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Francisco Javier Pérez Latre, Professor of Communication School

What Trump knew

Thu, 10 Nov 2016 13:57:00 +0000 Published in El Diario Montañés

The U.S. elections are a privileged observatory to study and put on internship new trends in communication and media. In 2012 we witnessed the landing of "big data", "geolocation", cell phones and the iPad in strategies and campaigns. What is new in the duel between Clinton and Trump? What can we learn from this volatile and polarized campaign when we are still so close to the facts? In this election it may be that the learning has more to do with content than media or channels. In some ways, an old lesson can be learned in Trump's victory: it's not what we say that matters, but what others understand. The public is the true center of communication, not the media or the "elites". The spectacular defeat of the "establishment" (also the media "establishment") deserves a more attentive analysis that is beyond the scope of these lines.

The question on many people's minds today is how could Donald Trump have won? It is a logical question for those who have followed the campaign in the traditional European media, which, in general, have been favorable to Clinton following their own leanings and the general consensus of the polls that gave the Democratic candidate a three-point lead (a figure that is within the margin of error, as pointed out by experts such as Nate Silver).

What did Trump's team know that Hillary Clinton's team did not know or did not understand? To paraphrase Alejandro Navas, they knew that there was an underlying malaise; that Clinton did not dazzle the electorate and had a ceiling; that there were citizens irritated with the two major parties and that a new space could be created. It should not be forgotten that part of Trump's campaign has been against the Republican Party. Trump also knew that not all Democrats were convinced after a primary where Bernie Sanders had won 23 states; that according to the polls more than 60% of Americans considered that the country was going in the wrong direction; that the electoral map is in movement and it is possible to widen it... In other words, that there was a public opinion different from the published opinion, a "silent majority" that expresses itself through different channels than the traditional ones.

Nothing has been able to stop that current: neither the intense dedication of a president with remarkable approval ratings like Barack Obama; nor the enthusiastic and brilliant support of Michelle Obama, the charismatic First Lady; Vice President Biden and Bernie Sanders, his former rival; nor the support of music and sports stars such as Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Katy Perry, Bon Jovi, Bruce Springsteen or LeBron James; nor the commitment of Hollywood and much of Silicon Valley to Hillary Clinton; nor the explicit support publishing house of 40 newspapers, starting with the New York Times and the Washington Post, benchmarks of the American press.

There are many other readings and investigations to be done. But in the end, Kellyanne Conway and the other Trump campaign managers have been able to connect with an audience that is not in the traditional media and has its own channels for disseminating ideas. Those of us in communications know that surprises are always possible. But one thing remains the same: the public is at the center. We must always continue to learn to understand their context, to connect with their concerns and their needs. To listen to them.