Strategizing with Trump

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

We have all heard the question: If you could go out to lunch with anyone who would it be?

With my own little twist on it, I would want to be asked: If I could have my dream client today, who would it be?

Not for any political reasons but for my love of strategy, there is no president I would want to work for more than President Trump. I have closely watched this tango he has engaged in with the media for years now, and the two have been in a full embrace since he announced his run for the presidency.

As a communications consultant, there have been many moments I have to believe he is just not heeding the advice of his team. There are things any strategist would recommend not to Tweet. I often wonder, what is going on in that war room of the President, his communications team, and executive staff?

Do I believe there have been media biases against him? Absolutely! There will always be those who dislike him regardless of what he does, or problems he solves. In other instances, he has given reason for the ruckus. He contributed to the circus we all watched leading up to Election Day.

I certainly would not encourage him to respond to anything Rosie O’Donnell would have to say. He has been sparring with her for years but now as the President, you would think it would stop and by him. It doesn’t matter that she and other celebrities are Tweeting in conversation about Trump and Sean Spicer.

He is the President and people expect him to act Presidential.

I have never declared myself as part of any political party. I never will. As a reporter, I have covered many political campaigns and have interviewed many elected officials. As a communications strategist, I have worked for a few. There are good and bad on both sides. There are the talented and the clueless on both sides. There are people who are true public servants and others who only have a personal or political agenda on both sides. I have seen many sides to the political story – enough to know that I need to vote for the person – not the party.

Trump is the perfect point for that case. It was not long ago he looked more like a Democrat than a Republican.

Despite some of my conservative views on some issues, I have had great respect for some political leaders who I have disagreed with on major issues because I saw their dedication and authenticity.

That is what is expected of a public figure or a person for that matter — to be authentic.

I like to believe my media training has given me the ability to be as unbiased as humanly possible. I like to examine and evaluate. I like to ask questions and assess for myself what is going on. My experiences as a journalist have given me a skillset that would do all of us good come Election Day. Don’t just vote for someone because he is part of a party and don’t hate him for the same reasons.

I don’t think in this case with President Trump we can truly gauge what’s going on without being that proverbial fly on the wall or part of the team. If I had the opportunity to consult with the President, I would borrow the Jay Leno question posed to Hugh Grant in 1995, which would apply to so many situations today — what the hell were you thinking?

I would love to ask questions of him and of his communications team. He has had successful moments and some painful ones to watch. I would love to know the thought process in cases when things went so wrong? I am still trying to figure out what he was thinking when he decided to be so divisive in his inaugural speech.

The lack of consistency and his combative delivery is worth a strategy session itself.

If I had a dream project today – it would be to strategize with Trump.

Minding the Media

Do you have a story to tell?

Media relationships are instrumental when securing an interview, but the key is really having a story to tell. The first thing we do with our clients is to identify their stories. Once you know your stories, we then help our clients figure out how to tell them and to whom. There really is not a one-size fits all approach to media messages.

Not all reporters are going to care about the same story. The way you deliver a message to the media may not be the same way you tell your story to other audiences, such as clients or customers.
When we begin media training with our clients, we put our reporter hats on and start asking questions.
Some questions you need to answer:

1. Who is the intended audience?
2. What messages do you want to deliver?
3. What is your ideal outcome?
4. Why should this audience care about this message?
5. What are the top three key thoughts you want to convey?
6. What are the benefits to what you offer?

Once you answer those questions, we begin to train our clients on how to be interviewed. We offer tips for radio, TV and print interviews. Our team has more than 50 years of experienced combined in the media industry and has gathered useful tips for our clients. Below are a few of the dozens we share during our media training sessions.

1. Ask yourself questions you think the reporter or talk show host might ask, including…

2. Don’t just answer questions. Tell listeners something you want them to know, something they wouldn’t know unless they were tuned in, with the promise of more of the same when they buy the product or come see you!

3. Have three key brief messages. In radio and TV, sometimes the host opens the door, while other times you have to answer a question and segue to a key message. A compelling message will have the host asking for more.

