A recent New York Times article, “How Companies Learned to Stop Fearing Trump’s Twitter Wrath,” caught my attention. When the President first took office, his tweets were heard around the world and definitely in the markets. Today? Not so much. As noted by the author, Alan Rappeport, when GM was the latest (as of this writing at least) company to be called out by the President, the company’s reaction was much more muted compared to companies called our earlier in his administration.
Naturally, given my profession, I put on my counselor hat and asked a few questions:
-Were there significant differences in the tone or topic of the tweets? As noted in the article, not really. Comparing Ford and GM, both involved manufacturing in the Midwest and unsolicited operational advice.
-Has the President’s reach changed? Yes, but it has increased, from 20.4 million when he inaugurated to 59.4 million today.
-Do the companies have different stakeholders? No, again, using GM and Ford as examples, both are publicly traded, well-known, respected automotive brands.
The difference is that the influence and impact of the President’s words has changed. Much like the little boy in the story, when you cry wolf over and over again, people begin to tune out, even if you are the President of the United States.
So, what does this mean to those of us who have a much less impressive business card? My advice:
-Be thoughtful when you make bold statements. Use them wisely and with care.
-Choose your medium. From face-to-face to Twitter, there is a role for everything, but it can change the impact of your message. Would GM have responded differently if President Trump had privately and personally reached out to Mary Barra rather than sharing his concerns on Twitter as well? The decision may not have changed, but the response may have been different.
-When responding, consider the previous experiences, but make sure to adapt your response to the immediate situation.
-And most importantly, always keep things in perspective. As some animal lovers in Estonia found out, wolves and dogs sometimes look alike.