Traditionally, if a politician wanted to get a message out they had three options:
- Hold a press conference
- Issue a press release
- Have the message leaked
All of these methods depended on the press playing its role to relay the message to the public. If the politician was lucky, the press would include a short quote in the story, a pithy ‘sound bite’ that was crafted specifically to get noticed.
Donald Trump has found a way to short circuit this process. He uses Twitter. It is nothing new, Twitter has been around for a decade and celebrities have been using it for years. But politicians have seen it as a secondary outlet.
Serious news was handled in the traditional way – Twitter was not considered sufficiently substantive for it. But Trump upended this. His primary outlet is Twitter. The traditional methods are an afterthought.
The result is that he gets double exposure. His pronouncements are delivered immediately to his Twitter followers, and an added benefit is that that Twitter’s structure forces him to focus his message into a short tweet. Then the traditional media takes over and passes his message on. They reprint his tweets verbatim, giving him exposure – in his own words – to everyone else.
All of the celebrities know how this works. It is second nature to them. But for politicians and the political media, it is an uncomfortable way of doing things. It disintermediates a large part of the Washington establishment. Why do you need leaks and the press when you can go right to the public?
It will be interesting to see how long it takes for the rest of the political world to adjust to Trump’s new operating manual.