Stephen Colbert recently quipped, "I promise you, just like the rest of the media, I will be covering all of the presidential candidates … who are Donald Trump.” Colbert was poking fun at the fact that during the current U.S. presidential candidate campaign, Trump has dominated media coverage, receiving more attention on leading U.S. news channels (NBC,ABC, CBS) than all of the other candidates combined. Love him or hate him, Trump has mastered the art of the media, and utilizes a number of tactics which gain him coverage and a means of spreading his views — however controversial they may be — to millions of potential voters around the U.S.
Answering questions in person via email and social media, making himself available for interviews, and flooding the internet with soundbites and outlandish comments attract media attention, and as a result push his opinions to the front of public consciousness.
1. Create soundbites: “No more Oreos for Trump”
In the world of politics, candidates spend months on the campaign trail and the media becomes saturated with politicians talking themselves up and making promises to the country. With this overload of information, appealing to the public means effectively creating “soundbites” that will stick in their memories.
“He can be as incorrect as he likes, because he gets away with it because he’s Donald Trump, the Barnum and Bailey of the 21st century,” said political analyst Bob Beckel. “Everyone’s playing in his circus ring.”
While other career politicians running for candidacy may be careful with their words and strive to not offend or alienate the voting population, Trump’s regular rants and comments on a range of touchy subjects make reporters lap him up and generate front page coverage.
"Donald Trump is a fascinating media study," tweeted Benjy Sarlin, political reporter at MSNBC. "Lack of clear ideology seems to make otherwise cautious neutral reporters comfortable going off."
A Google search of Trump’s quotes from 2015 will reveal multiple articles from top publications from around the world, not solely in the U.S. The same can't be said for candidates who keep their comments respectful and on-topic, like Hillary Clinton, who tends to stick to topics relevant to her campaigns and generate support with voters.
2. Make yourself available to the media
The difference between Trump and many of his career-politician GOP rivals is the access and availability he grants to the media.
Trump has conducted a number of lengthy, in-depth, personal and often surprisingly honest interviews with leading publications such as Time and Rolling Stone. Trump even invited Rolling Stone reporter Paul Solotaroff on his campaign trail, chatting behind the scenes on his private jet and at campaign rallies about everything from drugs to waterboarding.
Trump’s well-publicized spat with Univision anchor Jorge Ramos highlighted that he allows reporters to get close up and personal, actually placing them in the front row of auditoriums. This comfort with giving the media access has pushed Trump ahead.
3. Offer transparency and stick to your guns
A defining trait of Trump’s campaign has been his unwavering commitment to his own opinions and comments, regardless of the negative backlash he receives in public or from the media. During his campaign trail, Trump has made fun of fellow candidates’ physical appearances, publicly attacked Fox's Megyn Kelly over questions he deemed unfair during a debate, and turned millions against him with his extreme views. But he has never apologized.
"I fully think apologizing is a great thing, but you have to be wrong," Trump told chat show host Jimmy Fallon.
While the opinions shared by Trump may be unsavory, they follow a set of media tactics which guarantees them widespread coverage. Trump didn't become a billionaire by muddling his words. When he made himself a hate-figure by calling Mexicans criminals, it seems unlikely that he let these statements slip out by mistake. Regardless of his prospects for the presidency, Trump has scored a victory in becoming the most discussed man in the U.S.A — and in many other countries — for the duration of his campaign.