Recently ousted White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci had big plans for the job, according to a draft of a memo he planned to send to White House staff.
The memo — dated July 30 and titled "Communications Plan" — appears to be a detailed outline for White House staff with five ranked "priorities," labeled: "Improve the Culture," "Comms is a Customer Service Operation—POTUS is the Number One Customer," "Make the News—We Go First," "Fill the Content Void," and "Jobs, Jobs, Jobs."
Scaramucci confirmed the authenticity of the document in a text to BuzzFeed News, saying "it's my memo."
Under each list of priorities, Scaramucci outlined — with plenty of bullet points — how he planned to reboot a beleaguered press office, and "foster better working relationships" with the "MSM."
The memo was first posted in full on Medium by pro-Trump media personality Mike Cernovich, who is reporting that Scaramucci plans to hold a press conference announcing that he "will be setting up an off-West Wing communications shop with the sole purpose of helping the President."
Asked about his future plans, Scaramucci told BuzzFeed News "you'll be hearing more about it next week."
Internally, the memo indicates that Scaramucci planned to "professionalize" the comms team. "For example," he wrote, "no WH communication staffer goes home without returning all calls, emails, and texts. People may not like our answers—but they should always be treated professionally and respectfully (obviously, this starts with the new Director of Communications)."
Scaramucci's ideas for the new gig ran the gamut from the traditional — "identify and engage a broader network of surrogates/validators to make TV appearances, write op-eds, etc" to the unconventional — an online lottery to play golf with Trump and reality-show-based "video content that constructively operates as 'The President Donald J. Trump' show."
A number of these ideas suggest bypassing the traditional, mainstream media in order to appeal straight to the base. In the memo, Scaramucci calls this "the refined Roger Ailes theory," in which the White House would "exercise influence over the news cycle because POTUS and the government make news—(i.e. do things on a daily basis that matter). An effective Comms shop will dictate the news of the day on most days."
Scaramucci — who in his first days on the job repeatedly went on TV to threaten firings of White House staffers, and publicly accused then-chief of staff Reince Priebus of being the primary source of White House leaks — also called for staff to be more civil and humble. "Make it clear that horn tooting and denigrating colleagues is unacceptable," the memo reads.
The memo also calls for an end to the leaks that have plagued the White House since the inauguration. "No more threats about leaking and internal game playing - anyone who takes actions that do not serve the President will be dismissed - period," the memo says. "We will eliminate the bad eggs and send a powerful message to the remaining staff that well-intentioned mistakes are acceptable, but misconduct is not."
Throughout the document, Scaramucci lays out plans to produce more content in-house — something that many in the pro-Trump media have been hoping the White House would do to go "direct to the base." The memo states that, "WH should vastly increases the amount of visual, video, and graphical images that it produces to communicate our message(s)." It also suggests that "Comms could produce short (3-5 minute) videos with selected visitors to the WH."
But Scaramucci — unlike the boss he was poised to serve — expressed no intentions to go to war with the media. "POTUS can choose to fight with the media, but Comms can not," he wrote. "Comms should seek to de-escalate tensions with the media."
Among other suggestions, Scaramucci's memo indicates a preference for presidential op-eds in major newspapers.
"POTUS should regularly provide op-ed pieces to major publications. The op-eds will (almost always) produce the story of the day, and POTUS will be setting the terms of the discussion," the memo reads. "Most Presidents have used op-eds sparingly to maximize effect. But, the media world has changed, and POTUS should write frequent op-eds to advance his agenda (and use adversarial newspapers to his own advantage)."
The memo ends with a personal to-do list, in which Scaramucci lays out a series of meetings he planned to have with incoming chief of staff Gen. John Kelly and other members of the White House staff, including Steve Bannon ("I want his insight and help. He presumably has an opinion on how Comms can operate more effectively," the memo says). Also included is a list of mainstream media reporters he planned to meet with, including the New York Times' Maggie Haberman and The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza — whose interview with Scaramucci last week turned into a story that many speculated helped lead to Scaramucci's ouster. "Meet with Ryan Lizza," the memo reads. "Not to litigate the past—to reset for moving forward."
Here's the memo in full:
July 30, 2017
Priority #1 - Improve the Culture
This is the key—everything is possible with a good culture, nothing is possible without it
a) meet with media members (MSM, conservative media, and new media), where possible, on their home turf to build bridges and foster better working relationships. WH should leave old grudges behind, but never forget.
b) meet with WH and cabinet communication staff to seek constructive input and convey that good ideas are welcomed regardless of the source. This should be an ongoing modus operandi, not an isolated initiative.
c) Implement a series of professionalizing initiatives immediately. For example, no WH communication staffer goes home without returning all calls, emails, and texts. People may not like our answers—but they should always be treated professionally and respectfully (obviously, this starts with the new Director of Communications)
d) Recognize good work in a consistent and formal way. Establish a meritocracy where real contributions to Comms are recognized. Make it clear that horn tooting and denigrating colleagues is unacceptable
e) No more threats about leaking and internal game playing - anyone who takes actions that do not serve the President will be dismissed - period. We will eliminate the bad eggs and send a powerful message to the remaining staff that well-intentioned mistakes are acceptable, but misconduct is not.