4. Be informative and entertaining without promoting yourself, product or service.

5. Don’t slide into industry talk, jargon or acronyms that few know about.

6. Have a conversation if possible with the host (reporter). Remember, it’s about two people talking, and never talk down to your audience.

We offer complimentary media training overviews for local Chambers that could be up to one hour.

Our professional media training workshops consists of: 2-hour, half-day and full-day professional media training for CEOs, managers, communication departments and companies.

If you are interested, email and in the subject line write, Media Training. If you want to find out more about our services, go to

Fouts: The PR Point of No Return

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Although the timing couldn’t have been worse for Warren Mayor James (Jim) Fouts, the issues themselves are reason to resign.

His derogatory comments about African Americans highlighted on a day we honored a man who lead the Civil RightsLogo_warren_michigan_2005 Movement is a crisis itself. But, with a former advisor and private consultant expanding on the audio tapes on local radio show, it further solidifies the call for him to step down.

However, instead of even apologizing, Mayor Fouts balked at his critics.

A day after the release of the recordings purporting to be Warren Mayor Jim Fouts denigrating black people and older women, there was a loud call for his resignation at a protest outside city hall.

That is exactly what he needs to do.

From a communications and crisis management perspective, he has reached a point of no return. Not even an apology is enough at this point. Talking with fellow communications strategists about this situation, I contended that if he were my client, I would advise him to quit.

This was not a simple mistake. In a mistake that elevates to a crisis, the call is to apologize, correct and move on. These tapes demonstrate a problem at the core. From a communications evangelist perspective, where I, also, reside in my profession, I must point to scripture and in particular the Gospel of Matthew: “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart.”

Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel was quoted as saying: “You can’t help but think to yourself, that’s just pure evil. I mean who even thinks like that, much less says those type of things.”

Not someone who deserves to represent the people.

I don’t know Fouts personally. I really don’t know what’s in his heart. But, I know that comparing black people to “chimps” calling them the N-word and speaking of women in a crude manner, and making fun of the disabled is more than unacceptable – it is hateful.

Fouts argues the tapes were altered and the audio files, first published by Steve Neavling of the Motor City Muckraker, are not him. He took it to another level and accused Macomb County Executive Mark Hackel of releasing “phony” tapes.

As reporters and communication strategist, we only need to look at the facts. Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan made a valid point at the Detroit Economic Club luncheon that if in fact a crime was committed, why hasn’t Mayor Fouts filed a police report? Editing tapes to make it sound like Mayor Fouts making derogatory remarks is a crime, so why not report as such?

The story has now elevated to the national media. The man at the center needs to take responsibility. The continued attempt to point fingers is only causing a louder outcry for him to resign and so he should. There should never be room for racism in this country, especially at the level of a public servant.
I wouldn’t even contemplate taking on the task of turning around this crisis for Mayor Fouts — not for a $300 an hour crisis communication fee or for $3000 an hour.

This is about what is right and just. No, Mayor Fouts, you cannot dance in front of a room at a meeting imitating monkeys, while casually using the N-word. You not only need to resign, you need to have a real “come to Jesus” meeting with yourself. You need to look deep inside yourself and be honest with who you are and how you feel about others. Only you know what’s in your heart. We can only judge by what comes out of your mouth.

Setting New Heights for the New Year!

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Are you setting new heights as you communicate, collaborate and connect in 2017?

As you set out to communicate your messages, connect with clients or customers and collaborate on projects in 2017, you need to first evaluate what you did in 2016 and check off what worked and what didn’t.


checklist-850x476When communicating, write down a list of messages you want to deliver in 2017. What do you want others to know about your company or service? If you are selling a product, you need to explain why customers need it. Look at the messages you delivered in 2016 and determine what garnered the most feedback or attention. Know what content engaged your customer and perhaps repurpose it for 2017. Content creators deliver messages that are memorable. They write quotable quotes and sound soundbites. You want your messages to be retained and helpful.


