Donald Trump, Your Organization and the Media

by admin on October 20, 2016


Editor’s Note

It’s obvious that Donald Trump took on the media and won. I leave the contents of this post intact to remind me that I was wrong. Nevertheless, I believe that organizations cannot emulate the president-elect, see Best, Len.


How’s that media strategy working for you Donald?

Lessons for the rest of us

Hate the media? There’s an unpleasant surprise waiting for you.


Leonard A. Sipes, Jr.

Thirty-five years of award-winning media relations, over fifty national and regional awards.


Donald Trump has attacked the media at every turn thus making the same mistake that many within organizations embrace. They take a look at the polls and come to the conclusion that most Americans distrust (dislike?) the media. Add that to the substantial decline in reporters (30 percent and more depending on the market) and they come to believe that the media can be controlled, manipulated or attacked.

As I write this article, I’m looking at Apple News and I count 35 articles from national media blasting some aspect of Donald Trump’s campaign or personal history over the course of two days. Most of the articles on Clinton are favorable which is astounding considering the endless negative leaked e-mails from her campaign and her extremely high unfavorable ratings. I just listened to the Diane Rehm show on NPR where there was not a favorable statement about Trump. This preceded a commercial on NPR news as fair and comprehensive.

You may say that the onslaught of negative Trump news is to be expected based on allegations of sexual impropriates or negative perceptions of his policies or previous statements, but that would be partisan when considering that Bill and Hillary have enough baggage to shut down every airport in the world.

I really do not give a hoot for either Trump or Hillary Clinton and I’m sitting out this election for the first time since I started voting. My premise is not political. It’s just that Trump and endless number of bureaucrats in government and corporations make the same mistake as to media relations.

From the Washington Post:

If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans can agree on in this election, it’s that the media suck.

Just 1 in 3 people told Gallup they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of trust in the media to report the news accurately, the lowest that number has been since Gallup began asking the question in 1997. Republicans led the way — going from 41 percent to 14 percent on trusting the media in the past 19 years — but the numbers among independents (30 percent trust media to be fair) and Democrats (51 percent) have dipped as well.

“You deserve it!” you will say. “Journalism is dead!” you will say. (Trust me: You say these things to me every day!)

And there is truth in that. Including the coverage of the war in Iraq to the swing-and-a-miss on Donald Trump’s potential as a candidate and yesterday’s news that journalists have overwhelmingly donated to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, reporters have not exactly covered themselves in glory.

Mainstream Media Remains Powerful

Regardless, there is no way that Donald Trump is going to withstand the onslaught of endless negative news coverage. People taunt the media at their own peril.

Spokespeople have to fight this perception every day. We may have our own doubts about reporters and the organizations they represent, but we are pragmatic enough to understand that outward signs of hostility towards the media is the same as inviting your own destruction.

Yes, I’ve read the code of ethics from media associations regarding fairness and neutrality, and I believe that most reporters embrace a sense of objectivity and journalistic principles. But the media come to view spokespeople and the organizations they represent as honorable people doing an honorable job, or something else.

If you openly and consistently embrace strategies that tell the media that you are disrespecting them, it will eventually backfire and may (probably will) affect the leadership of your organization. Reporters and their bosses are as human as the rest of us. They remember slights, they remember the unreturned phone calls, they remember the lack of candor, and it does influence their reporting.

My friends in the media resent this discussion. They believe that you could represent the Society of Brutal Dictators and their reporting will be balanced, accurate and fair. If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn we need to discuss.

Look, the media (principally newspapers) set the agenda for all others. It doesn’t matter if you don’t read newspapers and stick to electronic sources or social media for your news. Ninety percent of what you read or watch comes from newspapers and other mainstream media. They influence everything.

It doesn’t matter how the public perceives the media, or the decline in the number of reporters, they remain the 800-pound Gorilla. Where does an 800-lb. gorilla sit?” The answer: “Anywhere it wants to.”

If you envy politicians, go join them. But the rules are different for them and your organization. Many forget that distinction.

If you and the organization you represent are constantly displaying the middle finger to reporters in subtitle and not so subtle ways, the media will remember. So when it all comes crashing down, remember that you chose to be evasive or combative. You chose your results.

Disliking the Media

People ask why I choose to focus on organizational dysfunction and dislike of the media in my book, “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” (Amazon- -also from Barnes and Nobel)

The answer is simple; you can have expert knowledge as to the best techniques when dealing with reporters, but if your organization views journalists and their inquiries with loathing and dread, you will never have successful media relations.

I spent a professional lifetime teaching spokespeople and organizations as to the finer art of dealing with reporters and the use of successful techniques and proactive methods. But if your entity (based on their dislike of reporters) feeds you misinformation, or doesn’t supply you with the data or knowledge you need, all the successful techniques won’t amount to a hill of beans.

Without organizational understanding of the media process and support of their spokespeople, you (and the people you represent) will crash and burn. It’s that simple.

You Need to Choose Your Relationship

If you desire fair and accurate media coverage, then you have no choice but to come to a workable, respectful arrangement with the media. If you do not have a budget to purchase significant amounts of advertising or are unwilling to pay for and engage in serious proactive efforts (i.e., video-audio-story-based articles), social media and website development, then once again you have no choice but to establish a working relationship with the media. Even if you do all of the above, the media still has the power to rearrange your professional lives.

You and your organization must choose for yourselves the relationship you will have. You and your entity must choose the data you will use and the efficacy of your pronouncements. The operative word is “choose,” because believe it or not, we really do decide the kind of relationship that we have with news organizations. If you decide to be combative or evasive, how do you think the media will respond?

Don’t be Donald Trump and don’t underestimate the power of the mainstream media. You may dislike them, but is that the point? Let your spokespeople guide you to honest, productive, better media relations. It’s clearly in your best interest.

For more information on good organizational and media relations, see “Success With The Media: Everything You Need To Survive Reporters and Your Organization,” available from Amazon at

See my website at for the entire series.

Contact me at

Washington Post article: “Inside Donald Trump’s very dangerous strategy to discredit the media,”






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