Monday, September 20, 2010

Goofy Things People Say -or- PR and the Politicians

     Did you hear?  A Tea Party candidate in Delaware is getting boiled in a witch's brew of bad PR.  Christine O'Donnell just won the Republican primary in the U.S. Senate race.  Suddenly, an old videotape surfaces in which O'Donnell admits she once "dabbled" in witchcraft.  I doubt very much she's a witch. But I'm sure O'Donnell is not clairvoyant.  Otherwise she would have known how the skeletons in her closet would come back to haunt her.
     I think it's fair to say that the Tea Party stands for conservative/christian values.  So getting yourself linked to the dark side is probably not very helpful.  To paraphrase Sarah Palin, "How's that touchy feely witchy stuff working for ya?"
     Just hours after the bewitching revelations O'Donnell pulled out of planned appearances on the Sunday morning Political shows.  This may have been a good idea- or a bad one.  The good: it gives O'Donnell and her advisors time to conjure up a strategy.  The bad: when you hide (as seems the case here)- it looks like you're on the run.  Worse, it can make you look "guilty".  I think it's almost always best to confront PR problems head-on.  Admit you've made a mistake- explain yourself- and move on.  Otherwise, you could be the focus of a 'witch hunt'- or a PR disaster that drags on and on and on.  Just ask the folks over at BP.  And in O'Donnell's case- I hear there may be more videos yet to be released.  You'll have to decide for yourself which PR strategy works best.
     Now to be fair, O'Donnell is not the first politician caught saying something better left unsaid.  Consider these comments:

Nixon: "I am not a crook."
Carter: "I've looked on a lot of women with lust."
Reagan: "We begin bombing in five minutes."
Clinton: "I did not have sexual relations with that woman."
Clinton: "I didn't inhale."
George Bush 1 "Read my lips.  No new taxes."
George Bush 2 "Mission Accomplished."

Yes, Clinton gets two quotes- but only because he was very, very special.  The point here is that when you say something in front of a camera- you better know what you're saying.  Because an on-tape misstatement has a nuclear half-life of roughly 60,000 years.
     So to review- whether you are a politician or not- be very careful about what you say on camera.  Be careful about what you post on Facebook, Twitter or anywhere else.  You can trust me on this.  Because, I am not a crook.

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