Trump built his im­age as he built his busi­nesses

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - WEATHER - By Nancy Benac

Don­ald Trump once claimed to be pub­lic­ity shy. No joke. It’s right there in The New York Times of Nov. 1, 1976. In the same ar­ti­cle, the 30-year-old real es­tate devel­oper talks up his mil­lions, show­cases his pent­house apart­ment and Cadil­lac, and al­lows a reporter to tag along as he vis­its job sites and lunches at the “21” club be­fore hop­ping an evening flight to Cal­i­for­nia for more deal-mak­ing.

So much for that shy-guy claim.

Young and am­bi­tious, Trump worked just as hard at build­ing his im­age as he did at ex­pand­ing his real es­tate em­pire.

Along the way, he honed the com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills that would ben­e­fit him at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble, turn him into a re­al­ity TV star and launch a pres­i­den­tial cam­paign.

He’ll put them to the ul­ti­mate test as he goes oneon-one with Hillary Clin­ton in three na­tion­ally tele­vised de­bates over the next month that will help de­ter­mine the next pres­i­dent.

Trump, who’d never par­tic­i­pated in a de­bate be­fore the pres­i­den­tial pri­maries, is keep­ing his prepa­ra­tions for Mon­day’s lead­off gen­eral-elec­tion de­bate low key — no mock face-offs or the like.

“Re­ally, you’re pre­par­ing all of your life for th­ese,” he told Fox Busi­ness Net­work re­cently. “You’re not pre­par­ing over a two-week pe­riod and cram­ming.” Is he ready? Ex­perts on pub­lic speak­ing find all kinds of faults with Trump’s or­a­tory: His vo­cab­u­lary is ju­ve­nile, his syn­tax is jumbled, he’s ca­sual about ac­cu­racy, he’s de­mean­ing, his voice is thin and nasal, he’s weak on pol­icy de­tails and more.

And yet, Aaron Kall, who di­rects the Univer­sity of Michi­gan’s De­bate In­sti­tute and de­bate team, will ven­ture to tell you this: “He per­forms like a mae­stro.”

“He’s a me­dia nat­u­ral,” says Kall, who edited a book about Trump’s pri­mary de­bate per­for­mances. “He re­ally un­der­stands au­di­ences and tai­lors a mes­sage to what he thinks that they want to hear.”

Trump in­her­ited a flair for pro­mo­tion from his fa­ther.

Fred Trump, who built homes and apart­ments in Brook­lyn and Queens, used all sorts of gim­micks to sell his prop­er­ties: He filled the scoop of a bull­dozer with women in biki­nis. He re­leased bal­loons on Coney Is­land con­tain­ing $50 dis­count coupons. He dressed up apart­ment build­ing lob­bies with bird cages.

From the begin­ning, his son Don­ald never passed up an op­por­tu­nity to be on cam­era.

Long be­fore NBC’s “The Ap­pren­tice” turned Trump into a re­al­ity TV star in 2004, he was ad­vanc­ing his biz-whiz im­age in TV and movie cameos, chat­ting up Howard Stern on the ra­dio and film­ing ads for Pizza Hut, Mc­Don­ald’s and more. Then, over 14 sea­sons of “The Ap­pren­tice” and “Celebrity Ap­pren­tice,” he sharp­ened his abil­ity to work the cam­era, think on his feet and pro­mote the Trump brand.

As a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, he’s drawn on those same skills to keep him­self in the news, dish­ing out provo­ca­tions and in­sults sure to guar­an­tee the pub­lic’s at­ten­tion.

“Across his his­tory, he evolved from a builder to a brand,” says Kath­leen Hall Jamieson, di­rec­tor of the An­nen­berg Pub­lic Pol­icy Cen­ter at the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia. “He would not be suc­cess­ful were it not for his in­ge­nu­ity at se­cur­ing pub­lic­ity.”

A big ques­tion head­ing into Mon­day’s lead­off de­bate in Hemp­stead is which Trump will turn up on stage — the bom­bas­tic name­caller who dom­i­nated stages for most of the pri­mary sea­son or the more dis­ci­plined can­di­date of late who mar­veled dur­ing the fi­nal Repub­li­can de­bate, “I can’t be­lieve how civil it’s been up here.”

Vot­ers look­ing for a smack­down may be dis­ap­pointed.

Kall says that be­cause a key ques­tion for vot­ers is whether Trump has the right tem­per­a­ment to be pres­i­dent, the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee needs to put the blus­ter on hold and of­fer a mea­sured, thought­ful de­bate per­for­mance in which he shows a com­mand of pol­icy de­tail.

Trump fal­tered on pol­icy ques­tions at times dur­ing the pri­mary de­bates. At one point he ap­peared un­fa­mil­iar with the con­cept of the nu­clear triad, which in­cludes in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles, sub­marinelaunched mis­siles and strate­gic bombers. On an­other oc­ca­sion, he seemed un­aware China was not part of the pro­posed Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship trade deal.

Lil­lian Glass, an ex­pert on speak­ing and body lan­guage, said Trump needs to be “com­pletely fo­cused on what is dis­cussed and not talk about him­self and how great his busi­ness was and what he did in the past. We know. We all know. Now, it’s time to fo­cus on the is­sues.”

There’s also Trump’s voice to con­sider.

Ruth Sher­man, a pub­lic speak­ing coach, says the pub­lic has grown so ac­cus­tomed to Trump over the decades that peo­ple give him a pass on what she says is a poor speak­ing voice.

“He doesn’t get crit­i­cized for the qual­ity of his speak­ing voice but he should,” she says. “It’s a thin voice. It’s not smooth. It’s some­what nasal.”

Plenty of crit­ics have high­lighted the GOP nom­i­nee’s ba­nal vo­cab­u­lary — heavy on “great,” ‘’amaz­ing,” ‘’stupid,” ‘’dumb,” ‘’bad” and “sad.”

“It al­most sounds at times as if he’s work­ing from a ran­dom word gen­er­a­tor in which there are a lim­ited num­ber of ad­jec­tives that are re­peat­edly used,” says Jamieson.

But a big part of Trump’s ap­peal is his knack for sim­pli­fi­ca­tion, skip­ping over the nu­ances of com­plex prob­lems to dan­gle the prom­ise of easy so­lu­tions.

Trump may find that it was eas­ier to pull that off on a crowded de­bate stage than it will be fac­ing just Clin­ton, who is sure to try zero in on miss­ing el­e­ments and pol­icy gaps.

Dan Sch­nur, di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tute and a vet­eran of John McCain’s 2000 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, says of Trump: “For all his bom­bast, he must know that 90 min­utes toe-to-toe with Hillary Clin­ton doesn’t leave him much mar­gin for er­ror.”

DAVID CAN­TOR — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In a 1989 photo, Don­ald Trump speaks dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in New York an­nounc­ing the open­ing of his Taj Ma­hal Re­sort Casino in At­lantic City, N.J.

MARTY LEDERHANDLER — AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In a 1985 photo, Don­ald Trump dis­plays an artist’s con­cept of “Tele­vi­sion City,” which would be on the far west side of Man­hat­tan.

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