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US President Donald Trump

TODD SMITH — How did news media cover Trump’s first 100 days?


A new report from Harvard Kennedy School’s Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy analyzed news coverage of President Trump’s first 100 days in office – which set a new standard for negative coverage.

The report is based on an analysis of news reports in the print editions of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Washington Post, the main newscasts of CBS, CNN, Fox News, and NBC, and three European news outlets (The UK’s Financial Times and BBC, and Germany’s ARD).

Findings include:

» President Trump dominated media coverage in the outlets and programs analyzed, with Trump being the topic of 41 percent of all news stories – three times the amount of coverage received by previous presidents. He was also the featured speaker in nearly two-thirds of his coverage.

» Republican voices accounted for 80 percent of what newsmakers said about the Trump presidency, compared to only 6 percent for Democrats and 3 percent for those involved in anti-Trump protests.

» European reporters were more likely than American journalists to directly question Trump’s fitness for office.

» Trump has received unsparing coverage for most weeks of his presidency, without a single major topic where Trump’s coverage, on balance, was more positive than negative, setting a new standard for unfavorable press coverage of a president.

» Fox was the only news outlet in the study that came close to giving Trump positive coverage overall; however, there was variation in the tone of Fox’s coverage depending on the topic.

The media have been fascinated by Trump since the first days of his presidential candidacy. The studies of 2016 presidential election coverage found that Trump received more news coverage than rival candidates during virtually every week of the campaign. The reason is clear enough. Trump is a journalist’s dream. Reporters are tuned to what’s new and different, better yet if it’s laced with controversy. Trump delivers that type of material by the shovel full. Trump is also good for business.

News ratings were slumping until Trump entered the arena.  Said one network executive, “[Trump] may not be good for America, but [he’s] damn good for [us].”

Presidents are more than the main focus of U.S. reporters. Presidents are also their main target. Although journalists are accused of having a liberal bias, their real bias is a preference for the negative.News reporting turned sour during the Vietnam and Watergate era and has stayed that way.

Journalists’ incentives, everything from getting their stories on the air to acquiring a reputation as a hard-hitting reporter, encourage journalists to focus on what’s wrong with politicians rather than what’s right. Once upon a time, the “honeymoon” period for a newly inaugurated president included favorable press coverage. That era is now decades in the past. Today’s presidents can expect rough treatment at the hands of the press, and Donald Trump is no exception.

Of the past four presidents, only Barack Obama received favorable coverage during his first 100 days, after which the press reverted to form. During his second 100 days, Obama’s coverage was 57 percent negative to 43 percent positive.

Trump’s coverage during his first 100 days set a new standard for negativity. Of news reports with a clear tone, negative reports outpaced positive ones by 80 percent to 20 percent. Trump’s coverage was unsparing. In no week did the coverage drop below 70 percent negative and it reached 90 percent negative at its peak. The best period for Trump was week 12 of his presidency, when he ordered a cruise missile strike on a Syrian airbase in retaliation for the Assad regime’s use of nerve gas on civilians. That week, his coverage divided 70 percent negative to 30 percent positive. Trump’s worst periods were weeks 3 and 4 (a combined 87 percent negative) when federal judges struck down his first executive order banning some Muslim immigrants, and weeks 9 and 10 (a combined 88 percent negative) when the House of Representatives was struggling without success to muster the votes to pass a “repeal and replace” health care bill.

Social Media Listening Among Top PR Trends

Social media listening is one of the top digital trends transforming — and improving — public relations, new research reveals.

The three most important digital trends in PR include: social listening, digital storytelling and real-time marketing, according to The Evolution of Public Relations report by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) in conjunction with the USC Center for Public Relations at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Digital techniques are improving the quality of public relations, as they allow immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback, the ANA report emphasizes. Findings from the survey of ANA members were integrated into the USC Annenberg’s Global Communications Report, based on a comprehensive survey of more than 800 PR executives.

It is important to note that the top three trends are interlinked: “I heard something” (social listening), “I need to tell a story about it” (digital storytelling), and “I need to do it fast” (real-time marketing).

Social media listening, also called social media monitoring, has recently become both more sophisticated and more important than ever.

The survey of marketers and PR executives reveals other important industry trends.

PR is converging with marketing. The borders between public relations and marketing are breaking down. They are no longer separate disciplines. More than half of ANA members polled believe PR will become more closely aligned with marketing over the next five years. Most (72 percent) say PR will either become more closely aligned with marketing or become a subset of marketing.

The next generation of talent entering the job market interested in public relations needs a broader skill set that recognizes that marketing and public relations are increasingly commingling.

Measurement is paramount to demonstrating PRs value to the organization. Survey respondents agreed that PR can show its value most effectively by:

» Demonstrating how public relations programs achieve measureable business objectives and

» Improving measurement of results.

“Public relations as a discipline is clearly evolving and becoming more important to marketers,” said ANA group EVP Bill Duggan in a statement. “And PR is being fueled by the rise and omnipresence of digital communications. Digital has put PR front and center, as it allows immediate outbound communication and inbound feedback.”

Bottom Line: Social media listening, combined with digital storytelling and real-time marketing, is increasing the importance of public relations. However, it’s critical to demonstrate its contribution through measurement.

Silenced Mic | Curtains For Greatest Show on Earth 

The curtain has closed on one of the most iconic brands in American history – Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Last Sunday was the last ever performance of the circus, whose flying acrobats, ferocious lions and parading elephants captivated generations after failing to sufficiently dazzle the children of the smartphone age and to overcome the fierce opposition of the animal rights movement, which does not want to see animals in the circus.

The closing is a sad chapter of what was as American as mom and apple pie. At its prime, the circus was the pinnacle of family entertainment. But the shows lost appeal as it grew outdated and difficult for a plugged-in, multitasking generation with short attention spans, looking for the next digital impulse. The Spin Cycle will never forget the magic, pomp and circumstance of the “Greatest Show on Earth.” It’s a silenced mic moment, indeed, and we must all now keep the magic alive by sharing stories with our children and grandchildren!

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

» Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.


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