White House Controversy: “A Protracted, Festering Mess”
Anthony D’Angelo, Professor at Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University and Director of the Communications Management Program, offers some advice to the Trump White House for managing their current PR crisis.
“As another week brings new White House denials of alleged collusion with Russia involving President Trump’s namesake, campaign team and current administration, the controversy is transforming from a substantial concern to a protracted, festering mess. In these situations, public relations counselors often quote Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis: ‘Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.’ In other words, the best way to get past a public controversy is to be transparent about it and fix the problem, so you and the rest of the world can move on. However, the Trump administration has—with some success—had a history of instead not acknowledging other parties’ concerns or accusations, instead staying on the attack as it moves to the next controversy,” said D’Angelo, a 25-year public relations professional.
“Another public relations principle is that reputational damage is often more acute due to the duration of a controversy, even beyond the actual impact of that controversy. Following denials of Russian contacts by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, later discredited, and now Donald Trump Jr.’s public claims, the troubling pattern continues and the White House’s public and political standing is experiencing significant, accelerating drag,” said D’Angelo. “How to turn it around? Tried and true advice would be: seek and tell the truth; if there’s a problem, say what you’re doing to fix it now and for the longer term; then do it. I doubt the White House would take that advice. I don’t know how or when this flap will end, but in the meantime we’re predictably seeing Corey Lewandowski and other administration supporters claiming this Trump Jr. issue is a media-manufactured distraction and Trump critics turning up the heat with a fresh round of kindling supplied by both his family members and alleged White House leaks. I’m wishing for sunlight rather than heat, but don’t see much on the horizon.”
Professor D’Angelo is available to speak to media and can be interviewed via email/phone/Skype/LTN studio. Contact Ellen James Mbuqe, director of news and public relations at Syracuse University, at 315.443.1897 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or Wendy Loughlin, director of communications at Newhouse, at 315.443.2785 or email@example.com, to arrange an interview.