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This blog offers an international look at the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign. Indeed, campaigners worldwide are fascinated with American election campaigns. We observe relentless paid television advertising, straight-forward attack spots, sophisticated targeting and record-breaking fundraising. One cannot – and should not – simply copy paste American campaign techniques. However, campaigners out there in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia can get a lot of inspiration and specific takeaways from the most professional campaign in the world. This is the purpose of this blog.

Kellyanne Conway: Rhetorical Strategies

Kellyanne Conway is an adviser to President Donald Trump and probably one of the most important players in the new White House. She came on board to lead Trump’s presidential campaign back in last August when few people would have given Trump a chance to win. Before joining Trump, she worked as a political consultant and pollster specializing on female voters. She is an extremely disciplined messenger and therefore can indeed provide a lot of value to her boss. That’s probably also the reason why she did a lot of media interviews defending Trump (some might say that Conway actually won the race for Trump). In a talk with the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger (see below), I analyzed some of her rhetorical strategies:

  1. She has a crystal-clear message that she is communicating. In fact, she uses the question of the reporter as a pretext to communicate her own message.
  2. Conway is frequently in the (counter-)offense. As we say in sports: the best defense is a good offense.
  3. She picks up one word of the reporter’s question, but then talks about something else.
  4. When reporters insist, she tries to escape. One of these incidences, which has now become famous, is when she threw out the concept of “alternative facts”.
What Conway does is nothing new to the world of U.S. news television, which is actually based on confrontation. She however does it with more discipline and more charm than others. You can find out more about Kellyanne Conway’s rhetorical strategies in said interview in the Swiss newspaper Tages-Anzeiger published on February 17:

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