When staying on message makes you look like a schmuck

Okay, crisis communications 101, or really even media relations 101, the first rules we teach students or clients is….create your key messages and whatever you do stay on message.

Unless of course, the act of staying on message makes you look like a schmuck.

Case in point, New York congressman Rep. Anthony Weiner, who for two days now has taken the art of staying on message and is riding it into his own political grave.  The background story is someone tweeted a picture of a man in his underwear from Weiner's Twitter account to a female college student in Seattle.  Weiner denies he sent it and claims it was likely a Twitter hack.  But here is how it handled an Capitol Hill news briefing to address the "scandal." 

"If I was giving a speech in front of 45,000 people….and someone threw a pie…."  Please.

So in seven minutes plus, he tried to tell that story three times, more than antagonized the media that covers him daily, and still didn't answer the question.

The punchline is because of those seven minutes, Weiner had to spend the whole day the following day doing one-on-one interviews with the media to do damage control.

Sometimes as PR folks we need to learn that standing behind the written word, in this case, the Congressman's office had first put out statements, is all you can do until you are able to fully answer a question.  Stay you're doing an investigation, do it, release the results, if he's clean you're done, if he's not you've got a bigger problem.

By trotting him out with the "pie throwing story" and telling him to stay on message, you extended the story by three days and made him look awful.

Throwing Weiner to the wolves with an analogy and a prayer didn't do him or his political career any good.

Would love to hear your thoughts on how they are handing this "crisis."  

Jon Newman

In 2002 Jon cofounded The Hodges Partnership and has helped to grow it into one of the country’s largest public relations firms (based on O’Dwyer’s annual rankings). Jon has taught communications as an adjunct professor at VCU, speaks regularly at conferences and meetings and blogs and tweets about public relations and marketing issues.

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