You can play a doctor on TV, but that doesn’t mean you are qualified to conduct surgery in real life. Likewise, the new White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci plays a solid part on TV defending President Trump but he isn’t qualified to lead the communications strategy for an administration in crisis mode.
Trump has always said he likes to hire people who look the part, and Scaramucci definitely looks the part of communications director. He is articulate, charismatic and wears tailored suits. He’s also quick on his feet when sparring on live TV with anchors.
No one disputes Scaramucci will be a vocal defender of the president with his new pulpit, but the job of White House communications director is deeper than looking good on TV and giving soundbites.
A communications director needs to understand media strategy and how to frame the message in a way that resonates with customers and reporters. He needs to make sure the entire communications message is aligned. In crisis mode, an experienced strategist will contain the fire before it spreads into an all-out blaze. Repeating the same answers to reporters on different days is not a communications strategy. It’s a flawed approach that keeps the negative story in motion.
On Friday, Scaramucci had his first introduction in his official press role and from the tenor of his tone, it sounds like he will continue with the same messaging that Trump pushes: the media is wrong; the President is right.
Telling reporters, like Scaramucci did on Friday that “the American people probably see the president the way I do” is not a communications strategy. It’s the same flawed approach that Hillary Clinton’s communications team tried to use throughout their email crisis scandal. Blame the media and insist you are right. Ignore the questions and hopefully reporters will quit answering them.
It doesn’t work like that with the media. A subjective argument never wins when it comes to managing a crisis.
Scaramucci is now the visionary behind all future messaging. It doesn’t matter if it’s healthcare, taxes or foreign policy. In title, Scaramucci will need to formulate the bureaucratic message in a way that reporters understand and the public accepts.
I don’t want to diminish Scaramucci’s credentials. He’s a successful entrepreneur who launched his own hedge fund. He was creative enough to turn that hedge fund brand into an annual Las Vegas conference, called SALT, where investors, fund managers and service sector industries network for business.
Scaramucci understands finance and consumer marketing probably better than many CEOs, but the White House is not a business and his new role as communications director is not your typical PR job.
Scaramucci now faces the smartest and most experienced journalists in the country who will find new ways to question motive and move the news cycle forward. The Russia scandal is not going away, no matter how many times the administration calls it fake news, or attacks the special counsel.
Crises will continually arise in the White House and the administration’s initial response will determine whether the story is squashed or develops into a bigger story with each passing day. Making matters worse, Scaramucci has to be a strong, independent personality based on his credentials. He built his own business by surrounding himself with people who listen to what he says. I don’t know the guy personally, but I suspect he doesn’t like to be told what to do. Sound familiar?
Scaramucci will perform better than Sean Spicer, but that bar was low by previous standards. I give Scaramucci 6 weeks before his honeymoon with the President ends and the drama begins. Americans love reality TV. The next season is going to get even better.
Mark Macias is the founder of Macias PR, a public relations firm based in New York City. He’s a former Executive Producer with NBC, Senior Producer with CBS in New York and author of the book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media.