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What to Do if the Trump Tweet Spotlight Falls on Your Firm

The US president's tweetstorms show no signs of abating; although he tends to stick to politics, companies and corporate behavior do interest him from time to time

US president Donald Trump has shaken up the political establishment in his first few months in the White House, much of which has to do with his use of Twitter. Never before in the platform’s short history has its content shaped the news cycle or been parsed and pored over by policy makers, journalists, and commentators this way.

But although a lot of his tweets cover political issues, he has found time to talk about companies and corporate America as well, which only adds to an already overly complex corporate risk environment. As with many of Trump’s communications, his timing for highlighting specific companies is unpredictable – but there are three things that companies can do to prepare for, and even capitalize on, the spotlight that the “Trump tweet” can shine on them.

  1. Determine whether you’re a likely ‘Trump tweet’ subject: Despite the seemingly random nature of the presidential tweets, there are some early warning indicators that companies can employ.

    Certain characteristics make companies likely subjects of Trump’s messages, including a national/global brand (that Twitter users will recognize), an association with Trump’s businesses or political positions, and most importantly a business model that is affected by the administration’s policy priorities (trade, immigration, healthcare reform, etc).

  2. Prepare for the unlikely but predictable: Even a positive “Trump tweet” is a typical crisis management situation, given the divisions among the public. It’s not worth investing too much in predicting exactly when it’s going to happen, but rather in preparing for what needs to happen immediately when it does – largely from a communications perspective.

    Once your company or brand has been highlighted, communicating quickly and regularly is not enough – that communication needs to be on your stakeholders’ terms, using the channels that they use (and that Trump uses) to receive information.  Even more importantly, it’s worth putting decision rules in place in advance for what to respond to and what to ignore – thus far the “Trump tweet” has not caused lasting damage to the share prices of any of the companies that drew his attention.

  3. Revisit your strategic assumptions in the light of new policy priorities: Far more likely to affect your company than a tweet are policy changes that then change the attractiveness or even viability of significant decisions about corporate strategic goals.

    The Trump administration is still working out its positions on tax and trade but it looks like an aggressive stance toward businesses that save money by either triaging either jobs or capital across US borders will be in the crosshairs.

 

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