The Mooch, The Media & The Message

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Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci’s appointment as communications chief at the White House is (as he may put it) a huge “fuck you” to both journalism and strategic communications. He’s not qualified to be a junior communications officer for a community college, let alone the reputational lead for the White House.

And, unfortunately, I’m not surprised because this is a trend we are seeing more and more in the corporate world as well.

Donald Trump getting elected was plausible given the political climate and growth of apathy in the United States. Elections are the theatre of smoke and mirrors. But the “Mooch” was hired. Someone picked him as the BEST candidate in America to lead communications for the President. Technically speaking, getting elected should be easier than getting hired for the most senior comms job in the U.S. with no tangible track record. Getting hired is based on resumes and proven experience. Becoming President is apparently contingent on nothing more than perceptions.

And, it’s an insult to both journalists and strategic communications experts everywhere because it shows an unbelievable lack of respect for both crafts. It is essentially the President saying “anyone can do this job…I don’t need nor fear the media”.

There is a growing lack of appreciation for what it takes to be a good communicator, mirroring the growing hostility toward the ‘mainstream media’. These days, it seems like anyone thinks they can navigate the complex world of media relations.

The Mooch isn’t qualified for his job. Period. End of story.

Photo: Getty Images

His background is in finance. His media experience is limited to being a big mouth talking head on network television. Being ‘on’ TV doesn’t make you an expert in television news. It doesn’t make you an expert in how the media works – in the same way playing a doctor on TV doesn’t make you qualified to do heart surgery. He has a mouth so, technically, he can communicate. Well, I own a wrench but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. The fact is the “Mooch” doesn’t have a resume suited to his current job. He has never been a journalist. He’s never worked as a communications chief. Hell, he’s never worked as a junior PR assistant from what I can tell.

And, it’s showing already with the new guy who was a media punchline from day one.

Scaramucci is a disaster when it comes to media relations and he won’t last. But, in fairness, he didn’t hire himself. He was chosen. On purpose. By someone who allegedly values their reputation and wants to achieve something at some point. And, in his first week on the job, the Mooch was already picking fights with journalists.

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If you’re a reporter, what does that message say to you?

It’s a declaration of war. He’s already a dead man walking with the media. Trump should fire him already and try again. But, he won’t because, like his boss, the Mooch has one move. Attack and bully – traits that aren’t well received by journalists.

Now, you may be thinking this is a unique situation, someone being so far in over their head in a role like this. But, it happens more than you think in the everyday corporate and government world. And, it’s happening more and more by the day, especially when it comes to people who have to work with the media, yet despise what reporters stand for.

The bitter irony is that in a society where we have more communications tools than ever before, the value associated with people who understand the basics like developing a clear narrative and building healthy lines of communication is deteriorating. The people hiring for these positions don’t even know what they should be looking for.

I see it everyday from the tech sector up to the highest levels of government.

People being hired as media experts either on staff or as consultants, who have absolutely no media experience. Like Scaramucci, they talk a good game and rather than tell their bosses/clients what they ‘need’ to hear, they tell them what they want to hear. They are more cheerleaders than communicators.

I am also seeing a trend of people conducting media training workshops and crisis communications support – people who have never worked in the media or maybe two years at a community newspaper at best. If your media coach or crisis communications support doesn’t have 10 solid senior years under their belt, you should reconsider the perspective you’re being sold. After all, it’s your reputation on the line.

To be clear. I’m not saying everyone in communications leadership needs to have a media background. I know and have worked with many who don’t. However, they do have a healthy appreciation for the role of the media, a great deal of experience dealing with journalists and the confidence to know when they need to call in a media expert.

Anthony Scaramucci, like Sean Spicer before him, is not that person.

Screen Shot 2017-07-28 at 5.54.41 PMInstead, rather than learning from his previous mistakes, he continues to provoke. It won’t end well. When he stumbles, they’ll pounce. The Mooch won’t last long either. I suspect he’s doing this just to build up his own brand and show influence.

If we are to take anything from all this, it’s what not to do.

The Trump Presidency continues to be a living lab on how not to build media relationships. This latest example with Scaramucci teaches us that picking the right person to communicate on behalf of your organization is something you should do carefully. After all, it is your reputation and brand on the line.