What can sports communications learn from Donald Trump?

The election of Donald J Trump as the 45th President of the United States came as a shock to many.

A businessman and reality TV star, Trump was given little chance of winning the Presidential race.

While Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 was considered a watershed moment for a more enlightened world where tolerance and inclusion reigned supreme, Trump’s alarming and divisive rhetoric inspired those who felt ignored by the machinations of government.

But let’s not forget, even without winning the popular vote, Trump won the election and will become ‘leader of the free world’ in early 2017.

However surprising his win, there are many lessons that can be used by organisations, brands and individuals in sport for positive communications

1.    Know your target audience
Donald Trump knew that blue collar workers were key if he was to win and he made sure he spoke to their concerns and frustrations. His success underlines the importance of understanding what motivates and inspires the audiences you wish to reach and plan your communications strategy accordingly.

2.    Use simple language
Whoever you are seeking to communicate with, it is vital that you talk in language that they can understand easily. That also helps them to communicate your message to others, which is particularly important during a campaign.

There are language experts who suggested that Trump’s language was that of an 11-year-old. If so, given his target audience, he was speaking precisely the language that people could understand, the very antithesis of the political elite he positioned himself against.

3.    Keep your messages simple
“Make America Great Again” worked as a slogan. It was memorable and reminded Trump’s target audience of how life could be better under his leadership. Unlike Hillary Clinton, Trump’s slogan also taps into what it means to be American, a proud citizen, and that those who support Trump could join him in contributing to the greater good and reinvigorating the American Dream.

But equally, Trump repeated his slogan in every interview, every speech, every post – it was unforgettable.

4.    Understand what makes a story
Much was made of the fact that Trump’s investment in his campaign was just a fraction of that of his rivals, both within the Republican party and then when facing Clinton.

Through his work in television, his outspoken and sometimes offensive opinions, Trump caught the attention of the media without having to spend huge amounts on advertising.

While there is certainly a place for paid media, creating newsworthy stories that interest newspapers and broadcasters reach wider audiences and get people talking. Trump’s rhetoric may have been controversial at times but it certainly gained attention.

5.    Do not underestimate the power of social media
Much was made of the use of social media when Obama became President.
Trump made many mistakes during the campaign, such as raging in the middle of the night about a beauty queen but his use of Facebook, Instagram and even Periscope contributed regular and interesting content that was as honest as it was often controversial.