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The PR lessons from how the US is waging a PR war on Coronavirus


Hong Kong, March 31st 2020 – These are challenging times for media
handlers in the PR battle on COVID-19.

So, now more than ever, PR and media relations matters the world over.
As the epidemic has worsened, a growing number of Americans have come to view the Trump administration’s previous “blind optimism” as little more than a downward perfunctory “governing formula”.

In recent days, a number of media in the United States have reviewed Donald Trump’s relevant statements, and some media sarcastically said during the crisis that, “the more the President denies something, the more people should worry about something”.

Global Times reporters found that most of Trump’s tweets over the past two months were related to the presidential election, and it was only last week that the outbreak became a major part of his tweets. “He should have taken action, but he didn’t,” the New York times reported on 16th.

Since late January, the United States has lost three important opportunities to take control of the situation. Meanwhile, a number of US media and several infectious disease experts have begun to issue epidemic warnings, pay close attention to the situation of the epidemic, and call for early prevention of the spread of the virus.

At the time, however, Mr Trump did not take it seriously. “I can speak for the United States when I say we have a situation under control”, Trump said in public remarks on several consecutive days from February 25 to 28. “There is nothing to panic about”, he added.

“The coronavirus will miraculously disappear. The coronavirus is a new democratic scam. No matter what happens, we are ready; we have the greatest doctors in the world”.

On March 5, Trump also said: “You can’t be a politician without shaking hands”. With about 600 confirmed cases and about 26 deaths in the United States until March 10, Trump finally backtracked, saying “we need to be vigilant and careful” but stressing that “we are doing a good job in fighting the epidemic. Don’t panic”. This ”optimistic” attitude has been maintained until recently, Trump changed his tune step by step, and finally admitted that the epidemic was “very bad”.

On the March 13, Trump declared a state of emergency in the United States. “If you are ill, stay at home. We must put politics aside and stop partisan strife”, he declared. When asked about his performance during the outbreak on Tuesday, Trump quickly replied: “I give 10 points”.

Making “empty promises” based on “personal intuition” according to the San Jose Mercury News, Trump and his advisers have misled the public at least 28 times in the past two months. “Anyone who wants to take stock of how much false information the US has disseminated during the emergency need only look at Mr Trump’s tweets and press conferences”, quipped CNN.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, Trump judged the trend of the epidemic mainly on the basis of “personal intuition” and “civil science” theory, which can be regarded as a “wonder” in the international anti epidemic cause. Trump, for example, believed that “when spring comes, viruses go away”, and repeatedly claimed that the new coronavirus will “miraculously” disappear when the weather turns warm in April.

In a telephone interview on March 4, Trump was headstrong: he thought the mortality rate predicted by the World Health Organisaiton (WHO) and related experts was too high, so he intuitively asserted that the mortality rate of the coronavirus would never reach 1%; moreover, he also blindly predicted that the confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States would soon be “close to zero”.

According to the reports, anti-common sense is another characteristic of Trump’s fighting of coronavirus: he called the coronavirus pneumonia “corona flu” by mistake, and then claimed that flu has a greater death rate than the coronavirus. He also said that the death rate of Ebola could reach 100%. To transfer the contradiction, Trump also blamed the spreading of coronavirus to immigrants who came to America to avoid danger.

According to VOX, Trump made a lot of unfulfilled promises to his people. In late February and early March, he claimed twice that a vaccine will be ready “relatively soon”, although scientists had repeatedly told him that as the R&D process would be long and complicated, they won’t have a vaccine until a year and a half later. What is more, Trump promised publicly that American insurance companies would cover all the treatment fees of coronavirus, but in fact companies only promised to cover those of coronavirus tests.

Trump lack balanced source on Twitter. According to PolitiCo, the reason why Trump could not take a good control on America’s outbreak was highly linked with limited sources of information. He altogether followed 47 accounts on Twitter. Beside his families, friends, and subordinates, he also followed some conservatives and people related to Fox News, which is his faithful ally in the media.

During the outbreak, these accounts could only provide him a highly restricted range of information, which fall into several types: “China’s fault”, “Biden’s fault”, and “media’s fault”. In a word, the president’s no fault.

Although being criticized, Trump gained praise from quite a lot celebrities for his performances in addressing the outbreak. Greg Gutfield , a host of Fox News, Trump’s optimism was not blind. As the cheerleader of the nation, Trump wished to alleviate the market panic, and he was born cheerful.

Historian Doug Wead praised Trump:”What he’s doing right now, from the standpoint of history, is almost perfect. It looks like he was born for this moment”. Joe Scarborough, who repeatedly criticized Trump, praised him for his gradually serious attitude: “He actually did what a president is supposed to do. I’m hopeful that yesterday’s [declaration of an emergency] was a new beginning”.

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