Whether it’s the size of his inauguration audience or the number of COVID-19 test kits he’s promising in his press conferences, numbers always seem to be a focus for President Donald Trump. In many ways, he is the political equivalent of every PR person’s worst nightmare of a boss. Someone who loves numbers, but doesn’t take the time to understand what they mean, and doesn’t care if they’re accurate as long as they are always moving in his desired direction. The trends behind them, the meaning in the data, the implications for stakeholders—none of that matters as long as numbers are getting bigger.
Most CEOs, however, have advisers and boards of directors and the SEC to which they have to report. Those CEOs are forced to be accurate, and to back up their decisions and reports with accurately interpreted data.
But President Trump has no board or set of advisors that can serve as a check or a balance. Of course, for many who listen to President Trump’s utterances, his words are all they need. They don’t care about the numbers or any other facts involved.
For years I’ve been ranting about how senior leadership demands bogus measurement, including earned media values, impressions, and any chart that keeps going up. Now we’re faced with a president that is essentially doing the same thing. Good numbers are always going up, even when they’re not. And bad numbers—like the number of new COVID-19 cases or deaths—are something to be rounded down, downplayed, or just used as props.
For his chronic misuse of data, we name U.S. President Donald Trump this month’s Measurement Menace. Congrats! ∞