Trump tax PR hit is as much about timing as his finances

By Jim James,

Founder EASTWEST PR and Host of the SPEAK|pr Podcast

Timing is the key to an audience being receptive to the message that you’re trying to share. And in light of the announcement of Donald Trump’s tax affairs just a few weeks ahead of the third of November US election, it brings home that the message sometimes is going to fall on deaf ears and sometimes on receptive ears. This is why timing matters, and so here’s how you can optimise timing for when you want to get noticed. 

News of the Trump organisation taxes may not affect us personally, nor do they really affect most people, yet it is headline news, rightfully so because of the man that Donald Trump is, but also because of the timing, coming as they do on the eve of the first debate with Senator Biden. Ever since Donald Trump was a nominee, he has been asked to declare his taxes which he has avoided doing, and so there has always been suspense about his taxes for the duration of his term. It’s bubbled in the background, not least of which because of the questions about if he owes money, who does he owe money to, and could he possibly be indebted to the people that he needs to negotiate with on behalf of America? All of this may have washed away and been buried underneath one or two of the other issues that are facing the world, the global warming, the North Korean missile issue, COVID, the China trade war, to name a few. There are enough major issues for people to have forgotten about one man’s taxes for a while and yet, it’s in the spotlight again, because the timing is important.

The phenomenon of timing makes a difference in a company’s PR activity, because when delivering a message, the receptivity of the audience is going to be determined by where they are in their state of mind. One of Wiio’s laws states that all communication is destined to fail, simply because people are not listening. They’ve got other things going on, and that filters their attention. But in the case of the eve of an election in America, everybody is focusing on the credibility of the two candidates. The issue then is that from a public relations perspective, people are often sending information without necessarily thinking about the moment, the time and the state of mind of the person receiving it. 

When is the right time to send out your message?

Photo from Your Story

There is a businessman who’s running a new mobile phone app, and he’s in Singapore, but the app is in Shanghai. He’s challenged with reaching out to an audience that is anyone that might want a desk space in Shanghai, and it’s important to know when people would want to have this information, when they would want to be booking the desks, whether they be booking it in the morning on their way to work, booking it for work, after having dropped the kids at school, after having gone to the gym, etc., because the time that people are going to receive the message impacts a couple of things. One, it impacts what they’re already doing and how occupied they are with their current issues, whether your message is helping them or hindering them. In the case of this Shanghai app, the entrepreneur needs to build an avatar and looking into what kind of person he wants to reach out to. Male or female, young, old, active, not active, parent, not parent, working in tech, not in tech, all these different characteristics which would define their purchasing decisions. This way, he can start to niche down and make and make the marketing campaigns relate to the individuals. 

The second part of that is to look at the day or the week or the month as well. Everyone is familiar with big events like Christmas, Easter, Halloween, etc. Naturally, if you’re selling Christmas trees in the summer, there’s not much pick up. By November or December, however, there’s a lot of pressure to have a Christmas tree. All of a sudden, people are looking for the adverts about Christmas trees. The same is true about fitness apps, or office sharing apps, or food, or insurance. During these COVID times, there are probably more adverts related to wills and health insurance. It was never an issue before but now it is, because people are receptive. So, when thinking about the messaging that you’d like to share, there will be high points and low points in people’s days, weeks, and months when they’re more receptive than at other times. 

In public relations, it is easy to forget about the timing of everything, but it’s more than just sending your message out there. For instance, statistics of the SPEAK|pr podcast and of social media show that there are certain days and times when people are more open to listening. The number of listeners on certain days is higher than on other days. Engagement on social media peaks around certain times of the day. Another thing to note is that if you’re sending out messaging globally, then you should consider geotargeting the message so that you’re sending it out at the appropriate time for people that will be seeing or receiving that message. You also need to think about the timing of the individual in terms of the conversation. People can be clumsy but quite skilled at asking for things. If you’ve had to ask for a raise or you’ve had to ask to borrow a car, then you’ve had to think about the person being receptive, and that should be just the same in terms of the messaging. There’s that old note that you should never fire somebody on a Friday, because it’s not fair to give them all weekend to ruminate but to give them their notice on a Monday. They’ll be busy during the week, and they’ll appreciate that.

The same applies in terms of getting messages out. Journalists are getting in excess of 100 pitches a week in their inbox, and they may need to run 20-30 stories, so there’ll be times when they’re just focused on the work that they’ve already decided to do. And so, be considerate about what you’re asking someone else to listen to. You may be ready to speak with them, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re ready to listen. To tee that up, observe their body language. If you’re not with them in person, have a look at the metrics and see what is currently being read, seen, or shared by people at the certain times of day or night. 

How to deliver your message with the perfect timing

Photo from CDC

Once the message and the timing are teed up, plan the delivery of the message. One tip when doing media training with clients and presentation training is to take the best parts and put them first. That could feel counterintuitive, because the norm is building up to the punch line to watch their body language and see if they’re going to be receptive to what is being said. But with journalists, the media, and people on social media, even moreso these days, that luxury is gone. People want you to get to the point, and the point needs to come first. It’s at that first 30 or 60 seconds, no more, that you have to capture people’s attention, which is really why determining if the audience is receptive to what you’re sharing when you want to share it is key. If you’re sharing messages which are not about to be well received, then you’re going to get shunned and possibly even flamed on social media. 

The issue about Trump’s taxes are just the same as they were four years ago when he was running for president. Actually, nothing has changed about his tax situation, either, it seems, but what has changed is the receptivity of the audience to his tax affairs. The secret is then to harness that, to look for times when the audience, be that your internal audience, your partners, or your external audience, are particularly sensitive to the message that you want to give. That could be a particular time of the year, a time of the month, a time of the day, when there’s a trigger event, a particular need that they have. A bit of psychology, a bit of analysis, and a bit of identification of the avatar will go great together, because if you don’t identify the avatar closely enough, you will be communicating in general with people who are living with specific interest moments. The golden rule of communication is always to seek to understand, then to be understood, and then to find a middle way. When it comes to timing, if you want to ask people to take on board a message that you believe is important, make sure that it’s refined and ready for them to understand it and that they’re in the frame of mind to want to listen. That is going to be the way that business owners will move people from levels of ignorance, through to awareness, through to engagement, and ultimately to evangelism.

This article is based on a transcript from my Podcast SPEAK|pr, you can listen here.

Cover Photo from Freepik

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