy my stuff, read my blog etc. So you need to understand your audience, what makes them tick and where they will hear your message to ensure you a) get heard and b) will act upon what you are saying.
3. Clarity of message
I have never EVER watched one of the big DT's rallies but I know exactly what he is about: make America great again, build a wall and - more recently - 'send her back'. Deceptively simple statements that encompass his politics of divide and conquer, American economic superiority and nationalism.
As antagonistic as these messages are, they are clear, simple and beautiful sound bites that can be repeated across all media internationally. How could you simplify your business values to universally recognisable sound bites that encompass exactly what you stand for?
4. Tell stories with conviction
Mr Trump is a master of blind confidence and storytelling. Take his recent press conference on the shootings in El Paso, Texas - he mistook the location for Toledo, announced this with ballsy confidence in his speech and didn't apologise for it. He also regularly makes false claims about his progress in presidency and enjoys hyperbolic language like 'hHHuuUUUUUggeee' and 'tremendous'. Appalling behaviour but...many people believe him and are drawn into the story.
I'm not saying become a royal d**khead and claim you are greater than Jesus at your business, but what if we all told a more compelling story about what we do, and have confidence that we are pretty good at it? How many more pitches would we win, clients would we woo and opportunities would we take if we had an ounce of that Trump confidence?
Moral of the story: Trump is still an abominable human being, but we can learn from his understanding of timing and his audience, his clarity of message and confident storytelling when marketing ourselves and our business.