At first glance it’s hard to imagine what Donald Trump, Air Asia and a big U.K. phone company have in common.

But if you work in PR and marketing, you can learn lots from these massive and very different PR disaster/success stories.

Most readers probably don’t operate on the scale of Trump, Air Asia, or a national phone company. But that doesn’t matter. The important thing about PR is that its lessons apply to everyone, and that’s because the principles of good public relations are the same, regardless of status or company size.

First, let’s take a look at Trump, and his incredible PR rise and fall. It was only 13 months ago when Forbes magazine published an article titled Trump’s Winning PR Strategy. Trump was vastly different from any previous Presidential candidate; he was brash, out there and, according to some, told it like it was.

Of course, it helped that Trump already had a sky-high profile, but his tell-it-like it-is tactic was beginning to win over voters. Some marketing and PR experts went so far as to call Trump a PR genius. Whether you agree or disagree with this assessment, Trump was getting attention – and lots of it! Even the usually cold and stone-faced Vladimir Putin described Trump as “?????”, a Russian word which, roughly translated, means flamboyant or colourful.

The biggest wild card impacting public relations today is the volatile impact of social media. People are no longer influenced only by veteran news anchors, editorialists and talk show hosts - everyone has an opinion... and a voice! Inflame the vocal masses and you experience death by a thousand cuts.
Glori Meldrum

Trump’s tell-it-like-it-is tactic can yield great results under the right circumstances. Edmonton’s Bashir Mohamed used a similar approach when he truly told it like it was by speaking out about nasty racist taunts he encountered regularly. Bashir was brave, spoke up, and quickly gained support. He was one of a number of people who pushed Edmonton to acknowledge its ugly racism problem.

Addressing real wrongs by being brave and speaking out are good for a community and its people. These behaviours can also generate PR success if you think things through and work in a positive way. Likewise, a colourful personality or flamboyant campaign can bring public relations’ value in the right situation.

For Trump, however, the PR success didn’t last long. Fast-forward to October 2016 and most PR folks now view Trump’s behavior as nightmarish. Why? Well, it turns out that he’s not really a very nice person and, as Trevor Noah pointed out on a recent Daily Show: “Now there’s a reason everything is going wrong for Donald Trump . . . he’s done terrible things . . .”.

Lots of us have done not-so-great or even terrible things in the past. Was Trump beyond all PR redemption? Of course not. But the Republican Presidential candidate’s big mistake was to embrace blame and denial big time and, in the world of PR and marketing, blame and denial will cost your reputation dearly.

Later in the week, the g[squared] blog will tell you how Air Asia and O2 successfully handled their PR crises, and we’ll give you the solutions to Trump’s PR disasters. Until then, have a great week!