I’m watching the Netflix documentary on Donald Trump right now. The role of Public Relations and Publicity in his whole story is very interesting. I’m interested in his story as an avatar for what social media and the availability of unlimited distribution has put on us all as a possibility.
As the story unfolds, it appears that Donald gradually comes to realize the importance and effectiveness of publicity. I think he likes the attention, but he also realizes quickly that the attention serves a purpose. If people know who he is and if that knowledge is even a little bit in his power to control, he understands how much that can effect his business opportunities.
It seems as if he gradually shifts from publicity being a tool in his box to a place where publicity is a primary driver of his business. Promoting “The Donald” and “Trump” eventually are primary. If the “Trump” brand is doing well he can sell anything from real estate to ties.
So here’s the interesting thing, Donald is one of those guys who saw the potential of living your life in front of cameras before YouTube existed. He was a “YouTuber” before YouTube. He’s even got the basic formula right. Competence and success, with a dash of sex appeal/attention from beautiful women in his life, but tempered with family man loyalty, and add in some boyish humor and just enough charm to evoke his youth, and you have a nearly irresistible combination. Because it’s the story we all want to be in–granted, not all in the same ratios as the Donald recipe, but, some near or related approximation.
And that’s an important caveat, because I think we need to ask fundamentally if living in front of a camera is a problem. Is the YouTuber choice just an excessive vanity born out of the technology we’ve created and are still learning to use well, or is it the effective and authentic wave of the future. Does it actually make the world better if I know what my orthodontist’s life is kind of like (the part he chooses to show me, at least)? Or is that a blatant attempt to buy attention with stories that are irrelevant, and self-aggrandizing? Or do these options exist somewhere on a spectrum that includes those two options.
I think Donald isn’t the only person in this category today. More and more people are taking their own person into the public space to make a living off what they want to be about. In a certain way this may even be an extreme caricature of the Seth Godin idea that the marketer is really offering to be a leader of a tribe.
So whether it’s The Donald, or the Kardashians, or Casey Neistat, or even your local Real Estate agents who have decided to create some reality TV style videos to sell houses, YouTube should be part of their PR, we now live in a world where we have the option of bringing our personal stories out into the public eye, for whatever reason we want to. And those stories are powerful, but what happens when those stories are getting leveraged for bad or questionable things?
Anyhow, I’m enjoying the documentary and learning a bit more about Donald and the world he lives in. I will have to keep thinking about this Publicity and Public Relations question. I have the feeling I’ll be back here writing about this topic again soon.