When getting connected, first look at what platforms you are using to communicate your messages. Each social network has its purpose. Make sure each site has contact information about you and your company. You should have a strategy for each site such as Twitter, Linkedin, Google+, Instagram, and Facebook. You can link some sites with others, if your messages for each are the same. However, you might consider having tailored messages for each site. You should evaluate your website at least once a year to determine if it is still relevant. Is your content fluid or static on your site? You need to keep content fresh and engaging. Share information to customers that is useful. You can do this by starting a blog that is published on your site and perhaps shared on other sites or in trade publications.


When collaborating, keep a calendar of events you might attend that will allow you to naturally network with others. You might find a project to collaborate on in 2017 with someone you haven’t even met yet. There are opportunities throughout the year that surface and you want to be prepared to take on the project even if it means having to collaborate with others. At Denha Media Group, we have collaborated on various client projects with other consultants and agencies. We don’t try to be everything to everybody. We know our strengths and we have a team of experts in various areas we work with who can deliver services that enhance our client needs.

Remember: If you want to grow your company and expand your services, you must set new heights in 2017 when you communicate, connect and collaborate. If you stay status quo, you will remain status quo. Set the three Cs a bit higher as you work to achieve your goals for the New Year!

Victory and Concession: The Candidates Humanly Speaking

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

A surprise presidential outcome ended in two unexpected speeches delivered in ways that we never really saw on the campaign trail.dthc

President-elect Donald Trump accepted the presidency with humility and dignity and Hillary Clinton conceded with strength and grace.

Not the Trump and Clinton we saw much over the last 12 months however, both speeches are exactly how each needed to end this presidential race.

“She congratulated us on our victory and I congratulated her and her family and on a very hard fought campaign. She fought very hard. We owe her a major debt of gratitude for  her service to our country,”  said President-elect Donald Trump. “Ours was not a campaign but rather a great movement made up of a group of hard-working Americans who want a  better country for their families. While the campaign is over — our work — rather this movement is just the beginning.”

She showed a human side as her voice quivered a bit in her speech the day after the elections, a Hillary we rarely see publicly.

“This is painful, and it will be for a long time, but I want you to remember this: Our campaign was never about one person, or even one election,” said Hillary Clinton. “It was about the country we love and building an America that is hopeful, inclusive and big-hearted. We have seen that our nation is more deeply divided than we thought. But I still believe in America, and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future. Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead. Our constitutional democracy enshrines the peaceful transfer of power. We don’t just respect that — we cherish it. It also enshrines the rule of law; the principle that we are all equal in rights and dignity; freedom of worship and expression. We respect and cherish these values, too, and we must defend them.”

We saw a human-side from a man who has been often looked at as a phenomenon in this race and a woman who has achieved more than most women in politics.  They are almost iconic symbols and not often viewed as human beings but on the day after elections we saw both display characteristics that the rest of us can appreciate.

Perhaps more political candidates need to show the American people that they are real, human and flawed.  These types of speeches might have done both candidates some good throughout the campaign allowing more Americans to find commonality with each.

Throughout the campaign, it was reported repeatedly that most people can’t relate to a billionaire TV spectacle and perhaps the results showed that others couldn’t connect with a female political powerhouse.  But, in the end – with one victory speech and another concession speech, both Trump and Clinton showed they are really not that much different from the rest of us.  Taking just a few minutes for each – at the end of it all – America saw both candidates getting real. They were not candidates vying for the most powerful position in the Country. In those moments giving their final speeches of the campaigns, they were just people expressing their feelings  — just humanly speaking!


Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

The Challenge of Moving On After Melania’s Message

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

What would have been deemed a pretty decent speech is now overshadowed by two paragraphs.index

And not only is Melania Trump’s overall message about her husband being ignored, the media doesn’t seem to be talking about anything anyone else said on opening day of the Republican National Convention.

Will her alleged plucking out from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech “trump” the speeches lined up for  tonight?

It was a rare moment for Melania Trump to be heard. She is a presidential candidate’s wife who has been mostly seen during the campaign.

So, what really happened?

As a speech writer and co-writer for seven State of the County speeches for the Wayne County Executive, I can only guess how Melania mimicked Michelle’s comments from eight years ago.

