President-elect Donald Trump has made over 34,000 tweets from his @realdonaldtrump account. The 140 characters of this social media platform seem to suit his direct style very well, but many large corporations receiving government assistance, or with government contracts, should be looking at ways to change their own style in relation to the incoming President.
Case in point is the recent issue with Boeing. The aeronautics dynamo got a hard smack upside the head recently. During the Obama administration, they were the golden company. President Obama even commented once that he should get a hefty commission for all the sales work he did for them around the world. And then … wham … President-elect Trump zinged the company with comments about their excessive charges, saying that others might be able to provide just as good of products at much lower costs. Boeing reacted badly according to some, volleying with their recent increase in business with the Chinese and claiming they’d be just fine without U.S. contracts.
Can any company, no matter how big today, afford to antagonize the future President of the U.S.? A similar situation has been going on with Carrier – and it’s lasted too long for the company’s air-conditioned comfort.
What would be the best approach to a negative tweet from @realdonaldtrump when made to a corporation? The way that’s been happening is an attack back with equal force. Companies defending their honor and right to work independently of censure from the government. But the problem is they aren’t doing that in letters back and forth where only the corporate head and the President’s staff see what is said. Trump has more than 17 million Twitter followers, and many of them retweet his messages. By contrast, Boeing has less than a half million followers on the platform.
These numbers mean that no matter how hard Boeing, or any other major corporation, tries, they are unlikely to get the coverage via word of tweet that Trump will get. It is equally unlikely that their PR or communications specialist will have the experience that President-elect Trump has on the platform or possibly even just with PR efforts.
Probably the best response corporations can give in this situation, and this applies to smaller corporations facing the possibility of a Twitter battle with someone of influence, is to approach it strategically. Instead of picking up the gauntlet and joining a verbal duel, offer a peace summit instead. The company reads a tweet saying they are out of line … whether or not it is true, the first and loudest shout is likely to hold some credence with readers. You can argue the point and just reinforce their thoughts, or offer a calm and controlled, “let’s sit down and see what we can work out instead.”
Diffusing a possibly volatile situation is much more of a win than going to battle, even if at the end you can declare a victory. When the world is watching, make sure you don’t seem arrogant, combative, or unreasonable. If things can’t be worked out, you’ll have lost a little time and gained more respect from those looking at the situation from the outside.