Many people are still stunned by Trump’s victory and how he won. Why he won will be debated for years to come, but what really interests me is the way he broke the typical rules of communicating with his audience, the voters. I think we business communicators can learn from that.
I see two big factors in his success. First was his ability to connect in person in huge rallies that attracted tens of thousands of people. Clinton, it seems to me, held rallies with just enough people to get the press there. Until the election, that was part of the typical campaign play book. Most of the mainstream media thought Trump’s way wouldn’t work. For example, this Washington Post story said that the big rallies “matter less than he thinks.” But Trump’s way proved that connecting face-to-face still works, assuming you have a powerful message to go along with it.
The second factor was his ability to go around the mainstream press. His Twitter usage, widely criticized by those he went around, turned out to be a very effective way of taking his story directly to his constituents.
Can these techniques be applied to workplace communications? Whether you like Trump or not, I think it’s worth studying these methods for internal use in our companies. For example, does your company have many meetings where the CEO or department head is physically in front of the employees? With the advent of email and various message delivery systems it’s become very easy to communicate by proxy. Not only does that put distance between the manager and employee, but the message itself cannot be as spontaneous or full of personality. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider the person-to-person experience as opposed to communicating everything digitally.
On the flip side, there’s the tweeting Trump did (and still does) that is the epitome of digital communications. So which is it, digital or in-person? I think that’s the wrong question. The right question is, what do these two communication methods have in common? The answer is intimacy. They both get the message to the receiver instantly in an informal, very direct manner. I believe that is the secret sauce.
So the lesson is to be more direct—walk around more, speak in front of meetings, and use Twitter and chat tools to communicate frequently with shorter messages in a relaxed, informal way.