Winning Lessons from Donald Trump’s RNC Speech

CASE STUDY: The Power of a Clear Story in Trump's Acceptance Speech

Last week Donald Trump officially became the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States in 2016.  On Thursday he gave his acceptance speech to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio. His speech lasted about an hour and fifteen minutes.

Donald-Trump-Roc-Speech

As I’ve said time and time again, winning candidates tell a good story when they campaign. And there is no more an important place for a presidential candidate to do this than when accepting their party’s nomination for president.

Did Trump tell a good story? Did his address he effectively include the Six Pillars of a Winning Campaign Story in his acceptance speech?

Let’s take a look.

1. Identifying the Hero

Trump did this right away and hit on it throughout his speech.  He continually made the voters, the American people, the heroes of the story he was telling.

It interesting that a man who spends so much time talking about how great he is, how incredible his accomplishments are, and how terrific his family is, that he still remembers to make the voters the heroes of the story.

Yet, this is a huge part of Trump’s success. He connects with the voters because he identifies with them as the heroes of the story.  This is why so many Republicans that hadn’t voted in primaries before turned out to vote for Trump in the first part of this year.

Trump made it clear that he is running for “the forgotten men and women of our country” and that he’s doing so because “I’m with you – the American people.”

2. Stating the Problem

From Trump’s perspective (and many primary voters of both major parties), America is in deep trouble.

The country isn’t safe and it’s economy is in taters. Trump blames this problem on specific things:  ISIS, illegal immigration, stupid trade deals, special interests, and the rigged system in Washington.

At the heart of all of those is one villain, his opponent in November: Hillary Clinton.

Trump casts her as the villain specifically by making her a creator or an enabler of the problems America faces. He does so with enough specifics to give the charge a degree of credibility.

3. Introducing the Guide

The guide here is the candidate, Donald J. Trump. He’s the one who has the plan that can fix the problem and he’s not shy talking about it.

Nor should he be. Voters don’t believe people who have a plan if they don’t believe in themselves.

Trump has never demonstrated a lack of self-assurance at any point on the campaign trail, nor did he in this speech.  Instead he made it very clear that he was the guide the voters were looking for. He’d been there and done that.  He could show the people what was wrong and could fix it.

Specifically he said, “Nobody knows the system better than me – which is why I alone can fix it.”

This is an ironic remark since Trump ran as the ultimate outsider.  Yet, because of his wealth he seems to know how money and power can buy influence and favors, so he alone can shut it down – while oddly admitting that he may have abused the system he now calls rigged to his benefit in the past.

4.  Laying Out the Plan

Trump’s plan to solve the problems America faces is very straight forward and ties the voters, the story’s heroes, directly into it.

“Our plan will put America first.”

That plan includes defeating ISIS quickly, securing the southern border to stop illegal immigration, renegotiating America’s bad trade deals, and toppling the rigged system that allows special interests to benefit at the expense of the American people.

Trump claims his plan will make America safer, create jobs, create wealth, and raise the standard of living.  Whether you agree with him or not doesn’t matter. The man has a plan and that’s what matters. A story without a plan isn’t a story because the hero can’t be called to action to fix the stated problem.

5. The Call to Action

In the closing of his speech,Donald Trump made a very clear call to action that tied in all of the elements of the story he was telling.

“I’m asking for your support to be your champion in the White House.”

Short of asking specifically for votes, the call to action of a story doesn’t get much clearer than that.

6. Explaining The Stakes

Trump made the stakes very clear and created an urgency to the call for action.  He said history was watching and we didn’t have much time.

He made it clear that a President Trump will put America first, make the country safer, create jobs, and make America a place where people can dream and have their dreams come true.

At the same time he painted a vivid picture of how bad things would be if his opponent, the villain of this story, Hillary Clinton was elected. Things not only would continue to be bad, but they would get much worse.

This was a very important distinction for voters who might be on the fence, thinking that they could handle four years of Hillary Clinton as President. Trump stressed that they could not.

Will that have a lasting impact?  I’m not sure, but he did the best he could to raise the stakes and elevate the importance of his election if this story is to have a happy ending the way he sees it.

Did Trump Tell A Winning Story?

Without a doubt.

Trump sold himself with this story better that night than he has the entire campaign.

As Peggy Noonan, Wall Street Journal columnist and former Reagan speechwriter recently wrote, “His speech was neither eloquent nor lofty, but it was powerful.”

While candidates traditionally gets a “convention bounce” in the polls after hogging the spotlight for a week, given the very negative view voters have for Donald Trump, he really needed such a bounce. And he got it.

Immediately after his speech, CNN/ORC’s Instant Poll found that 56% of viewers were more likely to vote for Trump after watching his speech, while only 10% said they were more likely to vote against him.

According to acclaimed statistician Nate Silver, Trump and Hillary Clinton are now tied in a dead heat, and “in an election held today, Trump would be a narrow favorite, with a 57 percent chance of winning.”

If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a link to Trump’s speech.  Or you can watch the highlights of his speech below.

Next week we’ll provide the same analysis of Hillary Clinton’s acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.

And please let me know what you thought of Trump’s speech and my analysis.