Cliff Sims, the former White House aide, has just published a spicy tell-all book about his year and a half in the Trump administration’s communications shop. It’s Sims’ attempt to make America’s White House exposés great again — and he mostly succeeds.
First, the bad news for anyone who prizes organizational loyalty: Sims stabs his boss in the back. The good news: His boss was Sean Spicer.
Sims’ book, “Team of Vipers: My 500 Extraordinary Days in the Trump White House,” has its ups and downs, and it’s never more up (and riveting) then when it’s getting down and dirty about Mr. Spicer.
Sims also kicks lots of mud on the boots of John Kelly. His portrayal of Kellyanne Conway as a first-class leaker further sullies her reputation.
Sims showers praise on Hope Hicks — although a cynic might be justified in wondering if he’s angling for a job at her new employer, 21st Century Fox.
As someone who regularly monitors right-wing media outlets for my website TheRighting, I was particularly interested in the role of former Breitbart boss Steve Bannon (Spoiler alert: He behaved worse than I feared).
Even if you’re not a political junkie, there’s a lot to recommend about “Team of Vipers.” Sims survived for 18 long months in the snakepit of the Trump administration, and careful readers can pull some useful marketing tips from the pages of the book.
Here are just a few of them.
Tip: Brand your concepts simply (really simply!) If you can’t explain your position, ideology or product in a simple phrase, no one will understand it easily. And worse yet, they won’t buy it. Examples: Make America Great Again, Drain the Swamp, Build the Wall. Any questions?
Tip: Take credit for something big and powerful. When asked by President Trump about a possible choice for his attorney general, Sims immediately suggested Jeff Sessions, whom he knew from his previous job as the CEO of the Alabama news site Yellowhammer.
And guess what? Trump liked the idea. Sims took credit for the choice. He was doing his best to defend himself from the idea vampires who suck the fingerprints off of brilliant concepts and pass them off as their own. Sims’ instincts were sound and generated enormous political capital for the young staffer that carried far even after Sessions’ star dimmed.
Tip: Pick a favored communications channel, master it and use it to hammer home your messages. FDR had radio. JFK, with his good looks and GQ-perfect hair, used television to perfection.
For Trump, it’s Twitter, which Sims maintains is one of the President’s most prized possessions. Zorro had his sword and Trump uses his tweets with equal deadly flair and aim. Marketing professionals, especially those in politics, would be well served by studying Trump’s adept use of the platform.
Tip: Double-check your facts before pushing your message. Anyone remember Sean Spicer’s first press conference about crowd size after President Trump’s inauguration? Hard to forget. But the crowd size was not Spicer’s only factual error that day, according to Sims. He lifts the curtain on the harrowing hours just before the press conference when it was clear that Spicer did not have all the facts he needed to meet the press.
Tip: If your boss looks like crap before an important meeting or public appearance, tell him. Anyone remember Sean Spicer’s first press conference about crowd size after President Trump’s inauguration? (See: suit, ill-fitting)
Tip: Let the boss take credit for your ideas (and don’t outshine the boss). This seems like pretty simple advice, but it was ignored repeatedly by some people who should have known better, according to Sims. Scaramucci got caught leaning too far over his Gucci loafers with his love of the spotlight, and Bannon’s profile was way too high as well. The takeaway: sometimes mushrooms live longer than sunflowers.
Tip: Always take extraordinary care physically positioning your CEO or candidate during a television interview. Sims learned this lesson from working closely with Trump, who picked up a few tricks from his days as a reality television star. In particular, he didn’t like a white backdrop because his blonde-ish, orange-ish hair faded into it. Sims tells readers to always have the shot framed exactly how you want it. And never be afraid to have the lighting turned down.
Tip: All employees are disposable. That’s the lesson of the Trump White House where loyalty, as Sims personally discovered, was a one-way street. But it’s a lesson for all employees, whether or not they’re in marketing.
Tip: If you’re going to burn a bridge, use dynamite. Whatever you think about Cliff Sims, he’s got some explosive allegations in his bridge-burning book. He’ll never write talking points in this town again.