Thursday, January 13, 2011

Timely response?

If past foibles did not teach the average CEO, politician, public figure, etc. on how and when to respond to a crisis, what will?

Too numerous are the case studies of late. Dominos. Toyota. BP. Jet Blue. Tiger Woods. All examples of why you need a crisis plan, or at least the framework of how to respond when s*** happens. Read: get a response out fast.

So, why did Sarah Palin wait five days to post a video response to the attacks on her that rose from the Tucson shooting? More importantly: Why did she post the response ON THE SAME DAY when President Obama was going to give a pivotal, emotionally laden address to the nation at the memorial ceremony in Tucson?

Who is advising her? Who is writing her stuff?

The contrast is captured perfectly in many stories, most notably today's New York Times piece by Michael Shear.

Besides being prepared to respond quickly, the other major lesson learned here is not new, either. Experienced crisis communications counselors will frequently advise to "take the high road" and avoid "being negative" in a response. Sadly, Palin attacked her critics. Rather than talk about the issues she felt were important, she went on the defensive.

Big mistake. You never win being defensive. The public will remember how you responded. They may not remember every word, but they will remember your overall tone.

It wasn't as if no one saw the tone of Obama's speech coming. The calls for being civil in discourse were everywhere.

Finally, I'm curious to know my colleagues' thoughts about format? A video posted on her Facebook page? Did she come off, with that direct look at the camera, a little cold and a little flat in delivery? Contrast this with how Dominos CEO did his response. More relaxed worked for the pizza king. Stiff for the Alaska queen didn't.

6 comments:

Dan said...

All good, if obvious, points. Palin's hopeless, of course, and lucky. However, rather mashed up syntax/grammar for a pro comms guy like you, no? "Too numerous are the case studies of late."? Or "...post the response ON THE SAME DAY when...". Snarky, I know, but in our role as shills I think we should try to maintain standards.

PR in Los Angeles said...

Dan, good points. Literary freedom versus an academic style is always a battle for communications/PR bloggers. One sidenote: In the same quest to maintain professional standards, I also don't think we need to refer ourselves as shills. This phrase is too often associated with "huckster."

NF2011 said...

Of course Palin's response was going to differ from Obama's stylistically; in case you’re not aware, that might be because she had to respond to an endless Orwellian smear tying her to a homicidal lunatic? Accuse Obama of complicity in mass murder and I am willing to bet the house that his reaction won’t be unicorns and rainbows either. We are talking about two drastically different angles. Obama IS the President, so he SHOULD respond the way he did. Palin, even if she has aspirations of the Presidency, had to defend herself against the most unfair examples of poor journalism and flat out lies I have ever witnessed in my adult life.

Dan said...

Denis,
(This is not the same Dan as the earlier post)
Excellent post, impressive that you were able to keep politics out of it and focus on the PR perspective. Agreed, Palin misstepped with the timing - a day earlier or later would have been far better than the same day as the president. On a day the President was calling for unity, her remarks had the look of trying to (again) divide the country.

And you were spot on that she should have stuck to the high road. Wouldn't hurt if she would have done some research on the term "blood libel" too. Esp. given that Giffords is Jewish. Poor judgment and bad PR strategy from Palin's camp.

Dan said...

Love it, Denis! Literary freedom vs. academic style. No forced conflation, there. But, hey, ain't no thang, right? Let me help you out on the other item: the dictionary (probably too academic for you but, alas, where else to turn?) defines a huckster as someone who produces promotional material; originally cheap, shoddily written articles (ahem). A shill, on the other hand, is a spokesperson, perhaps of dubious authenticity. There are plenty of professional shills. In your original piece, you are shilling a prescriptive point-of-view relative to Palin's communications (although, given your "style" in the piece, the "huckster" tag may fit, too). Anyway, shills, hucksters, professional communications people, let’s not quibble over terms. I think we can agree that good grammar and syntax help provide clarity to even the muddiest thoughts and poor grammar and syntax can make even literary freedom hard to understand. But, hey! Yo! Denis! Just keeping it real.

Yours truly, a huckster shilling for greater clarity and concision.

Dan said...

Love it, Denis! Literary freedom vs. academic style. No forced conflation, there. But, hey, ain't no thang, right? Let me help you out on the other item: the dictionary (probably too academic for you but, alas, where else to turn?) defines a huckster as someone who produces promotional material; originally cheap, shoddily written articles (ahem). A shill, on the other hand, is a spokesperson, perhaps of dubious authenticity. There are plenty of professional shills. In your original piece, you are shilling a prescriptive point-of-view relative to Palin's communications (although, given your "style" in the piece, the "huckster" tag may fit, too). But shizzle my nizzle, whatever you know? Be it shill, huckster, professional communications practitioner, let’s not quibble over terms. I think we can agree that good grammar and syntax help provide clarity to even the muddiest thoughts. And it can render literary freedom, well, readable at least. Yo! Denis! My Man! Just keeping it real.

Yours truly, a huckster shilling for greater clarity and concision.

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