How to go from a reality TV star to the President of the United States of America.

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Reality TV. The genre that has overtaken our lives, from watching ordinary people find the “love’ of their lives on a luxury island, to watching important political figures such as Stanley Johnson eating kangaroo…bits. We sit down and indulge ourselves on entertaining content, usually thanking god that it’s not us having to serenade Simon Cowell.

But what if one of these TV “stars” then decides one day, “I think I want to become president” (as most normal people do). What does it take in order for this to happen? Well no, this isn’t some sort of SNL comedy sketch. This is in fact real life, and it came down to one bumbling, blonde haired man by the name of Donald Trump and the help of the now infamous Cambridge Analytica.

By this point, if you do not know who Trump is then I do believe you may be in the extremely lucky minority. For those who do, I’m sure you ask yourself on a regular basis, how did this man ever become president of the United States (which, may I add would be a completely valid observation).  Well America, you largely have the work of a data company known as Cambridge Analytica to thank for that.

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Cambridge Analytica were a consulting firm, that was set up to combine data mining, data brokerage and analysis. They were able to offer services to business and political groups who wanted to “change audience behaviour.” They claimed that they where able to use certain algorithms, specifically tailored to your businesses needs, for example the ability to analyse consumer data and buying behaviours. In the case of the Trump campaign, their main objective was to ensure Donald Trump become president, by implementing a few “necessary” (unethical) steps.

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This is my summarised “How to” guide of Cambridge Analytica’s process of transforming Trump from a second rate Alan Sugar to President of the USA. A fool proof system, made to aid the fool!

  1. Exploitation of Facebook users privacy

Exploitation. A common way to gain information on your target market, is it not? Cambridge Analytica developed an algorithm for Facebook, which involved paying participants to partake in a survey about their personalities, and as a result allowing access to all their Facebook data and information. Roughly 270,000 people took part in this survey, which as a result lead to around 30 million  peoples data being accessed, as they were able to access friends of friends, all for the sake of $5! This allowed Cambridge Analytica to have extensive amount of data of the American public, which was what they effectively needed for the next step. 

2. Breakdown of data

They then come up with a system that allowed them to group off people in certain divisions, for example people with a particular personality trait were seen to be more likely to support “the wall” being built, and therefore could be swayed to vote for Trump with a small amount of persuasive targeted marketing. They scored each personality using the Ocean model, which effectively segregated people into different characters based on things like their openness to new experiences and their neuroticism, which was then used to decide those who were sensitive from those who are more secure and confident. Who knew a small amount of information we have posted on Facebook would allow for a mass break down of our personalities, frightening isn’t it?

3. Campaigning

Once they where able to branch the individuals off into large groups and sub groups within that, they were then able to find out which participants they would tailor their marketing for the campaign towards, as these were the people that possessed the necessary characteristics to be swayed to vote for Trump. They used devised communication within their digital marketing campaigns to “promote the story” to their targeted individuals. All the data research and segregation of groups meant that one groups campaign that they saw online would be completely different from another group, as both these individuals need to be attracted to the cause in a different way, and allows people to believe in the candidate and connect with everyone in a different way- and as a result encourage and increase voting numbers. The main (only) way they could persuade people to vote for Trump- ruin the reputation of Hilary Clinton. The perfect marketing plan wouldn’t you say? 

4. Extorting politicians

What is the best way to get politicians on your side during a campaign? Make alliances with them, create a mutual relationship, build friendships through past experiences? No, Cambridge Analytica decided to go for a more hands on method with one of their chief executives appearing to say that they are able to extort other politicians by sending woman to entrap them. A conventional method to win presidency, extort politicians and create fake news regarding them, right? This gave them the endorsement and support that they may have needed to sway voters towards Trump. 

A lot of technical stuff isn’t it? In simplified terms, all you have to do to become President is unethically access large quantities of data from unsuspecting participants of surveys, manipulate their data in a way to suit your intentions and create marketing content to drill propaganda into said person, simple right? Is it ethical and morally correct? No. Will it get you off the TV and saying “you’re fired” everyday? Yes. 

Since then, Cambridge Analytica has been shut down and under investigation for a number of possible offences they may be held liable for. Does that mean our national reality show treasure like Paul Hollywood or Gemma Collins will never become PM?

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I do want to end this on a more positive note, so rather than a detailed dissection on the large global effect Trumps presidency is having on many individuals that belong to minority groups, or his lack of consideration for our rapidly dying planet, I decided to end with a few of my favourite trump memes. Enjoy!

