What was always going to be the most likely follow-up question to Donald Trump following his challenge to President Obama over his academic transcripts? The Guardian newspaper asked it and inadvertently scored a PR coup by getting the Trump organization very ruffled. It’s now clear: The Donald wants others to show theirs, but he won’t show his.
Michael Cohen, Executive Vice President at the Trump Organization and special counsel to Trump, had a wildly unsuccessful but widely released phone call with Guardian journalist Adam Gabbat. The straightforward request from Gabbat? Would Mr. Trump make his own college transcripts available? The conversation went south from the get-go, with Cohen quickly turning defensive and changing PR tack no less than three times. Cohen breathlessly defended his boss, saying there are thousands of books written about Trump, adding with bravado that there is more information available on Donald Trump than “pretty much anybody on the planet.”
A journalist asking Trump for his own transcripts was always going to be the most likely outcome of Trump’s much-hyped challenge to the President. Following the PR basics of simple scenario forecasting might have been step one in an overall PR strategy. In this case, Trump’s counsel did his client no favors.
The PR Verdict: “F” (Full Fiasco) to the Trump PR machine.
The PR Takeaway: Don’t just expect the unexpected; expect the expected. There is nothing surprising about a journalist making the same challenge that Donald Trump just issued to the President of the United States. This was one contingency that should have been easily anticipated. Making Trump’s transcripts publicly available before the announcement would have taken the wind out of the sails of Trump’s critics. Standing on a platform of transparency and access to information inevitably results in reciprocal demands. This was a Q&A and scenario plan that even a PR intern would have known to prepare in advance.
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What’s your opinion of Donald Trump’s challenge to POTUS, and the subsequent PR gaffe? Give us your PR Verdict!