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Melania Trump’s PR debacle: Should she really take the blame?

The advertising world is not unfamiliar with claims of plagiarism. Most recently, we heard numerous voices from Malaysian creatives sharing their views on the matter after a campaign titled Rubber Boy received backlash for being a copied idea.

While ideas might sometimes be hard to distinguish from each other. Can the same be said for words and phrases?

Yesterday, news outlets globally accused Melania Trump of copying the outgoing US first lady, Michelle Obama’s speech at the Republican National Convention on national television. Many claimed the speech looked oddly similar to Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention. The similarity was first uncovered by journalist, Jarrett Hill.

Here’s what his pinned Tweet says:

The tweet has since gone viral with  over 25k retweets and 23K likes.

Here’s another Tweet making the rounds online:

Since then, CNN reported that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign team has no intention on taking disciplinary action over the controversy. In fact, Trump and his crew simply hope to move on from the matter.

When a PR faux pas of this scale happens, is it really that easy to walk away from the conversation?

Lars Voedisch, founder of PRecious Communications said that rather than put the blame on Mrs. Trump, the world needs to accept the fact that she probably had only very little input on the speech she delivered. So the actual heat should go the campaign communications team and its writers.

What I can only imagine is that someone, early on, said that the speech should be in a similar spirit to Mrs. Obama’s 2008 speech. And then, on the way, people might have taken that too literally.

When asked if it would hurt the Trump campaign, Voedisch said the sad truth is, the discussions based on facts and reason, have not had a big impact to Trump’s popularity or his followers. This will probably be no different.

“So if we look at what was the objective of Mrs. Trump’s speech was, it would be to show a softer side of the candidate and highlight his values as a family man. In the end that message might have come through independent of the plagiarism accusations,” he added.

Dan Benelisha, SVP and managing director of Porter Novelli Singapore said despite the “debacle” Trump has survived worse.

“My guess is the campaign will double down and continue praising the speech as beautiful,” he said adding:

The only tactic that would surprise me about the campaign is the one that is in the communications playbook – an apology.



Rezwana Manjur
Southeast Asia Editor
Marketing Magazine Singapore
Rezwana Manjur, a true blue city girl and complete social animal, spends half her time sifting through advertising scandals, and the other half testing out brands' retail marketing strategies at the mall. She enjoys traveling and fantasising over the charming lads on hit TV show Mad Men. Most weekends, she turns nocturnal, except when brunch comes into play.

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