Less than 72 hours after he was asked to leave the Trump campaign, former top aide to The Donald, Corey Lewandowski, had a new gig as a political contributor on CNN.
It’s a fairly familiar road these days. Think about the list of anchors and commentators who used to work on campaigns. It’s virtually endless, and, likely, before you get through reading this article, it will have grown. After all, there’s a ton of former Cruz and Sanders staffers still looking for work. Not to mention a host of others who supported candidates who didn’t make it this far.
Lewandowski’s Game Plan
Lewandowski came through from a better place than some of these others, however. Sure, he had a bit of baggage, but not so much that it held him back. And he had the big plus of both knowing his limits and leaving a (so far) winning team on good terms. Cory didn’t go because he was forced out necessarily. He left because he had done the job he was hired to do, and for his candidate to get any farther, someone else needed to have that job. So, Lewandowski comes to CNN with strong political knowledge and credentials but without that sour veneer of loss sticking to him. CNN is a career move, not career resurrection.
This hiring underscores a new political reality in news production, particularly on TV and radio. Networks aren’t looking for unbiased news reporters anymore. They want experienced names to sit on one side of a panel, table or split screen and argue political issues from a set position. Yes, this reality infuriates media traditionalists, but it’s the new reality folks, and you can either work with it or stand on the outside looking in.
Rules of Personal Branding
In any public relations campaign, be it personal branding or business development, you need to understand the rules of the marketplace. If you have an established brand with an established political affinity, cable networks, and radio wants you. This is because they know their markets. People can wag their finger all they want, these networks are responding to customer demand, pure and simple. Pundits who make their peace with that can move forward in their careers, building their brands. Those who want to fight the system are welcome to try. A few even succeed…but those, think ‘Glenn Beck,’ have usually built strong name recognition before they’re cast out to go it alone.
So, on one hand, Lewandowski is reinventing his brand, moving from political “operative” to political “expert”. On the other hand, he’s embracing an opportunity because he’s in a position to do so…because his brand is well-defined and accepted by the end user. Where he goes from here will be decided by how well he navigates the brand capital he’s currently afforded.
David Milberg is a financier in NYC.