Corporations Turn to Crisis Counselors in Wake of Trump Tweets

When the man with the most powerful two thumbs in the world makes you a target of his tweets, corporations are  seeking crisis counsel on how to respond. Photo Credit: AP/Evan Vucci/LM Ottero

When the man with the most powerful two thumbs in the world makes you a target of his tweets, corporations are  seeking crisis counsel on how to respond.

Photo Credit: AP/Evan Vucci/LM Ottero

Donald Trump’s pledge to create jobs is being fulfilled, but perhaps not quite in the way anticipated. Many major corporations, especially ones that do business with the federal government, are hiring crisis counselors to brace themselves for antagonistic tweets from the incoming President, who has the two most powerful thumbs in the world.

The pharmaceutical industry has seen its stock values plunge after Trump promised to bring down prescription drug prices. Trump’s threats to impose border taxes on imported cars prompted auto industry executives to play up plans to invest in US manufacturing facilities. Defense contractors and aerospace companies have felt the sting of Trump’s tweets and are promising reduced costs for new aircraft.

Competent crisis plans include advice on responding to Internet attacks, but few plans take into account attacks launched by the commander in chief. Tweeting by Trump hasn’t abated since his election and, if anything, has grown more pointed at policy targets and not just political foes.

“For the first time since the whole Internet revolution began, from the questions they have and from the look in their eyes, you can see the realization that [corporations] are facing a level of institutional, enterprise threat that obviates their whole crisis playbook,” PR strategist Richard Levick told Dominic Fracassa of the San Francisco Chronicle. “You might as well burn [those] crisis playbooks.”

Levick and others who provide crisis communications counsel urge corporations to assess their vulnerabilities and develop new crisis strategies. It apparently has become a booming new business opportunity for crisis counselors.

However, the advice on how to respond to a Trump tweet varies.  Some advisers encourage corporations that do business with the federal government or are subject to federal regulation to “genuflect” to Trump’s policy directions, especially when it comes to creating jobs in the United States.

Two examples – Alibaba’s president met with Trump and announced a plan to create 1 million US jobs by helping American small businesses sell successfully into Asian markets and Amazon’s pledge to create 100,000 full-time jobs in the next 18 months. Skeptics wonder whether all those jobs will materialize, but there is no doubt the PR value of the promises was highly valuable.

Other companies are banking on a Trump tweet boomerang. In his story, Fracassa said some corporations will see more upside in ignoring or capitalizing on Trump’s 140-character salvos. He noted Vanity Fair Magazine saw its subscription rate skyrocket after it ran ads ballyhooing itself as the “magazine Trump doesn’t want you to read.”

“Other companies will realize that the king doesn’t have a lot of clothing here,” Levick said. “At some point in the not too-distant future, a company will realize that there is greater value in being courageous and standing up to the president.”