Matt Rogers

It’s not that often I write again so soon after a blog entry. However, I feel compelled to do so in light of further events in the US that leave me feeling some of my previous comments already need updating (thanks, Donald…).

Less than 24 hours ago, we were all still getting to grips with the internal strife at the White House, following Anthony Scaramucci’s foul mouthed tirade to the New Yorker, the firing of Reince Priebus and President Trump continuing to vent his thoughts via Twitter.

Fast forward a mere few hours – Mr Scaramucci has gone, a new chief of staff is in place and the President claims (once again via Twitter) that everything is under control at the White House. For those interested, his tweet read:

“Highest stock market EVER, best economic numbers in years, unemployment lowest in 17 years, wages rising, border secure, S.C.: No WH chaos!”

If you need a moment at this point to draw breath, I don’t blame you.

No doubt people will have strong views on these events (myself included) and rightly so. But for the sake of this particular piece, I’ll focus on just one of the elements of Mr Trump’s communications, namely the assertion that there is “no White House chaos”.

About two years ago, this blog looked at “crisis” communications and how to manage such things. The example used was the difficulties the Australian cricket team were facing, but it was a far simpler time back then.

Regardless, the main conclusions from that piece were that it is easy to talk minor problems into a full-blown crisis, and that careful planning and preparation is needed to manage crisis communications effectively.

From a communications standpoint, crisis and chaos are a little bit like the movie Fight Club (in that “You never talk about Fight Club”) – direct reference to them should be avoided at all cost and, as an absolute last resort, made to acknowledge the severity of a problem only after the organisation/individual in question has a comprehensive, coherent plan in place to address the specific difficulty.

Talking about crisis and chaos unnecessarily will only lead external audiences to one conclusion – that there is a major problem. Which is exactly what Mr Trump has now done.

Quite where the White House goes from here is anyone’s guess. The appointment of General John Kelly may bring some much-needed structure and discipline to the organisation and, subsequently, to its communications. All of that though will be for nought if he is unable to put a filter on the chief executive himself, a task no-one has been able to complete thus far.

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