The Bully Tweet: What to do when called out by the next Commander-in-Chief

“Cancel the order!”

“They will sell many air conditioners!”

President-elect Trump is going to be a different kind of president – that much is clear.

Others can debate potential policy actions and their impact on businesses operating in the United States. What we focus on here is how business leaders should be preparing for and potentially dealing with President-elect Trump’s unpredictable communications style.

The nation’s Commander-in-Chief has always had access to the “bully pulpit,” from which to speak out loudly on any issue. President-elect Trump has already redefined the bully pulpit by deploying the “bully tweet,” using his personal social media feed to publicly and directly shine a spotlight on people and companies alike.

Business leaders need to carefully consider how best to manage the potential of being unexpectedly thrust into the national spotlight. As recent events have shown, President-elect Trump’s tweets – good or bad and which arrive without warning or context at any time – can have a significant impact on a targeted company’s stock price, reputation and ability to do business.

Few companies can be certain that they will become the subject of a Trump tweet (or that they won’t), but they can still take steps to better position themselves for that possibility. Indeed, preparation is essential whether you are the object of a tweet from President-elect Trump or any other influencer. A smart plan, effective relationships and a clear focus can help companies survive the public glare without creating undo conflict or furthering constant scrutiny. While specific circumstances will vary, here are some guidelines for how to prepare for and handle a provocative tweet from the next leader of the free world:

1.Shore up your base

The bully tweet speaks directly to many audiences at once, including customers, employees,investors, competitors and a broad public that may never before have given your company asecond thought. As a result, stakeholder relationships have never mattered more: Make sure youknow your key constituents and identify your advocates. Spend the time now to ensure theyunderstand your business. Take real action to verify these connections; do not assume anything.Identifying your base and having a direct line to them can help you if, or when, that bolt-out-of-the-blue tweet comes.

While the bully tweet is a new phenomenon, we have been helping companies manage unexpected communications challenges for over thirty years. We invite you to visit our website to learn more about our team, services and insights.

2. Know the team

Understand the working group needed to quickly assess why your company has been spotlighted and what decisions need to be made next. Private calls, short statements, internal memos…spend time now thinking through what makes sense and how fast actions can be made, and consider what relationships you have – or can foster – with key influencers in D.C. and Trump Tower.

3. Don’t over-respond

Any public statement you make should be measured and concise (and probably not delivered in a tweet). Address the immediate issue(s) of greatest relevance to your key stakeholders, and no more. Don’t feed the fire with words or messages that play into the divided national dialogue.

4. Get off the stage…fast

The national spotlight that follows a Trump tweet can be uncomfortable for companies. It’s in your interest to take the dialogue offline as quickly as possible. Engaging publicly – even if the President-elect’s tweet was positive – will only serve to prolong the issue in the public arena and do harm to your reputation and business. Attempt to resolve any issue with the President-elect behind closed doors.

5. Work your network

News stories come and go at lightning speed. Keep up a direct dialogue with your constituents to ensure they understand the situation, and remember that the less fuel to the fire you provide, the more likely (and quickly) the spotlight will move on to someone else.

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