Communication Strategy: What Melania Should Have Said to Ivana

I have been trying to pay less attention to U.S. news and more attention to things I can influence in my own backyard. I even disabled those irritating CNN Breaking News updates that used to flash across my screen. But there was one news item from south of our border that caught my eye. I feel compelled to speak up because it is about communication strategy, which is right up my alley.

The Situation: Ivana Trump, the original Trump wife, just wrote a book called “Raising Trump.” As part of her book promo, Ivana appeared on “Good Morning America.” She said that she still has frequent contact with POTUS; in fact, she has a direct line to the White House. She resists calling too often though because of Melania (Mrs. Trump #3). “I don’t want to cause any kind of jealousy or something like that because I’m basically first Trump wife,” Ivana said, adding: “I’m first lady, okay?”

Melania’s Response: Melania’s communication team was quick to set the record straight. “This is unfortunately only attention-seeking and self-serving noise,” they said. “Mrs. Trump has made the White House a home for Barron and the President. She loves living in Washington, D.C. and is honored by her role as First Lady of the United States.”

My Take: I think Melania blew it on the communication front. By even responding to Ivana’s comments, she is delivering Ivana what she wants on a silver platter—more publicity. I watched the “Good Morning America” segment and my impression is that Ivana was being somewhat playful in her comments. They weren’t worthy of a serious rebuttal.

By issuing a formal response, Melania is demonstrating that she actually cares what Ivana thinks of her. Confident people don’t care what their husband’s ex thinks of them. Who cares? Responding with her own put-down seems to me a sign of insecurity.

Melania could have maintained the upper hand by not communicating at all. Someone smart once told me (after deciding not to sue someone over a slanderous comment): “You get into a pen with a pig and the only one having fun rolling around in the mud is the pig.” I’m not calling either Melania or Ivana swine, just to be clear.

I also fault Melania (and team) for using Ivana’s comments as an opportunity to impress upon the American people how Melania relishes her role as FLOTUS. This was not only a non-sequitur; it seemed forced. Words are not convincing; actions are. Does anyone doubt she would rather be in New York than Washington?

Melania is human and it is a human reaction to be reactive to comments that demean us. But often times saying less is more. In this situation, that would have spoken volumes.

What should Melania have said to Ivana? Nothing.

What would your advice to Melania have been? And, are you dealing with a sticky communication quandary that you want my take on? Please DM me and I can tackle for a future blog post. I’m particularly interested in your tricky business situations where communication can either make or break your professional relationship.

Photo credit: Flickr-DonkeyHotey (Melania Trump – Caricature)

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