f) Upgrade talent incrementally - prioritize culture. New communication staffers must make others better/more effective. We need to be a great team, not a collection of talented individuals with their own agendas.
g) Reach out and collaborate with Cabinet, Congress, the RNC, and surrogates and validators throughout the country. People want to help POTUS succeed, but they need to feel welcomed, appreciated and empowered. Comms, justifiably or not, has a reputation as fiefdom that is difficult to work with. We need to improve the quality and quantity of interactions between Comms and its various constituents.
Priority #2 - Comms is a Customer Service Operation—POTUS is the Number One Customer
-before undertaking new and creative initiatives, Comms must more effectively handle the daily/weekly blocking and tackling of a WH Comms shop
a) Comms needs to be structurally re-organized to serve its various customers
-a group dedicated to serving as a PR department for POTUS and his family members. Comms need to humanize POTUS and burnish his image. For example, POTUS is the best golfer to serve as President. Perhaps, we embrace it with a national online lottery to play a round of golf with him….or a charity auction. POTUS has a funny and irreverent side which was shared with the electorate during the campaign
-a rapid response group dedicated to handling hot issues/crises to insure more effective responses while enabling Comms to stay on point/message and conduct normal operations (i.e. the Clinton White House Lewinsky model).
-a strategy group to work cooperatively with colleagues throughout the WH to develop communication strategies and specific executable plans that are coordinated with Cabinet officials and the Hill for a select group of important issues/initiatives
-Responsibilities need to be clearly defined for certain important roles—managing relationships with the Hill, Cabinet comms, and surrogates/validators. Clear structure will provide better performance and accountability.
b) The media is an important Comms customer
- POTUS can choose to fight with the media, but Comms can not.
-Comms should seek to de-escalate tensions with the media.
-Comms will continue to challenge stories that are unfair/untrue, but also express appreciation for good and fair coverage. Comms can be strong without being combative.
-Comms should establish a constructive “complaint box” for the media to make complaints. Where possible, Comms will seek to make changes that make sense. Regardless, relations with the media will improve if their complaints are welcomed and considered
c) Cabinet members and their staff are customers too.
-Comms sets the message, but cabinet members will better serve POTUS if they are supported and treated like members of POTUS’s team.
-Comms talent throughout the administration has been underutilized. This can be remedied by sharing information freely, soliciting input, treating colleagues professionally, and coordinated empowerment
d) Surrogates/validators are important customers. They need to be serviced, supported, and coordinated better.
e) All Comms actions/decisions need to be evaluated through one and only one prism —does it help POTUS. To this end, I will lead by example and make sure that my overall conduct, tweets, internal and external comments meet this standard
Priority #3 Make the News—We Go First
a) Execution is everything!!! Diagnosing the problems is easy- fixing it will be hard work.
-Comms needs to be run like a news channel with producers, scripts, and narration
-there needs to be clear individual responsibilities, accountability, and a complete dedication to the team/excellence
-Comms needs better players at many positions. We will give existing staff the opportunity to raise their games, but expect to make changes in a considered, no/low drama way
-Comms should not fix things that aren’t broken; but should move quickly (without rushing) to fix things the numerous things that are
-Comms should assess and evaluate all work product and processes. “This is the way it is done” is not an acceptable explanation. Communications tactics and strategies should be evaluated based upon measurable metrics.
-Comms needs to act as a gatekeeper/air traffic controller over all external communications from the small (i.e. email blasts) to the large (i.e. cabinet member appearances on Sunday shows). To do this, Comms must be super responsive. For example, Cabinet members need to be well-informed, well-prepared, and fully supported in a timely manner (i.e. not on the morning of an appearance)
-Comms needs to do a much better job anticipating media follow-up and reaction. If we say X, they will ask Y. We need to be prepared for Y. Most Ys are predictable. It is Comms’ responsibility to be ready with a response and to have surrogates prepared for the inevitable Ys.
b) the refined Roger Ailes theory- we exercise influence over the news cycle because POTUS and the government make news—(i.e. do things on a daily basis that matter). An effective Comms shop will dictate the news of the day on most days.
c) Comms must control who gets on the air/talks to the press….always. We want our people talking to the press. We just want it to be coordinated and effective. Comms should arm and empower our people. Comms is a service operation (not the bad cop)- we want our people to look better/succeed.
d) Comms needs to better explain how POTUS’s actions are helping Americans. For example, deregulation is an abstract concept to most voters. We need to illustrate, with real life examples, how lifting burdensome regulations produces jobs
e) Comms needs to start earlier (chronologically). Tomorrow will be won today. Tomorrow morning is too late.
f) Every Comms message needs to have a nexus to Make America Great Again and jobs
g) Comms needs to equip POTUS with opportunities to make many more positive announcements The ratio of positive to negative is out of balance, and the responsibility to correct this lies with Comms. There are achievements/wins throughout the government that go unpublicized. Comms should help POTUS convey a Reaganesque “happy warrior” image by sourcing and packaging these wins. Comms should study the ratio of “good,” “neutral,” and “negative” communications from POTUS and help move the ratio towards the “good.”
h) Comms should use Kellyanne Conway more. She has consistently been the President’s most effective spokesperson, and she provides a direct link to the President’s historic electoral victory.
