Trump's biggest test still ahead

27 July 2016

He may be the master of the sound bite and know exactly how to attract the attention of the news media, but soon Donald Trump will need more than that.

In my media training sessions, two key areas are the importance of having your own message and knowing how to answer difficult questions. Trump has a pretty clear message. The overall message of “We’ll make America great again” is pretty abstract, but he does back it up with some fairly concrete points like building a wall, keeping Muslims out and getting better trade and security deals for the US.

But when it comes to answering difficult questions, he is vulnerable. He hasn’t been seriously tested here yet. That’s because it was impossible in the debates where he was joined by 10 other candidates. He only had time for quick sound bites, and he offered far better and media friendly ones than his opponents. He knows what the media wanted and he gave it to them.

But now things change. When he debates directly with Hillary Clinton, he will need to answer the tough questions. How will he build his wall? how will he keep Muslims out? and how specifically will he satisfy all those disaffected Americans who see him as their saviour.

He will be forced to answer these questions with a bit of detail. He will try to revert back to a catchy sound bite and this will work sometimes. But he will be pushed like he hasn’t been before.

How will he do? Only time will tell. It seems that lots of people will vote for him regardless, but those who sway the vote one way or the other may well be interested in these ‘how’ questions.

If you would like my free White Paper, “The 5 Steps to Pain-Free Media Interviews” go to my homepage at

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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