Speechwriters quietly discuss President Trump’s likely effect on the silent profession
December 14, 2016
Is Trump an existential threat to speechwriters, or might his enlivening of the public debate make these jobs more important?
How will Trump affect speechwriting?
Last week I was a guest participant a conference call of some prominent freelance speechwriters who speak regularly to trade ideas and keep one another company.
On the call I joined, the topic was the unapologetically parochial discussion that might have been titled, “President Trump: How will speechwriting be affected?”
Is Trump a long-term existential threat to today’s speechwriters? I opened with an observation that to the extent that Trump creates a “post-fact” world and Trumpism spreads to other institutions, speechwriters had better watch warily. Speechwriters make their living knowing the rules of public discourse, and helping leaders follow them. To the extent those rules are changing, speechwriters must adapt to those changes. If the rules of public discourse disappear into a kind of communication anarchy and rhetoric becomes more of a barroom brawl than an formal debate—well, the sorts of people who are writing speeches today may be replaced with writers with different skill sets.
Per usual, the actual speechwriters had more immediate and practical concerns—all expressed not in answers, but in questions:
Most practically, how many government speechwriters will the Trump administration replace? And for those who stay—how profoundly will they have to change the style and substance of the speeches they write?
Will Trump hurt the global trade and thus put international conferences on hiatus? If so, that—and any negative economic impact—could drive down demand for speechwriting, one writer pointed out.
Will Trump scare CEOs into scaling back their public speaking by calling them out as he did Boeing’s CEO last week? Or will they become even more cautious in what they say than they already are?
Conversely, will Trump show CEOs and other leaders that they must communicate more compellingly and quickly, finally forcing them to muster the courage to use social media.
Will Trump lower the level of rhetoric, making audiences further intolerant of complex ideas (and compound sentences)? Or has he already?
Reader, we don’t expect you to have any answers either. But do you have other questions, about how our business will be affected by Trump? We’d like to hear ‘em—and consider ‘em as we watch, closely, the next few weeks, months and years. —DM