Why Trump is wrong about the media. 

by Tai Anderson, August 16, 2016

On Sunday, Donald Trump took to Twitter to criticize the media. In multiple back-to-back posts, the Republican nominee expressed his feeling that he has recieved an unfair shake from the press.

“Any publicity is good publicity.”

It’s a common understanding that even a scandal or "bad press" at least presents an opportunity for exposure and the ability to clarify your message. Every marketer knows that any media exposure is far superior than the alternative; media silence and irrelevancy. 

Trump’s tweets about the media struck me as the completely wrong target for his ire. Furthermore, Fox News Channel, which by far garners the largest television ratings, has been far from critical of the Republican nominee. The media has not sabotaged the Trump campaign. Quite the contrary! From a marketing perspective, the media has all but secured his nomination.

When you look at the statistics from the primary season, did any other Republican candidate even stand a chance? While conservatives might make a merited argument that they don’t get the attention they deserve from a “liberally biased media,” Trump can hardly make that claim! Trump is all they talk about, and in a profoundly disproportionate scale.

There are essentially 3 types of marketing communications.

  • Paid media: Paying for the opportunity to communicate to an audience.
  • Earned media: The media outlet giving you attention with no cost; news coverage, and editorials.
  • Owned media: Creating your own content that is distributed organically; blogs, social media, videos, books, movies, etc.

Most marketing "campaigns" rely on a healthy balance between paid, earned, and owned media. It's no secret that a little paid advertising can grease the wheels for some bonus editorial coverage. However, Donald Trump has achieved a ratio between paid and earned media unlike anything the world has ever seen. This New York Times article gives overwhelming support to this marketing achievement. Few candidates spent less on paid marketing than Donald Trump, but none received more free media attention. Trump should be sending the media a gift basket.


Even if Trump doesn’t appreciate the media’s reactions to his statements and tweets, he certainly must appreciate the coverage. Every time you turn on the news, any news outlet, they are talking about Donald Trump. He has had top of mind awareness since he launched his campaign, while the majority of the Republican field struggled in near obscurity. 

3 takeaways.

1. No matter how you feel about his politics or persona, Trump has benefited from more earned media than any other candidate in history, with an extremely modest paid media spend. Whether you are a fan of his brand or not, any brand would love the traction he receives from his owned media. (Can I get a retweet?)

2. Trump’s complaints against the media are ultimately misdirected. They’ve provided billions of dollars of exposure to his campaign.

3. The “media elite” needn’t act so shocked that Trump is the Republican nominee. They all but guaranteed his nomination.

Even if you don’t appreciate my perspective, I’d love your comments or shares. After all, I can use all the free media I can get.

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