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Surprising secrets of effective communication

Communication is what I do. So I like to stay up to speed with the best ways to do it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. Just when I get the hang of one social media channel, another one pops up and there’s a whole new learning curve to explore. (Like just what is TikTok and why is it making people famous?)

Every channel we use changes the way we communicate. Twitter forces us to be brief. The way we read screens shapes the way we write for them. Video can be more effective for a specific audience.

However we communicate, there are some fundamental principles we can apply to every single message. And those principles can be seen, somewhat surprisingly, in the way one man communicates. That man? Donald Trump.


Oh, I know. I’m not suggesting for a second that The Donald’s subject matter is what makes him an effective communicator. It’s not even the way he delivers it – far from it. But all-caps tweets and stammering rhetoric aside, there are four key elements to the man’s communications that go some way to accounting for the adulation of his followers:


1. He’s genuine

Love him or hate him, Trump is unashamedly, unapologetically, Trump. He doesn’t try to ‘spin’ what he says. He doesn’t care about appearing polished. He’ll happily stand on a podium and spout nonsensical theories about drinking disinfectant because he genuinely finds it interesting. He has no filters. So whether he’s making sense or not is, to those who admire him, relatively unimportant. Because he is, always, 100% himself — and that’s something people respond to.


2. He’s authentic

Trump doesn’t hide his feelings. He speaks with utter conviction because he utterly believes in both himself and the things he’s saying. He might be spouting absolute garbage, but he’s spouting it with real passion and absolute certainty, and that’s something that moves people. He appeals to people’s emotions, and that has a profound effect.


3. He knows what people want to hear

The man knows his followers. He knows exactly why they voted for him, and why they still support him. He knows they want to hear about safeguarding borders, protecting America, clearing the swamp. And that’s the line he takes. It’s the same principle as ‘leading with the benefits’. People always want to know ‘what’s in it for me?’ Trump tells them, and they love him for it.


4. He sets clear goals

In fairness, maybe not so much these days, when he seems somewhat overwhelmed by the global pandemic that has overtaken his leadership abilities. But think about his election campaign. He had a specific cause to fight for, and he made it plain, over and over again. There was nothing vague about it. No general statements like ‘we’ll look at the immigration issue’. He said ‘I’m gonna build a wall’. Was it effective? Just ask this: who’s president of the USA?


Just a few simple principles that will help make all our communications more effective.

  1. Be genuine. Be yourself. Don’t try to say something because you think you should. Believe in what you’re saying and it’ll be all the more effective.
  2. Be authentic. Don’t ‘spin’ it. You can be slick, and clever, but you must also be honest.
  3. Lead with the benefits. Think about why should people listen? What’s in it for them?
  4. Be very clear about what you want people to do. Offer direct instruction and direction.

I’ll never be an admirer of Donald Trump. But if I can learn something from the way he communicates, that’s something I’m happy to do.

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