Missed opportunities to make PR great again: How public relations agencies responded to the Trump Presidency

Elina Erzikova, Shannon A. Bowen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This exploratory study examines approaches the world's top public relations agencies used to respond to the risks posed by a new U.S. administration during President Trump's first 100 days in office. Because the goal of this research was to analyze the public thought leadership of public relations agencies as displayed on their websites (not agency-client relationships), both quantitative and qualitative content analyses were carried out to examine their website content. The purpose was to identify whether agencies’ ethical counsel and leadership were demonstrated; and, if they were, through which approaches and themes. Public relations agencies discussed the Trump victory in a few ways. The most popular theme was the Columnist/Blogger/Critic approach, or a personalized reflection of agency staffers on the Trump victory. The second most popular--yet less frequent--approach was as PR Counsel, aimed at providing professional advice to prepare brands for Trump's attacks and/or take advantages of new opportunities in the Trump era. The third most popular – the Expert approach – was an in-depth analysis of an issue (for example, health care) and a Trump presidency's implications. This study addresses implications for risk management in the political sphere of public relations. The response of the public relations industry, as evidenced on agency websites, was less than strategic: We do not practice what we preach (or sell). Recommendations are offered for an improved response to future challenges based on issues management and ethical leadership.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101793
JournalPublic Relations Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Dec 2019


  • Crisis response strategies
  • Ethics
  • Issues and risk management
  • Leadership
  • Public relations


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