Dear The Donald,
Congrats, you’re leading in the polls. Sure it’s early, but you’ve managed to overcome some early stumbles (including offending veterans, Hispanic-Americans, African-Americans, and most upsettingly, Neil Young). Tonight’s debate will be chock full of story lines, but let’s face it: all eyes will be on you and you couldn’t be happier.
You don’t seem like the type of person who takes advice easily, but we’d be remiss if we let the opportunity to offer some unsolicited guidance slip away. So consider this an in-kind contribution from a public relations firm that knows a thing or two about winning campaigns:
- Put substance before style. Soundbites may score headlines, but your stances on issues that affect everyday people will win votes. Take the stage with an accessible, plausible campaign theme, hammer that message home at every opportunity, and start beating expectations out of the gate.
- Get some facts. This is prime time, so it’s no longer enough to speak in vagaries. You need to know your numbers and find a way to make them applicable to viewers’ everyday lives. Counter that hard data with some personal anecdotes or a heartwarming story from the campaign trail, and watch your favorability ratings perk up.
- Be respectful. I know this doesn’t come easy to you, but it’s critical that you make eye contact, put on your listening cap, and let your opponents finish their sentences. This will create an air of self-confidence while chipping away at the perception that you lack presidential gravitas.
- Create a moment. This is a two hour debate, but only a minute or two of dialogue will make the cut as being memorable. This is the footage that will go viral and be replayed over and over again well into next week. It may be a nasty exchange, a witty comeback, or even a joke. You need to own at least one of these moments.
- Make a friend. The wagons will begin circling around you right off the bat, so you need to find some common ground with another candidate early and play off that person throughout the debate. Preferably it’ll be a real contender – Bush? Rubio? Walker? – allowing you to disarm someone sharing the spotlight. But most importantly, this will show you can play well with others.
That’s all I’ve got, so good luck, g-d bless, and Keep on Rockin’ in the Free World.
P.S.: I’ve spruced up this note with some GIFs on Buzzfeed, in case you’re in a laughing mood.