Research is a given in speech writing. It would not be uncommon for speech writers to look at past speeches to get an idea of what was said  by others. Did someone cut and paste and inadvertently forget to rewrite those two paragraphs? How sentences from 2008 ended up in Melania’s speech is something perhaps a few will ever really know.

I would have an easier time accepting the claim that Melania herself wrote the speech because to think well paid, seasoned speech writers got sloppy provokes negative commentary on my profession.

Not that the words in those two paragraphs were thought provoking or even worth quoting, but if in fact they were deliberately taken from Michelle’s speech is unacceptable and unprofessional; and for a campaign closely scrutinized not only by the media and opposing sides but by its own party, you would think the entire team would take all measures not to make a misstep, especially in the last months of the campaign.

Now reports are coming out that several political leaders have delivered speeches in a similar manner using words spoken by previous leaders.  So, looking at the bigger picture, does her speech need to garner this much media attention?

There are many important issues and others to be heard from this week during the RNC, and as much fun it is for some to poke fun at this faux pas, the Republicans need to switch the focus back to the convention.

This story wouldn’t normally have the “legs” others would in the media world, but it lends itself to comic platforms and talk radio jabber.

I, myself, am looking forward to chatting about it later today while on AM 910 with Karen Dumas and panel of colleagues in the Public Relations Industry.

As a strategist, I can say that the Republicans and the Trump team are now challenged to garner the public’s attention and get them to talk about the messages from the speakers at the convention.

Republicans must now move on after Melania’s message and get the rest of the country to do the same.


Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

Wrong Words and Terrible Typos Can Ruin A Website

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

I was Googling places to have my daughter’s 9th birthday and I came across a fun party place for kids that would entertain more than 20 kids for nearly three hours. I read only a few lines at first.  They would also order the pizza and provide two people to assist me with the party.Blog post2

I had attended a party for my nephew at the same place a few months earlier and was quite impressed with the service. I called them on the phone and planned my daughter’s party. They emailed me a confirmation with a link their website.  If I had started there, my communication would have ended on that page.

I started to read more closely and was shocked by the errors.

The page was filled with typos including the word “party” and “guarantee”.  One paragraph alone had about five typos in it.

I reached out to the owner whom my husband happened to know and politely pointed out the mistakes on his website and offered a free 30-minute review of his site.

At the end of the day, no one cares about your story if you don’t know how to tell your story and part of telling that story is using proper grammar and correct spelling.

It’s about professionalism.

I know most people think they can write. Sorry to break the news — most people can’t write for marketing and public relations.

I once worked with a team of the lawyers who believed just because they had law degrees and did a lot of legal writing, they could easily write for marketing materials and for the media.

They couldn’t.

Not all writing is the same. Content marketing requires a specific type of writing and that includes writing for a website.  This platform is a significant part of your marketing. When people search for your company on the internet, hopefully your website pops up. That should be part of your Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

In this case, not only did this company need its place to pop up using words like “kids”, “birthday parties” or “kids entertainment”, their website should include clean and creative content.

When someone writes for content marketing, they are skilled storytellers, investigators, a wordsmith, and historian.

A website that is dazzling with high quality pictures won’t sell your service or product if the content is not creative and current.  The aesthetics might get their attention for a few seconds or more but once they start to read the actual words, you could lose them.

Potential customers don’t just look at the website, they will eventually read what you offer and a typo or the wrong word could have those customers searching elsewhere.

Some companies will pay thousands of dollars for a web designer and then completely neglect the content. It’s an afterthought.

What many companies don’t realize is that those wrong words or terrible typos could ruin a possible winning website.


Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

When A Communication Problem Takes The Cake for A Costly Mistake!

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

My husband, daughter and I went to a very popular Michigan-based supermarket to pick up her birthday cake. When we arrived to the bakery, the woman behind the counter handed us over two half sheet cakes almost identical.

“What’s this?” I asked. “I didn’t order two cakes.”Happy Birthday Cake2

“I think one was butter cream and one was frosting; we weren’t sure what you wanted?”

