Triumph of the Words: ‘Rocket Man’ Message Hits Global Targets

“Video, video, all is video,” seems to be the mantra of communicators today. And how many times have you heard a variation of this recently, “If a picture is worth a thousand words, aren’t videos worth a lot more”? And this one: “Nobody reads anymore, they’re all watching videos, so tell your brand’s stories with videos or graphics.”

All that may be true, but some of President Trump’s words during his address to the United Nations Tuesday seem to be topic A today.

Like or hate the president’s politics, ditto the appropriateness or not of his speech yesterday, PR pros have to concede his ability to abandon the political lingua franca and substitute phrases that connect with the masses. Communicators spend their days figuring out ways to cut through the clutter. The president’s use of the term “Rocket Man” to refer to the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, is resonating throughout the United States. It’s also doing so globally.

The U.S. representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Nikki Haley, noted the term was the topic of conversation for politicians inside and outside the country. “I was talking to a president of an African country yesterday and he actually cited ‘Rocket Man’ back to me,” Haley told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos today on Good Morning, America.

Haley added that the sobriquet “worked” because “this is a way of…getting people to talk about [Kim]…every other international community now is referring to him as ‘Rocket Man.’”

And it’s working in China, too. In fact, some analysts are suggesting the term Rocket Man was chosen with China in mind. The term translates “clearly into Chinese,” CNN’s Jim Acosta tweeted. The White House has urged China to exert pressure on Kim to halt his nuclear weapons program.

The chatter around Rocket Man heightened when White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said this morning that the term wasn’t a speechwriter’s turn of phrase. It was a “President Trump original,” she said during an interview on Fox’s Fox & Friends. Indeed, the president used the moniker in a weekend tweet about Kim.

Of course Rocket Man’s originator is Elton John. After the president’s tweet Sunday searches for John rose. Yesterday they spiked.

More hype around the term: Apparently Trump inserted the nickname as a late addition into the text of his speech Tuesday morning, a senior administration official told CNN’s Acosta.

Presidencies sometimes are reduced to catchphrases: “Four score and seven years ago….” “A date that will live in infamy.” “A thousand points of light.” “Hope.” “Mission accomplished.” “I am not a crook.” “I did not have sex with that woman.” Will “Rocket Man” be the current administration’s most memorable phrase?

Follow Seth: @skarenstein