Falsehoods, lies and a siege mentality – Trump’s press secretary has jumped the shark early
So ‘alternative facts’ was introduced to the lexicon last week by new US President Donald Trump’s team.
White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer claimed photographic evidence that Trump’s inauguration crowd was significantly smaller than Barack Obama’s in 2009 in the manner of ‘Comical Ali’ denying the invasion of Iraq as tanks rolled in behind him – even claiming it was the largest gathering for an inauguration in history.
Trump advisor Kellyann Conway then came out in his defence claiming he used ‘alternative facts’ in a TV interview and threatening that not accepting these facts may alter the relationship between the White House and the media.
Spin is definitely making a comeback but if you decide to use it, understand there are risks. Taking facts and presenting them in their best light is perfectly acceptable and indeed, forms the basis of the image anty brand pushes out to the world.
But when you start to spin you do something very different. You begin to distort facts and put the message before the truth. With skill and luck, you can get away with this for a while so long as your spin is slight, but Spicer went all-in in his opening press conference, challenging photos and going on the front foot by challenging the media head-on.
Bearing in mind he has four years (if he is lucky) as the formal press mouthpiece for the White House and the President, force feeding the media a blatant lie and threatening them if they don’t accept it is not a good start.
Another PR trick that Spicer and Conway should perhaps have employed is silence.
Perhaps Spicer had no option, he may have had instructions to issue that statement, we will likely never know. Conway however, did not need to go on to NBC the following day and attempt to change the conversation with her claims of ‘alternative facts’.
One of the most challenging things in PR is to say nothing, but often it is exactly the right thing to do.
It requires discipline and insight to say nothing in the face of internet trolls, journalists or members of the public with an axe to grind, but if you get it right, saying nothing at all is a positive, proactive move.
Ultimately it comes down to honesty and integrity. In public relations, we can help you build a brand, generate awareness and manage risk so long as you are honest with us and you are prepared to be honest outwardly to the public.
Everything we do is based on trust, however we deliver the message, however it is phrased, shaped and presented. It must always be built on a foundation of on truth.
Once the media lose trust in you – and your message – it is difficult to restore. It is true that a reputation takes a lifetime to build and a second to ruin. Sean Spicer has just provided a great lesson in how not to manage the media.