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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • A Bridge to Nowhere?

    A  lot of people have been asking for our take on Governor Chris Christie’s news conference on the George Washington Bridge mess. OK, it was only one person — but we assume he was speaking for many of you.

    GW

    How did Christie do?  The short answer is that it is too soon to tell.  If everything he said about not knowing about a plan to screw up traffic in Fort Lee, NJ turns out to be true — and no evidence or plausible claims to the otherwise arise — he can survive the ordeal.  If anything surfaces that proves that he was less than honest, unless he has Bill Clinton-like survival skills, his political career is likely toast.

    While it is too soon to pass judgment on the long-term effect of the news conference there are some short-term effects that can be discussed.

    He gets major credit for showing up and taking questions for nearly two hours.  When you are under fire the last thing you want to convey is that you are running from the media.  He certainly did not give that impression.  The tactic of having a marathon press briefing when under fire is a tried and tested on.  Some of the most prominent examples are former Vice Presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro’s 1984 exhaustive defense of her husband’s finances, and former First Lady Hillary Clinton’s “Pretty in Pink” press conference ten years later where she tried to deal with a ton of questions involving the Whitewater investments.

    Also on the plus side was acting swiftly to fire his former Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Kelly.   There was no need to dither over what she did.  It was clearly a firing offense.

    And he did a good job by emphasizing how embarrassed and humiliated he was by the incident and how he understood that he bears responsibility for it.  But we think he fell short by spending too much time talking about how badly he felt and opposed to talking about his concern for others.  It was somewhat reminiscent of Paula Deen’s apology tour last summer where she overachieved in talking about how much the allegations hurt her and under achieved discussing how her comments and actions may have hurt others.

    Christie’s biggest mistake was to utter the words “I am not a bully.” You would think a seasoned politician would know cardinal rule #1: “Never repeat a negative.”  I am not a bully sounds eerily reminiscent of “I am not a crook” — and we all know how that turned out.

    Another error was in his failing to say periodically and loudly “As far as I know now….”   Guys like Governor Christie are always certain — even when they shouldn’t be.  He would have been wise to build in some wiggle room so that if, down the road, it turns out that some of his facts were wrong — it doesn’t automatically look like he was lying.

    There were also mistakes made in the way the session was staged.  Most notably was putting Christie behind a lectern that was the seize of two GW Bridge toll booths.  It made him appear as if he needed the massive chunk of furniture to hide behind.  We are tempted to describe the giant lectern as a “bully pulpit” — but that wouldn’t be fair.   If he needed a place to rest his notes he would have been better advised to stand behind a simple music stand and try to convey openness.

    Lectern

    It was a good move for the Governor to insist after the session with the media on going to Fort Lee to deliver a personal apology to the mayor.  Such a gesture would be required a some point — so why not do it immediately and avoid dragging out the apology tour?

    Christie has a steep uphill grade to climb to get over the GW Bridge affair.  He made a promising start but the proof will be in what comes out in the days ahead and how much of a toll it takes on his political career.

    A transcript of the Governor’s news conference is at this link.

    (Note: Our new web hosting service ate a post on this subject that we put up last night.  We are trying to recreate the post from memory — but it will no doubt be somewhat different from the one that went off into the ozone)

  • Asiana’s Crash Course In Bad PR

    What’s dumber than thinking about crisis communications and asking for help only after a crisis hits?
    Not asking for help even then.

    Asiana, the Korean-based airline involved in the recent horrific crash in San Francisco,  continues to get itself in deep kimchi by a tone deaf approach to communications.

    On the day of the crash, the airline issued a wooden press release which gave the initial reports of the number and nationalities of the people aboard — but failed to include a single reference to offering heartfelt concern about the victims and their families and friends.

    No doubt there are some cultural differences between what might be normal in Seoul and San Francisco — but the Ariana press release was so heartless it looked to us as if it might have been drafted in NORTH Korea.

    As the facts dribble out about the cause of the crash — the likelihood of  pilot error grows and the potential impact on the airline soars.

    Now the Wall Street Journal  in an article titled: “Why Asiana Has a PR Problem,” reports that the airline has refused to hire outside crisis communications consultants.

    WSJ quotes an Asiana spokesperson in Korea as saying “It’s not the proper time to manage the company’s image.”

    The feeling, apparently is “we’ve got this handled.”  Their in-house communications experts may be great — (although we see no evidence of that) but during a crisis it is almost always a good idea to bring in  outside experts who are familiar with the culture where the crisis occurred and who have the ability to speak truth to power to the leadership of the offending corporation.  In-house counsel are rarely courageous enough to challenge  their own bosses in the middle of an already stressful situation.

  • Newt Nukes Presidential Hopes

    Put us down for tomorrow at 2 PM for the pool on when New Gingrich pulls out of the race for President.

    If he is in it much longer it will be testimony to the former Speaker’s irrational optimism winning out over reality.  We cannot recall a faster and more devastating bit of career suicide by media since BP’s Tony Hayward’s newsy blowout last year.

    Gingrich’s implosion is so complete — it makes you wonder if it is intentional.  Perhaps he is in a hurry to get back on Fox News’ payroll. Well, at least he is making all the other candidates look Presidential in comparison.

    Among the gaffes over the past few days were these:

    Gingrich offended his base by attacking fellow Republican Paul Ryan on Meet the Press Sunday….stood by his words for 24 hours and then caved.  Last night Gingrich went on TV and said that if any opponent plays back his on-the-record comments it would “be a falsehood.”

    Gingrich also implied that Meet the Press host David Gregory had somehow tricked him into saying something stupid.  On a media conference call yesterday Gingrich said he:   “didn’t go in [to the Meet the Press interview] quite hostile enough, because it didn’t occur to me going in that you’d have a series of setups.” Yeah, right.

    Yesterday it was revealed through his wife’s financial disclosure statements that Gingrich recently owed between a quarter to a half million dollars to the high end jeweler, Tiffany’s.  Not exactly the image you want if you bill yourself as a fiscal conservative.  When asked about the matter, Gingrich refused to comment — telling Greta Van Susteren that he would not play “trivial pursuit.”  Not a good choice of words, Newt. A half million might be trivial to you — but to most voters it sounds like real money.

    And now a Gingrich spokesperson has engaged in the time dishonored practice of attacking the media when you are in self-created hole.  Rick Tyler, his press secretary, attacked “media minions” who “cannot tolerate threats from outsiders who might disrupt their comfortable world.”

    We’re betting Gingrich will be back in his zone of comfort soon — on the sidelines.