JoTo PR: Presidential Election 2016 – Public Relations Shot in the Dark or Brilliant Maneuver?

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For months leading up to the 2016 election, the feeding frenzy of blog posts, tweets, memes, mainstream media broadcasting, and podcasts grew exponentially, fueled by a phenomenon that left the political and PR pundits in America stunned. JoTo PR analyzes the PR campaigns surrounding the presidential election.

Karla Jo Helms, CEO of JoTo PR, digs deep into Donald Trump's PR moves

When you attack – and attack often, which is just part and parcel of political PR, people then start to wonder who you are.

President-elect Donald Trump’s no-nonsense, shoot-from-the-hip public persona was a magnet for the media, generating volumes of clicks and ratings never before seen in an American Presidential election.1 And much of it was totally free. JoTo PR, an international public relations firm in the Tampa Bay area blending social media with traditional PR practices, has studied this phenomenon with eyes wide open.

Between July 2015 and the end of October, Trump received $5.6 billion in free or earned media, while his opponent’s, Hilary Clinton, run as the first female nominee of a major political party earned $3.5 billion; modest by comparison. The historical impact of the potential for the first woman president in U.S. history was no match for the volume of stories, TV and radio news segments, blog posts, podcasts and social media tracks generated by the media, according to communications analysts at Mediaquant.2 CEO of JoTo PR, Karla Jo Helms, public relations innovator and veteran, understands the industry concept of earned media and its organic cycle of free publicity. Helms said Trump utilized Crisis Management publicity methods, while his opponent followed typical pollical PR methods. “While his opponent led Trump in terms of advertising buys and fundraising,” points out Helms, “Trump leveraged positive and negative press attention to generate billions in earned media.”    

In her years in crisis management, Helms has studied numerous epic fails by corporations who strayed from the guidelines, and huge wins by companies who defied popular opinion and stayed the course. Adding to the list of the public relations maneuvers that were done correctly in the eyes of PR, Helms stated, “When certain mainstream media would not move his story, Trump used his own media lines, which is rule number one in crisis management.
Another strategic move, Helms relayed, was not only the age-old tactic of attacking his opponent, but ensuring he filled the vacuum on what he would do by heavily communicating his post-election plan.”

“When you attack – and attack often, which is just part and parcel of political PR, people then start to wonder who you are,” Helms stated. “A common failing is to not fill this need for information which can be the decisive point in swaying public opinion.”

To Helms’ point, Social media watcher, SocialFlow, calculated that Trump not only received 3 times the exposure on social media than his opponent; at one point, he was reportedly the most talked about person on earth.3 His celebrity status aside, his ability to trigger and sustain viral emotions had a greater effect on the masses than Clinton’s calculated ground game. The messages were simple. While his opponent broadcast her five-point plan, Mr. Trump’s had more memorable bite-size calls to action, like “build the wall.” It could be understood in 5 seconds and covered the gamut from undertaking a massive infrastructure build to symbolically strengthening the immigration progress.4 In this election year, messages inciting emotion won over those containing complex rhetoric. But Helms noticed that the concise messages (wording and emotional tone) resonated with his voters’ emotional mindset – “the tone conveyed in the messages caused people to MOVE, aka VOTE.” People began to listen in bites – and with consistent hammering of the simple messages, a silent majority found its voice.5

With the simplistic messages in place, Trump took to Twitter at every turn and, per Reuters, he collected 4 million more followers on Twitter than Hillary Clinton and 5 million more on Facebook.6 It created a waterfall of response that can be compared to a virtual Trump rally 24/7. Donald Trump and Barack Obama are the last two men to be elected President of the United States. Both won the presidency largely by outsmarting their opponents on social media. President Obama out-scored Mitt Romney with followers on every social media platform. According to the Huffington Post, the argument at the time that he had a four-year advantage to build a social media presence was proven ineffective, given the grounds that a following builds and spreads at the speed of thought.7

In 2012, Helms spoke to the Tampa Bay Business Journal in an article entitled Election 2012: Execs want to benefit from results, advising how regulatory and other such issues should have real education [in campaigns] on the trickle-down effect to the American people, like “What does that do to their ability to hire? How does that trickle down to groceries?” she said.

Trump found ways to ensure he communicated on the ground, in the media and via social media his message, consistently, messages that instantly educated his constituents. Helms stated when executing a PR campaign, whether in litigation PR, Proactive PR or Political PR, the only thing that counts is the results. “Wherever you tuned in, you understood his message – and saw it in volume.” In the case of the 2016 Presidential election, the results speak for themselves.

To learn more about JoTo PR and combining traditional PR expertise with high technology so as to harness the advantages of both worlds, visit http://www.jotopr.com/.

About JoTo PR:

Based in Tampa Bay, Florida, JoTo PR is an established international public relations agency headed by PR veteran and innovator Karla Jo Helms. After doing marketing research on a cross-section majority of 5000 CEOs of fast-growth trajectory companies, and finding out exactly how they used PR, how they measure it and how they wanted the PR industry to be different, JoTo PR established its entire business model on those research findings. Since its launch in 2009, JoTo PR’s team continues to utilize newly established patterns to create timely PR campaigns that comprise both traditional and the latest proven media methods. JoTo PR has taken an innovative approach to PR—aligning it with marketing, using social media to leverage publicity and advanced technology to help companies beat out their competition and increase market share as well as improve return on investment (ROI). Today, all processes of JoTo are streamlined PR services that have become the hallmark of the JoTo PR name. For more information, visit JoTo PR online at http://www.jotopr.com/.

About Karla Jo Helms:

Karla Jo is the CEO and visionary behind JoTo PR, who cut her teeth in PR via Crisis Management, working with litigation attorneys, private investigators and the media to help restore companies of goodwill back into the graces of public opinion. Karla Jo learned firsthand how brutal business could be when there were millions of dollars to be had – and how to navigate those treacherous waters via control of public opinion. Since then, Karla Jo has patterned her agency on a combination of her hard-won Public Relations experience, uncompromising high standards and exacting nationwide market research across multiple industries. She is a hands-on executive who hand picks the PR professionals who work on her team to ensure client results always meet client expectations. Helms speaks globally on Public Relations and how corporations can harness it to drive markets.

1. Seitel, Fraser. “Trump’s Winning PR Strategy.” Forbes. Forbes.com. 7 September 2015. Web.
2. Yu, Roger. “How Do You Use the Media tos Win? Just Ask Donald Trump” USA Today. USAToday.com. Web.
3. Alaimo, Kara. “Where Donald Trump Got His Real Power.” CNN. CNN.com. 15 November 2016. Web.
4. Franco, Michael. “One Big Question: Is Donald Trump America’s First Viral President?” New Atlas. Newatlas.com. 14 November 2016. Web.
5. Joseph, Seb Joseph; Zanger, Doug; McQuater, Katie; Stewart, Rebecca. “How Marketing and Traditional Simplicity Won the Day for Trump” The Drum. TheDrum.com. 09 November 2016. Web.
6. Athavaley, Anjali; Fares, Melissa. “Among White House Hopefuls, Trump Least Likely to Hit ‘Follow’ Button on Twitter” Reuters. Reuters.com. 2 February 2016.
7. Burrus, Daniel. “Did Social media Play a Role in Obama’s Victory?” Huffington Post. HuffingtonPost.com. 09 November 2012. Web.

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Karla Jo Helms
JoTo PR
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