Donald Trump has been causing offence on a global scale for a long time now. Unapologetic to the last. Beating the same drums over and over. But he has also amassed a huge following across the US.
He will push Hilary Clinton all the way as the presidential elections draw ever closer.
Experienced commentators believe he could go all the way and become the next president of the United States.
How has this happened?
The highest political post in the world and access to the nuclear Gold Codes. For many that’s unthinkable. Terrifying even.
Criticism and outrage roll off ‘Teflon Don’s’ back the moment they’re aired. Even hinting at Clinton’s assassination doesn’t bring him down! He rides it and ploughs on, proudly proclaiming he will ‘make America great again’ with unwavering conviction. (A very clever, subtle technique here, incidentally, as by implication America clearly isn’t great now, that’s not even up for discussion. By way of comparison, see ‘I Want My Country Back’.)
Like it or not, this is the darn truth - Donald Trump has struck a chord with many millions of Americans.
Let’s take a look at how he has struck that chord. How is Trump communicating his messages in way that is resonating so deeply?
Firstly he keeps it simple. The language is straightforward and delivered in a way that no-one can misconstrue. He rarely exceeds two syllables – Grade 3 level language, compared to Clinton’s Grade 12! So, easy to give, hence easy to receive. A golden rule for impactful communication.
A Good Beginning
The all-important opening, that crucial good start, tends to be the ingratiating ‘It’s great to be here, this is going to be very special’. He wants to make it easy for people to like him. Many say he’s unbearably smug as he pouts and postures at the podium. No-one can pout quite like Trump. But crucially he’s getting through to people.
Key words are delivered emphatically and he never shies away from repetition. ‘I will build that wall and Mexico will pay for it’.
Extroverts (you have to be an extrovert with a thatch like that) love good old-fashioned straight talking. You can’t whip up a storm with contemplative muses on life’s complexities.
Pacing and Pausing
Secondly Trump is master of good pacing and pausing. He has that knack of knowing when to let key points just sit for a moment. Let them be digested, processed. You don’t miss a word. He never rushes, as the best speakers never do. He gives people the time to take it all in, while his perma-smile invites them to think ‘You know I’m right, don’t you? It’s what you’re thinking too, right?' It works.
Energy and Vocal Variety
Trump can also access the right levels of energy and vocal variety for different occasions. This draws his audiences in and again shows total ownership of any talk he gives. He goes high, he goes low, almost to a whisper at times. He marries this to good use of gestures. His hands give even more emphasis when he wants them to and display a level of passion and conviction. Passion persuades. His energy is clearly contagious. All impactful speakers have it.
Structurally he does a lot of the right things as well. Good openings and certainly strong endings. ‘This is very interesting isn’t it..’ is a typical way for him to get that extra level of attention before launching into his take on the issue at hand. Though inclined to go way off-script at times (see screaming baby episode), he is well able to build his arguments in a logical sequence and finishes on a rousing note of defiance and commitment every time. ‘You have my word on this…’ is the feeling left hanging in the air.
What he says is clearly disagreeable to many, but he definitely has the skill of sounding right. He plays the ‘down to earth, as honest as the day is long’ card extremely well. ‘I’m just telling it how it is, right?’
I think being a TV celebrity is also a huge bonus, perhaps in the States more than anywhere. It somehow ups his credibility, ‘We know this guy, he’s famous’. (I’m loathe to dumb-down the intelligence of American voters across the board, they’re often far better informed than we are about the key policy issues at election time.)
He’s also grabbed the emotive immigration issue by the horns and is running with it, just as Farage did here. If we’re in any doubt about their political kinship, Farage was recently his keynote speaker at a huge rally in Mississippi. (A speech, I must confess, Farage delivered rather brilliantly, perfectly pitched for that audience at that time.)
Being able to fund your own campaign is no small advantage either!
They say timing is everything, and clearly many factors have aligned to give Trump a real fighting chance in this election. I believe his ability to communicate so effectively is the biggest of these factors.
Donald Trump has gone from the joke to the joker, plotting his way to the very top of world politics.
He has done this by applying a few fundamentals of impactful communication consistently well.
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