Because of what he termed a “disrespectful remark” by Fox News, Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump decided to skip tonight’s Republican debate in favor of staging his own event at the same time. With less than 24 hours of planning, Mr. Trump held a benefit for Veterans, attended by thousands and a covered by CNN, to an audience of likely millions of viewers.
It was a nice show.
As a marketer and mass influence specialist, I can only say WOW! It was a masterstroke of ‘in your face’ showmanship. The controversy certainly increased ratings all around, and everyone (except Fox News) benefited in some way. It is almost like someone said, “Hey Donald, looks like our ratings are going to be down for the debate, can you do something?”
Mr. Trump benefited the most, of course. Instead of being on stage in front of a large audience and splitting the time with the other candidates, Mr. Trump had a nationwide audience all to himself. Plus he had no risk of getting bad questions or of having an attack by an opponent hit home.
Trump’s audience may not have been as big, but it was certainly more than 1/8 of the Fox debate numbers (i.e. sharing with 7 other candidates), plus this was the CNN audience, a more liberal group than Fox, giving him more exposure to a group he needs to work on.
Additionally, this was very good for the Republican Party, since the overall audience of the two shows combined was almost certainly bigger than the Fox News show would have been with Trump participating. The conservative message was alive and well, reaching millions more than without the controversy.
It was also good for the remaining candidates, since they had a large audience without Trump and were able to distinguish themselves among the remaining voters. Trump has always managed to steal the limelight to a large degree, often in stepping on the toes of the other candidates.
CNN won because they had a highly rated Trump event with a controversy behind it, which likely brought in a larger audience (and more ad revenue) than they could have had otherwise.
During his pre-event interviews, Mr. Trump struck a conciliatory tone with Fox, saying they had apologized. So although Fox lost money because Trump took some audience with him, it does not look like there will be an ongoing feud to worry about.
This was indeed a masterstroke of PR and influence, and I give Trump’s media team credit for pulling together such a flawless effort in a short time. Clearly he has a seasoned production team (perhaps pros from the Apprentice?) No other candidate could possibly have pulled this off.
In this writer’s opinion, this is a primary reason Trump would make a good President – his competence in pulling off major events and reaching his goals in gutsy and creative ways. He has great people around them and he knows how to lead them.
And oh, by the way, a la The Celebrity Apprentice, he whipped out his rolodex and pulled in over $6 million in donations from his wealthy friends for Veteran’s causes.
It will be interesting to see the actual audience ratings of each show, I’m predicting the total of the two to exceed the audience of the last debate.