At Great Speech Writing we are, of course, politically neutral. However, it will not surprise our regular followers that the majority of our clients share a number of opinions about the President of the United States, few of which involve him making communication great again. Or anything for that matter. The majority view veers between dislike and bafflement.
So let’s assume you don’t like him, didn’t vote for him and think there is something a little odd about the whole thing.
However, it’s impossible not to give the man some credit. He made billions in business, he fronted a prime time TV show and he was elected President in his first foray into politics. We are more than happy to credit him with the mastery of some crucial communication skills.
In fact, we’d go as far as to say that there are five areas in which any communicator could learn from Trump.
A great communicator draws us in. We want to hear more. We are hooked.
The ‘hook’ can be a story, a joke, a question, a statistic or anything that makes us tune in. Trump has mastered it. He’s asked us to let him ‘Make America Great Again’ and challenged us ‘Why not think big?’ He has taken diplomacy to brand new levels of subtlety by pointing out to the Supreme Leader of North Korea that “My red button’s bigger than yours”.
Whether he’s speaking or tweeting, he gets our attention. ‘Fake News’ is a prime example that has transformed voters’ trust of mainstream media. In language that defines our age, he creates Presidential click bait. We may not agree, but we can’t ignore it.
Donald Trump is master of the Hook. And there are many executives around the World, whose conference speeches start by running through their agenda before explaining how many offices they run and staff they employ who could learn a thing or two from him.
I’ve never heard anyone complain at the end of a speech that they found it too easy to understand. On the flip side, we’ve all had moments where we knew a few seconds in that we would find what was to follow incredibly hard going.
We regularly talk about great speakers ‘translating’ complicated concepts into language that appeals to their audience. They keep it simple. Trump has created an ‘everyman’ language that deliberately distances himself from the grander oratory of his predecessor.
He links complicated issues to simple soundbites. ‘International trade’ becomes ‘deal making’ at which he is a self-proclaimed genius. He links individuals to policies. By bigging-up an ally or destroying a foe, he manages to polarise ‘their’ policy by osmosis.
Perhaps his greatest skill is to simplify ambiguity. We can’t always be sure what he means, but are distracted by the simple way he says it.
His predecessor may have taken oratory to new levels, but Trump has mastered a different form of communication. It’s simple. And it works.
We live in an age of interaction. From reality TV to chat forums and Twitter, we have become used to answering back.
In that context, we don’t just want a speaker to lecture us. We want to be entertained. To be inspired.
Trump goes a step further and involves his audience. He asks questions, responds to hecklers and creates a dialogue. He may not take oratory to new heights of sophistication, but his supporters love him for his ability to make them feel part of the show.
We’ve noted how Trump hooks us in. But he goes further by appealing to our curiosity. He drops in teasers. Asks questions. Creates an element of suspense. See his:
– Refusal to confirm whether he would accept the election result
– Teaser’s about his ‘Fake New Awards’ a week or so prior.
– Hints that theUS may yet rejoin Paris Clamate agreement: “We’ll see, we’ll see“.
Speaking off the cuff
Perhaps Trump’s real genius is in his ability to appear to be communicating in a series of ad libs. It’s possible he really doesn’t know what he’s going to say next. My guess is that there’s more planning behind the soundbites than it may appear.
Trump has, of course, benefitted from an apparent reaction against the over-polished, highly spun political class, living in an impenetrable bubble and far removed from ‘real’ life. And he has played the anti-spin card to a tee. He tells it as it is. His sentences are raw and ungrammatical. He may speak from instinct. He may speak from the heart (wherever that may be). Either way, he appears to care.
Is Trump making communication great again?
If we’re going to be candid, we do prefer listening to (and writing) speeches that are beautifully constructed, thoughtful and intelligent. But then we’re hardly Trump’s target audience. And whether or not we agree with him, we can all learn from him because he is nothing if not relevant. Which is, of course, the key to pretty much everything in the crowded world of communications.
If you’d like some help ensuring that you maximise your impact on your intended audience (whether you are writing or speaking), we’re always here to help!
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