We’ve tried to whittle down our thinking into a list of takeaways that represent our best thinking on how to win in Washington during these early Trump days. This is by no means the definitive list; our thinking will—and must—evolve, as the President changes with the role. For now, here’s the topline:
Co-authored with Chelsea Koski
Throw Out the Rulebook – If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that trying novel, audacious approaches to connecting with audiences (both as consumers and on policy issues) is worth the investment. Even if a specific tactic doesn’t yield a desired outcome, we’re in an era that acknowledges bold, transparent action.
“Jobs First” Messaging – The motto of the Trump campaign has carried over to Washington: you have to build an America-first pitch to get reception in the White House. If it helps Trump’s core red-state supporters, even better.
Visual Washington – Unlike in Congress where policy is considered in concert with politics, with Trump gone are the days of the thoughtful white papers and moderated policy discussions. Your story needs to be quick, clean, visually represented, and have an easy-to-remember anecdote or personal story that represents the challenge/solution.
Access White House – While the Obama Administration left corporations outside the fence, CEOs are welcome guests in the Trump West Wing if they have the right pro-U.S. message.
The Balancing Act – Companies must balance the need to engage with the administration as an entity in power, and the public opinion of the individual in power.
Pay Attention to Tweets – As former Press Secretary Sean Spicer said, tweets “are considered official statements by the president of the United States.” Twitter is the new press room, and you need an early detection system in place to respond accordingly.
Know the Person Who Knows the President – There are multiple access points to the president, so be creative—and recognize the best way of getting there is not always a straight line.
People Are Policy – One thing that has not changed in Washington is that relationships matter. Know the personnel and where they fit in the current ecosystem. Know where they go to church. Know what magazines they read. Take a targeted approach. Use both friendships and professional expertise to devise the best ways to offer information.
Knowns Vs. Unknowns – The media’s and Congress’ processes and priorities generally haven’t changed, but this administration is drastically different and unpredictable. You have to choose your path on issues and determine which group will be more favorable.
Invest to Get Your Message in the Right Places – Whether it’s Politico Playbook, Axios, or Morning Consult, there are daily summaries of the news every morning and afternoon, and these are followed religiously by politicians, regulators, and the media. So, if you want to get a message to opinion elites in Washington, invest in paid messaging in the right places.
Look Beyond the “Bigs” – The media giants of the past are not the only option. The pendulum of credibility from the White House’s perspective swings far right, and brings the previously ignored (Washington Times), shunned (Mike Cernovich/Alex Jones), and ridiculed (“Fox & Friends”) to the world of influence.