Priority #4 - Fill the Content Void
a) to quote Obama Director of Communications,Dan Pfieffer, “there is an insatiable appetite for content” and “traditional news outlets don’t have the resources to produce the amount of content that the internet requires on a 24/7 basis”
-in addition to written word production (i.e. speeches, talking points, and press releases), the WH should vastly increases the amount of visual, video, and graphical images that it produces to communicate our message(s).
-for example, Comms could produce short (3-5 minute) videos with selected visitors to the WH
b) comms need to identify and engage a broader network of surrogates/validators to make TV appearances, write op-eds, etc. The traditional media has a significant (albeit finite) amount of tonnage. Either we fill it, or they will
c) POTUS should regularly provide op-ed pieces to major publications. The op-eds will (almost always) produce the story of the day, and POTUS will be setting the terms of the discussion. Op-eds provide a vehicle for him to articulate his policies and ideas in a well-reasoned, thoughtful and persuasive way. Most Presidents have used op-eds sparingly to maximize effect. But, the media world has changed, and POTUS should write frequent op-eds to advance his agenda (and use adversarial newspapers to his own advantage).
d) People are fascinated by the lives of their Presidents and the operation of the White House. POTUS is the greatest TV star in history. Comms should produce video content that constructively operates as “The President Donald J. Trump” show. Obama scratched the surface of this. POTUS should take it to the next level.
e) Rather than traditional press conferences, POTUS should take questions from real citizens via Facebook live and/or other social media platforms.
f) Comms should consider a range of ideas including a modernized fireside chats where POTUS sits with a Cabinet member (and/or senior government official) to discuss the relevant issues. Perhaps, Sarah or Kellyanne could act as a moderator. These videos should have running times of between 15-20 minutes.
g) text polling should be evaluated as a means to produce engagement. Obviously, the polling topics would need to be carefully considered.
h) find ways to connect POTUS with Presidential history to capture the importance, power, and grandeur of the office. Perhaps, Comms could produce “this day in Presidential history” videos.
-There is an inherent challenge in flooding the zone with content while broadcasting a focused message. However, the audience and mediums for each objective are quite different. For traditional media outlets, Comms needs to do a considerably better job at producing a focused daily message that is reinforced and coordinated throughout the day.
Priority #5 - Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
a) “it’s the economy stupid” should be “it’s the Trump economy.” The media (and the voters) will make POTUS own the economy (which is doing very well) if it goes the other way, so he should own it now. Comms needs to emphasis the economy early and often
b) The message should be that businesses are investing more and creating more jobs because they have confidence. The source of their confidence is the election of a successful businessman to the Presidency. Obama bred uncertainty amongst the business community. Trump breeds confidence. Confidence=more jobs. Would the stock market have galloped from election day to year end 2016 if HRC had won? Of course, not.
c) Comms will coordinate with Commerce, Treasury, State, etc to identify a steady stream of examples of the Trump administration providing support to small and medium size businesses. POTUS can take credit and publicize these wins (big and small) while complimenting the great work of people in various departments/agencies.
d) Every positive piece of economic data needs to echo throughout the Comms eco-system, and Comms needs to find ways to connect positive economic data to real people. The growth in new jobs is life changing for every day Americans. Comms needs to bring a spotlight to these people/stories
e) When the media or Democrats attack POTUS, Comms should pivot to the economy. For example, real Americans do not care about palace intrigue in the White House. POTUS is leading and fostering an economy that makes their lives better. That’s what real people care about.
Scaramucci To-Do List
-meet with General Kelly
-meet with Hope Hicks, Josh Raffel, Michael Anton, and Dina Powell and anyone else who you believe should be a top priority.
-meet with Steve Bannon (I want his insight and help. He presumably has an opinion on how Comms can operate more effectively)
-meet with heads of the various networks and leading journalists (like Maggie Haberman) to build a better relationship and solicit their input on how we can better work together
-meet with Directors of Communications from prior administrations (no need to re-invent the wheel on certain matters, particularly basic blocking and tackling stuff)
-meet with Ryan Lizza (not to litigate the past—to reset for moving forward)
-meet with leading Republicans who, whether for or against POTUS, have valuable insights to impart Newt Gingrich and Karl Rove are at the top of this list
-meet with Speaker Ryan, Leader McConnell and their respective Comms teams
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Charlie Warzel is a senior writer for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. Warzel reports on and writes about the intersection of tech and culture.
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