“Why didn’t you call me? Two different women called me yesterday to ask me the same question. Why wouldn’t you call me to ask about the frosting? I did say I wanted butter cream.”

Another employee came to assist. Eventually three women were standing in front of us politely apologizing for the confusion.

They finally realized that they were the same cake with the same butter cream topping but two different women made the same cake because of a miscommunication.

“I guess one of the women did not realize someone already made the cake,” said one of the employees. “It’s your pick,” she said. “Pick whichever you want.”

“What will you do with the other cake?” My husband asked. “Can you take it home or give it away?”

“Oh no, we have to throw it out?”

“Really?” I asked that seems so wasteful. Please give it to someone.”

“Oh, we waste stuff back here all the time,” another employee chimed in.

My husband and I both grew up in the grocery business with our respective families. That statement didn’t sit well with either of us especially since we know the small profit margins made in the grocery business.

At first,  I felt bad for the owners and then the communication side of my brain was ignited and I realized it was the fault of management. Where is the breakdown of communication? I was at first weary when I ordered the cake a week early when the woman who took my order wrote it down on a scrap piece of paper.

I thought it was strange that a business of this size and caliber didn’t have a more sophisticated system to take bakery orders.  Then when we picked up the cake the excuse one employee gave for the mistake was that the person who took the order was not the same person who made the cake.

I was thinking:  what does that have to do with anything? You don’t have a system in place that shows orders and when a cake is scheduled for pick up?  What if the woman who took my order was off on the day the cake was scheduled to be made?

The reality is that communication mistakes are quiet costly especially in an industry where pennies on the dollar can drastically impact the bottom line.

In addition, why throw out the cake? You made the mistake and it will definitely cost the business but why waste edible food? What about all the food rescue programs in the region? Why isn’t there a relationship with a local soup kitchen or regional program like Forgotten Harvest in place where items such as my extra cake could be donated?

This is not just a business problem; this is a human interest issue.  We have a hunger issue in this country and yes, I realize a birthday cake is not a nutritional item but by no means should it be thrown out.

I left that store with both the cakes I got for the price of one. I froze the other to eat at a 4th of July party just a few days later.  I couldn’t help but wonder how much money is lost at each of these locations because of the lack of communication.


Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

Crime Remains King While Positive PR Plays the Pawn in Detroit’s Comeback Swing

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

It’s the Monday after the Grand Prix and just a couple of days following the Mackinac Policy Conference, and my morning scan of the media was a breaking news story thatchess-316658_960_720 is a strong reminder that Detroit cannot escape it’s number one problem ­– crime.

Crime will always over shadow any positive PR. It’s the old adage that if bleeds it leads and boy have we been bleeding.

The first Twitter feed I read that morning was from Tom Jordan and WWJ: “Police investigate Triple Murder on City’s West Side.”

Then I read Channel 7’s “Details Developing: Triple fatal shooting on Detroit’s West Side.”

In between some of these tweets, WJR posted photos of Steve Courtney with the Grand Prix winners.

In about an hour or so later, the story continues to unfold. Then Charlie Langton tweeted, “State Police and Detroit police trying to break up crowd gathered after triple shooting on Detroit’s west side.”

This is a sobering reminder that the violence and continued crime in Detroit will hinder the positive impact of progress.

No Grand Prix, no new stadium and no lavish lofts in Midtown will be enough to push in the background the pervasive violence throughout the city.

This was evident when I flipped over to Facebook and there Bankole Thompson posted his column: “Business leaders must address youth violence.”

We are talking about it, which is an important part of solving the problem, but unless Detroit gets the crime under control, we will never completely create a major city that becomes an international tourist attraction.

The problem is that we have been talking about this issue almost as long as we have been talking about the need for mass transit.

When Dennis Archer first became the Mayor, I chatted with him about his turnaround plan. At the time, Detroit was being compared to New Baltimore and Cleveland – both cities had a 20-year turnaround plan. Our conversation was about 20 years ago.

Yet, here we are today with escalating crime issues, and we have added killing kids into the fold.

Thompson appropriately noted in his lead: “Detroit is becoming a killing field for children, that now warrants the intervention of everyone who has a stake in this city’s growth – especially its business leaders.”

