No matter your political affiliation, Democrat or Republican, your organization may have a new crisis challenge—The Trump factor.

The insidious and sometimes late-night tweeting of President Donald Trump is giving American corporations heartburn—forcing them to defend or deny accusations and allegations, and ultimately to manage the consequences. GM, H&R Block, Boeing, Toyota and even Vanity Fair have all been the subject of unexpected Trump tweets.

The statements can be true or false. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these tweets are seen by millions, including Trump supporters who pile on and retweet to millions more.

Trump tweeting

Donald Trump uses one of his favorite political levers: Twitter. Photo from the New York Times.

Some organizations have been thrown into the fray. Others are sitting white-knuckled on the sidelines hoping to not be dragged in. In any case, American companies, organizations—even individuals—are facing an unprecedented challenge. The consequences of making the wrong response can be harsh, from the loss of donations to full-fledged product boycotts.

For example, when a company is attacked for having plants outside the U.S., does it respond? Remain silent? What if the company’s only choice for surviving depends on foreign workers? Surely, the company’s employees will understand the defense of this position. Ha!

For hospitals who serve the poor, reductions in Medicaid would be a disaster. Do they take a public stand? How will their constituencies—in particular, those who donate millions and may be Trump supporters—react?

What’s the clear course of action? Well…that depends on many factors. What is clear is that companies need to prepare. But how?

Tips for Managing the Trump Factor in Crisis Communications
No one can anticipate every move the president or one of his high-profile supporters will make, but the more they prepare, the better positioned they will be. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Pull a team together. It could be your current Crisis Communications Team but should also include representatives from your public affairs and/or public policy department; or in the case of smaller companies, at least one person who is well versed and potentially well connected on political issues. You might need to go outside your organization to find this person.
  • Brainstorm all the areas of “political sensitivity” that could affect your organization—from where you source products/parts to the political affiliation and public statements of your CEO.
  • Prioritize the situations and put a think tank together on how you might handle different evolving scenarios. When possible, begin writing talking points around each. I’m not sure if GM proactively prepared, but they reacted quickly and correctly to a Trump tweet criticizing plants in Mexico, stating that only a small number of Chevrolet Cruze cars were produced there, and that most were made in Ohio. The response quickly curbed the controversy and Trump moved on to his next target.
  • Make sure everyone is onboard, especially your social media team. The implications an unprepared response could bring upon the company are serious. It’s important to be transparent and deliberate in gaining this understanding.
  • Don’t forget about employees. Never communicate on social media channels unless you first, or shortly after, communicate with employees. They have social media channels as well, and will either support or debunk your position.

For more information, visit AKHIA Communications at www.akhia.com and inquire about speaking with a crisis communications specialist.