Know Your Audience: A Business Analysis of Trump's Inaugural Address

As the world watched US President Donald Trump’s inaugural address, nearly half of Americans chuckled with delight while the other half shook their heads in dismay. Capitals around the world were sent scrambling to develop new strategies for Trump’s “American First” platform.

Pundits are making hay dissecting his address and searching for clues to what his next actions will be. However, the talking heads clogging the airways are using the same political methodologies that miscalculated his win.

First and foremost, Donald Trump is a businessman. He is no politician in the mold we are all used to and has no tangible political record prior to his election campaign we can refer to other than his personal tweets and occasional interviews. Therefore, leveraging business analysis may shed light on his address and intentions.

The Four Ps of Presentation

The basics of any business speech starts with the presentation Four Ps: plan, prepare, practice and present/deliver. 

Here we saw that President Trump clearly did his homework. He did not rely on his standard "off-the-cuff" style. He planned and prepared a scripted speech that he obviously practiced at length. 

On the fourth P, present, he delivered well with energy, passion and most importantly, certainty, which left a strong impression he will follow through on his promises. To his merit, he also left behind many of the less pleasant gestures used on the campaign trail, such as shoulder shrugging and smirking.

As he did during his campaign for presidency, he made great use of key and new memorable phrases that he leveraged almost like advertising copy:

- “Right here, right now” (used twice to indicate action);
- “Bring back our jobs…bring back our borders…bring back our wealth…bring back our dreams;”
- “Buy American and Hire American;” and,
- “Make America strong…wealthy…proud…safe…great again.”

Key to successfully delivering a presentation, a speaker must emotionally connect with the audience. Former presidents Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton masterfully employed warmth and positivity, while George W Bush leveraged his folksy style to build rapport.  

This is where President Trump fell short.  He had neither warmth nor folksiness.  What he did project, however, was an action-oriented business leader style in the phrases:    

- “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action;” and,
- “That all changes – starting right here, and right now.”

These invoke thoughts of a boss the audience may have experienced and admired for his/her decisiveness and action-oriented style: Cut the crap and just get it done. Many in the audience emotionally connected with this and gave their trust to President Trump.

Presentation Storyline

Building a convincing storyline is the next most basic rule of successful businesses presentations after the Four Ps.  This requires the speaker to (in sequential order):

- define the objective;
- identify the audience;
- understand the audience’s concerns;
- explain the merits of the proposal;
- emotionally connect to the audience; and,
- close on a call to action.

The objective of any presidential inaugural address is to get the audience on-board and excited about the new president’s policies and plan for the future. Arguably, the audience of a presidential inaugural address would be all citizens of the United States and global leaders. 

However, not all Americans share the bleak view of the United States that President Trump described. Not all believe America is in a state of “carnage,” as he said in his address. And, not everyone believes as he said, “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed across the entire world.”

Nonetheless, he did attempt to reach out to all when he said, “The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans…A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.”

And for those concerned about discrimination about racial or sexual orientation, he said, “When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”

However, based on how he addressed his audience concerns, it is clear, he selected a particular segment of the audience. Those that got him elected.

In his inaugural address, Donald Trump correctly confronted his target audience's concerns, about education, crime, jobs and a Washington DC that appears indifferent to them. 

President Trump addressed these concerns head on establishing his argument that he is the right man for the job, saying, “We are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the American People.”

He added that he will fix his audience's concerns with the speed of a business leader, saying, “The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action.”

And, he added, “You will never be ignored again.”

To emotionally connect to the audience, President Trump invoked shared aspirations, saying “And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams...”

Finally, he closed with his call to action to make America stronger, wealthier prouder, safer and greater to expand on his “Make American Great Again” campaign slogan.

With the target audience in mind, from a business perspective, President Trump delivered a superb speech (see below analysis diagram).

What the Inaugural Address Tells Us

However, why would President Trump fail to address the needs and desires of all Americans? Why would he not attempt to mend the wounds of what many called a divisive presidential campaign?

As we all know, in business there is never a time everyone in an organization will support a particular proposal, especially if it is a radical change from the past. 

To get a proposal approved, a business presentation must be designed to get enough people to ardently support the proposal to push it through an organization. A successful business presentation does not address those the speaker believes will not change their minds. It instead concentrates on getting the fence sitters to either become strong supporters, or at least not oppose the proposal.  

With calls to “drain the swamp” of Washington DC, renegotiate treaties, and build a wall on the US border with Mexico, President Trump’s policy agenda is a major shift from former President Obama, to say the least.

The signal of President Trump’s presentation is that he will shore up his base by continuing to deliver the message they want to hear. He will attempt to get those partially sympathetic to his ideas to join his base of ardent supporters. And, he will keep those opposed out of the room. 

This is the message of the 45th US President’s inaugural address. 

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