It seems irresponsible and impressive all at once.
Trump presumably gets advice on dealing with the media from any number of experienced aides, but his core media relations staff has consisted of just three people: Katrina Pierson, the spokeswoman who is a constant presence on cable news; Hope Hicks, the press secretary who handles virtually all media inquiries; and Stephanie Grisham, his press tour director.
Trump's most trusted media adviser seems to be himself — recall that he quite literally used to role play as his own flack — and he sometimes appears to make decisions on the fly. London's Daily Mail captured a representative scene over the weekend, when Trump visited his golf courses in Scotland and dined with media mogul Rupert Murdoch, whose American holdings include Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post.
Trump made sure reporters following him as he inspected the golf course knew that Murdoch would be his guest."I have Rupert Murdoch coming for dinner tonight," he told DailyMail.com — and then shouted to his press secretary, Hope Hicks."Did you mention that, Hope? Spread it!" he yelled.
Boom. Done. Plan made. Glad we had this talk.
Trump's improvisational style has mostly worked to this point — it produced a win in the GOP primary, after all — and there are benefits to a minimalist approach. Amanda Carpenter, Ted Cruz's communications director until last summer, said she believes "Trump's small, concentrated communications team is more effective than Hillary Clinton's sprawling one."
"Less is always more when it comes to message discipline, and they have committed, focused messengers who will defend Trump to a quite unbelievable degree," said Carpenter, now a CNN commentator. "They have a near-constant presence in the media, are always on offense and ready with a quick refutation of any attack. Meanwhile, it seems like the Clinton team lacks any real-time, rapid-response capability on any subject. Bureaucracy is paralyzing — not just in government, but in campaigns as well."
With the general-election campaign underway, however, Trump finds himself losing ground to Clinton in national polls amid stories that could have been managed better. His verbal attacks on a federal judge and claims of charitable contributions come to mind.
Just last week, Trump fired campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — a clear acknowledgment that his operation needed to change.
The additions of Miller, a former Cruz aide, and a communications coordinator, Michael Abboud, represent some of the first signs of change. Trump is admitting that he needs help on the media front — or, at least, the behind-the-scenes media front.
It must not be an easy concession. In a recent GQ profile of Hicks, Trump praised her ability to function as a one-woman call center.
"If you see her phone going" — he raised both hands and mimicked Hicks answering several devices — "'This is Hope. This is Hope. This is Hope.'" He hung up the make-believe phones. "She gets a call a minute, probably," he said, seemingly pleased with this antiquated barometer of his own popularity.
Yet there are inherent limitations to a tiny staff — a reality to which Trump seems to be waking up. Hicks can't possibly respond to — never mind satisfy — all the media requests that flood in. As the New York Times noted in another Hicks profile, she is even the subject of a Twitter parody account, @HicksNoComment.
The Trump campaign said Miller "will work with several areas of the campaign to ensure messaging coordination and implementation." Abboud, a former staffer for the Republican National Committee, will be charged with "execut[ing] the campaign’s rapid response and daily messaging, as well as providing candidate briefings on daily news and breaking stories."
The campaign's press release suggests more hires are coming — an indication that Trump at last can see that he needs something resembling a presidential-level structure.
Conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, appearing on Fox News on Tuesday morning, might have summarized the moves best: "Time to get serious."