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What will you say when you're asked about Donald Trump?

Blog post   •   Feb 06, 2017 08:48 SGT

A snapshot of my crumpled copy of the WSJ story, which is the subject of this blog post

I admit it - I make a habit of asking participants of our media training workshops about all sorts of topics not directly related to their companies or their jobs.

When we record our practise interviews in our TV studio I ask them about everything under the sun, including seemingly irrelevant questions about Brexit, or Donald Trump. Even if the business leader doesn't have any operations in the UK, the US or the EU.

That's because these are hot stories, and journalists want to gather responses from a variety of sources, including from Asian CEOs.

Now the Wall Street Journal has published a front-page article which proves that Asian CEOs must be prepared for these questions. Under the headline "President looms in earnings calls", journalist Theo Francis has analysed the transcripts of earnings calls held by S&P 500 companies and found that President Trump (or the "new administration", as those companies which can't bring themselves to utter his name say) featured in about half of them (!).

Now, clearly these are US-based companies, so media spokespeople in Asia might argue they will not be directly impacted by Trump's tax, or other domestic policies.

But we have seen from the cancellation of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) just how much impact Trump's decisions are having on those of us outside the US. Trump's plan to levy export taxes also have a direct impact on Asia-based companies.

That just increases the relevance of these questions during our practise interviews.

Moreover, companies in the US have expressed very different views on Trump than we frequently hear in Asia. In Theo Francis' words, "despite uncertainty over new proposals, most of the companies urged patience – and optimism".

This puts Asia-based SLTs in a bind. Your US headquarters might be quite positive about Trump's promised tax cuts, red tape cuts, and increased infrastructure spending. But when America is first, Asia necessarily comes off second best. Will your SLT members mouth off with personal opinions of the new President? Or will they stay on message? Given holding statements might be less relevant in Asia, or even contradict the situation outside the United States, how will you respond when the inevitable question about Donald Trump arises?

We conduct practise interviews in our TV studios in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. If participants can survive these interviews, they can survive any interview. Including unexpected ones about Donald Trump.

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