The conversation about children being killed became part of the discussion about children not being properly educated in Detroit at the annual Mackinac Policy Conference. So in the midst of policy on solving the DPS deficit issues was the fact kids are being killed in Detroit.

I don’t have the solutions. But, I do know our law enforcement needs to have serious discussions about this issue.  You want headlines about fighting crime?  How about a law that says if you kill an innocent child in the midst of your shooting spree, you get life in prison. That will get you some PR.

It’s not new really; Under Michigan law, the illegal use of a firearm or other weapon can carry very harsh penalties. For example, a felony firearm conviction requires a MANDATORY two-year minimum prison sentence if it is your first offense and a MANDATORY five-year minimum prison sentence if it is your second offense. Also, a sentence for felony firearm MUST be served consecutively with any other sentence.

What I do know is that no one wants to live in or visit a city where public safety doesn’t appear to be a priority and no public relations strategy to promote the improvements, events and business opportunities will ever remove the killings from news headlines.

We can’t continue to move Detroit forward and promote its successes only to have daily shootings, gang violence and murdering of children flood social media platforms.

Crime continues to be the king in this complicated chess game across Detroit’s landscape and the positive PR, so many people strive to achieve, ends up being the pawn.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

Memorable Mackinac Policy Conference Moments

Strategically Speaking: A Blog by Denha Media Group

Some of the most memorable Mackinac moments are crafted quotes and comments that were actually strategically created to be memorable sound bites in speeches and media interviews.

It’s all about knowing how to tell your own story.

Nearly one year later, you may not remember exactly who said what during the 2015 Mackinac Policy Conference and at the Detroit Policy Conference but at the time, the messages were noted.
The Policy Conference Challenge

In the spirit of memorable moments, I thought we could play a little game as we head up to the 2016 conference and try to figure out who said what last year.

Can you match the below person with his or her quote? The correct answers will be posted on the Denha Media Group Facebook page on Wednesday, June 1st.


Detroit Regional Chamber CEO Sandy Baruah
Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post Columnist Eugene Robinson
Operation Hope Founder John Hope Bryant
Bill Ford, Jr.
U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell
Westland Mayor William R. Wild
Governor Rick Snyder


_____ “You all need to tell your state legislators to get some balls…If we don’t want to be a Third World country, we’ve got to fix our infrastructure.” (Detroit News)

_____ “The people who run Michigan are here…this conversation necessarily takes us out of our comfort zones and into places we don’t normally go. But that’s OK … that’s how we make progress. We do things that make us uncomfortable.” (Detroit Free Press)

_____ “We consider this a Michigan statewide management retreat, because it really is the top level of leaders of our political and business community all in one place, all at one time, all having the same conversation.” (MLive)

_____ “We are in a time of great change … We just need to be open-mined enough and nimble enough …We know how to make things … we can make it here better than anyone else can.” (CBS Detroit)

_____ “…disinvesting in the MEDC while Michigan’s economy is growing will set the state and its cities farther behind.” (Crain’s Detroit Business)

_____ “We actually have more than 20 percent of open jobs than we had in 2011…that is why this huge topic of the skilled trades is so critically important.” (WJR)

_____ “Nothing changes your life more than God, love, or moving your credit score 120 points.” (At the Detroit Policy Conference/Detroit News)
8 Tips to Create the Quotable Quote and Solid Sound Bite

Whether you are creating your own content for your various platforms or telling your story to the media, there are simple tips for creating the quotable quotes and the sound soundbites!

Answer the question that is actually being asked.
Shock without being inappropriately shocking.
Say what others are thinking but no one has the guts to say.
Think pithy and clever not pathetic and quirky.
Be concise not convoluted.
Get to the point (the 20-second soundbite and the quick quote).
Be relevant. Offer ideas and opinions about the topic being discussed.
Use social media to post your own quotes about a current event topic.

Vanessa Denha Garmo has been attending the Mackinac Policy Conference since the early 90s.

Vanessa Denha Garmo is a communications strategist and the founder of Denha Media Group.

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