We’re a week into Anthony Scaramucci’s tenure as President Trump’s Director of Communications, perhaps the only full week he’ll serve, as incredulity at this latest turn in the Trump White House soap-opera has already turned to high farce with Mooch’s expletive laden on-the-record interview with The New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza where he firmly set his sights on ridding the Trump Administration of Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and political svengali, Steve Bannon.
Scaramucci has launched himself into one of the hottest hot seats in global political communication – but seemingly with no grasp of either Journalist, nor Organisational Communications, School 101. As someone who spent over 20 years in corporate communications prior to heading into academia, that appals and saddens me. Scaramucci is seemingly ignorant both of how the media operates (nothing is off the record until both sides have agreed that’s the case), and of what makes a great spokesperson, be it for a corporate or a president.
Now Mooch is clearly a pal of the President, albeit politically, it seems he’s a very recent one. You can almost imagine his pitch for the Director of Comms role: “Hey Mr President. I can walk and talk at the same time. Give me enough access and I’ll spit out whatever you want me to, with a big grin and a warm, Italian, touchy-feely tone that’ll have the White House reporters eating outta my hand! Capiche? How hard can it be?”
Well, if you know nothing about it, pretty hard, as Anthony’s first week in big school has shown. Here are just a few lessons he should have learned.
- Be aware of your net footprint. Scaramucci has been all over Twitter for a while, with positions on issues such as gun control and climate change at odds with the president. All week he has been mocked for them – and trying to “acid wash” (a Donald Trump term, seemingly from the 80s) them away after the event just doesn’t work, and has drawn ever more exposure to his past views.
- Be humble. According to Scaramucci’s late night rant, he’s here to “serve the country”. Perhaps that entails first getting to know the country from other than a Wall Street perspective, and taking the time to get to know his colleagues, stakeholders and audience before letting rip. Tom Wolfe’s description of a ‘Master of the Universe’ is apt for the Mooch. He arrived in the West Wing Press Briefing Room knowing it all. A week later, it’s apparent to the rest of us that he has an awful lot to learn.
- Be proud of what you do, but leave your ego at the door – is Mooch proud of what he’s doing, or has he just sold his soul to be Trump’s consigliere? Great Directors of Communication hone their craft over years. They stand up to their bosses, acting as part conscience, part teacher as they shape the messages that will create the right actions from those on the receiving end. As soon as they become the story, their impact wanes – as seen with Sean Spicer almost from January 21. The very best spokespeople understand the media and can push all the right buttons – but they never eclipse the star.
Anthony Scaramucci’s performance so far is more the fire cracker than the Saturn V rocket. Maybe he’s a quick study. Maybe, as some journalists contend, he’s not in Trump’s pocket, but a tool for Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump in the power struggle with Bannon and Priebus. Perhaps he has been the perfect deflection in a terrible week for the Trump presidency. What he’s not, and I suspect will never be, is an effective Director of Communications. But there again, this White House is consistent only in its surprises. It’s a circus, and Mooch is the new clown in town.
Politics & IR lecturer, University of Reading
photo credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP