25 Jul 2016

As the credits roll on what can only be described as the most bizarre Republican National Convention ever, I thought I’d go back to the beginning and reflect on the plagiarism scandal of Melania Trump’s speech, how the news broke, how it could have been avoided with a simple search and whether the publicity that followed was good, bad or indifferent for Trump’s campaign for President.

Make America GR8 Ag@in

First, let’s look at how the story broke, freelance journalist Jarrett Hill was watching a live stream of the speech from a Starbucks in California, when he recognized a line he had heard before. After a quick search he discovered that it was from Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech at the Democratic National Convention and he tweeted the paragraph. It was retweeted more than 25,000 times and spread around the interwebs like wildfire. To-ing and fro-ing ensued from the Trump camp and the rest of the country, but it was clear that plagiarism had taken place. What stands out to me is how such a critical speech was not checked before it was delivered and how easy it is to verify such things. Grammerly.com for example offers a free plagiarism checker as do a host of others. Simply searching the key phrases would also have returned a positive. If I was a conspiracy theorist (I’m not), I might think this was done intentionally to garner publicity (not very likely).

Silver Lining? According to a tweet by Donald Trump, “Good news is Melania’s speech got more publicity than any in the history of politics especially if you believe that all press is good press…” I’m not sure I agree, as it seems that only a small percentage of Twitter was talking about the incident. According to Nielsen Twitter TV Ratings, the overall RNC peaked at 1.6 million tweets, which is half generated by the Republican Debates at their peak. By comparison, the Oscars generated more than 24 million tweets. So, maybe the ‘good news’ is actually that no one seemed to care and low publicity is, in fact, low publicity.

Now we await the Democratic National Convention, which begins on July 25th,where we’re all hoping for another social media fuss to be kicked up. I’ll report back with analysis of how the numbers stacked up between the two parties.

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Frank De Maria

Frank has more than 20 years experience in corporate marketing and communications, having most recently served as Global Head of Communications for NASDAQ OMX. Prior to that he ran communications for Newsweek Magazine and Thomson Reuters. He began his career in communications with Brunswick Group in London and later in New York.