My top PR Campaigns of 2019

Creating an eye-catching PR campaign for your business can be the key to increasing brand audience, sales or fuelling  conversation. Our world is now saturated with creative people, coming up with innovative ways to promote themselves and their business. In order to stand out from the crowd, PR companies are being pushed to the limits to think of something unique and creative that will grab the audience’s attention and direct them towards your brand. Thats why, when a particular campaign stands out from the rest, you know that it’s done the job! I have compiled a list of four of my favourite PR campaigns of 2019.

  1. Cadbury Loneliness Campaign

One of the inevitable things that is set out for us within our lives is that we will continue to grow older. It is commonly known that elderly people constantly feel a sense of loneliness and as if they are cut off from society. This year, Cadbury’s teamed up with Age UK to combat the loneliness and isolation amongst our older generation. They came up with the “donating words campaign,” in which they removed all the lettering on their chocolate bar packaging to reveal a blank package. These limited edition bars where being sold in supermarkets nationwide, with 30p of every bar being donated towards Age UK, to help tackle their mission of reducing loneliness. This campaign was an incredible way to not only raise funds for Age UK, but show how a few words or a conversation can mean so much to the older generation. The campaign sparked a lot of conversation online, encouraging people to reach out to their grandparents. So not only did Cadbury’s effectively raise money for the charity, they also increased awareness on loneliness in the older generation and made people more aware of trying to reduce this.

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  1. Tinder bully = ASOS Model

Tinder. A perfect depiction of modern day dating. What more could you want than a complete stranger deciding whether you are worthy of them, based solely on your physical appearance. Thea, who had been using the site like most people, received a message from a boy who believed it was his right to inform her that her picture was awful and her dress looked like something for a ‘charity shop,’ the perfect way to charm a woman, don’t you think? After being shocked by the comments this stranger made to her, Thea decided to share her story online, and encourage people to be less cruel online.

Well, ASOS took part in an incredible piece of reactive PR, by taking this horrible experience Thea endured, and making her an official model for that particular dress on their website. They used the image of her in a beautiful purple dress, which was on her Tinder profile and used it as the promotional picture for that dress of their website. Not only was this extremely effective at communicating and empowering woman, but it also garnered a lot of supporting from the public online.

  1. Ikea furniture or historical exhibits?

The dreaded phrase, “can you build this Ikea desk for me.” Sure, we may need a degree in product design and engineering to understand the instruction, but for the quality and the price we always go back. To try and combat the “Ikea haters”, as they are better known online, Ikea came up with a new interactive PR campaign to show how their furniture could blend in with high class, expensive furniture. They decided to partner with the Museum of Romanticism in Madrid, and strategically placed their furniture amongst the 18th Century furniture that existed in the exhibit. They then challenged their fans online to pick out what pieces where Ikea, and what were historical pieces. This campaign garnered a lot of support at the museum its self and online. More than 70% of people were unable to differentiate the Ikea pieces from the history pieces. This allowed them to creatively show their customers that their products are great value for money, but can also fit in to the most fancy . They have since went on to win many awards for this campaign. Could you spot the Ikea furniture, or did you just feel nauseous at the thought of building it all?

4. Master-cards “Acceptance Matters” Initatives

Just recently Master-card in the US ran their acceptance matters campaign, which ran to celebrate Pride Month in America, to support the LGBTQIA+ community. Their campaign called the “True Name” campaign which allowed individuals to use their true names on their credit/debit cards, without the need for a legal name change. Mastercard and undertaken a study and found that nearly one in three individuals ID’s names or gender do match with what the identify as and therefore reported having a negative experience. They realised how complex and expensive it can be to legally change their name or gender, so they wanted to find a way that they could improve their customers experience.

They wanted to promote personal identification for trans and non binary people to let their bank cards truly reflect them. With the way that our current society is, especially in America, this was an incredible way to promote inclusion and acceptance for everyone in their daily lives. This campaign received a lot of support, not only from the LGBTQIA+ community, but also from the rest of the public who are aware of the inequality the people face on a daily basis, due to the political environment in America- and want to support a cause that can improve peoples lives.

In conclusion, it is clear to see that to stand out from the crowd, a well formulated, innovative PR campaign is needed. Sometimes this may be well planned, carefully crafted campaigns such as IKEA’s, or it can be the case of reactive PR just as ASOS where able to achieve. A good campaign can not only benefit the business and increase sales/reputation, but it can always promote an important message within society and hopefully move towards and better and more inclusive world.

Meabh McMahon is a final year Bsc Communication Management and Public Relations student at ulster University. She can be found at: LinkedIn – Meabh McMahon https://www.linkedin.com/in/meabh-mcmahon-a89b25156/  Twitter: @meabhm6