What were those CEOs thinking?

Hi everyone!

Welcome back.

As a communications consultant, more and more of our consulting time is focused on managing issues with our clients. Sometimes, it's a crisis [loss of confidence by consumers, investors such as the current economic mess].

Sometimes it's a sensitive 'risk' issue that has to be managed effectively with the goal of raising awareness, without triggering public panic. [health or safety issues]

One of the pieces of advice we would usually provide is, don't do or say anything that will trigger 'outrage'. Well, guess what? That happened this week in the issue of the bail-out proposal of the Big 3 Automakers.

What was the 'outrage factor'? An ABC News item by veteran investigative reporter Brian Ross. Watch how Congressmen immediately jump all over it to pillory the CEOs before them:


What were those CEOs thinking?

When are CEOs going to learn that the issues that can really hurt you are in the category called "symbols"? It isn't about spending $20,000 on a flight aboard a company jet. It's about 'the message that it sends' when you're seeking taxpayers' money. D'uh!

The Obama Administration will have to watch very carefully this critical aspect of issues management. Heavyweight brains trying to figure their way out of the economic meltdown should use this as a warning. When you expect taxpayers, pensioners and others to suck it up and tighten their belts, then you must conduct a complete analysis of everything you do, how you do it, symbols etc. etc. in order not to trigger such a public relations disaster as this.

What is issues management, anyway?

In public relations, issue management is often used interchangeably with crisis management. The standard definition is: "Issue management is a formal management process to anticipate and take appropriate action on emerging trends, concerns, or issues likely to affect an organization and its stakeholders."

What does issues management involve?

1. Anticipate, analyze and prioritize issues
2. Help develop an organizational position on each vital issue
3. Identify key publics and influential persons whose support are vital to the public policy issue
4. Identify desired behaviors of publics and influential persons

So looking at the above definitions, remember that so-called 'little things' can create more damage than the big-ticket items. A $25 billion plan to salvage hundreds of thousands of jobs could hinge on the power of a 'symbol'. It doesn't have to be fair, but when the public is in a mood for a hanging, don't provide them with the rope!

Until next time...keep your eyes on the 'little things';


Why wasn't it a landslide?

November 10, 2008
Welcome back everyone!
As we approach Remembrance Day (in Canada and the U.K.) and Veterans' Day in the U.S. so a few thoughts on such an important occasion first.....
I attended a church service yesterday (Nov. 9th) which happened to be on the same day that would have been my late brother Stephen's birthday and the second anniversary of my beloved mother, May's, passing. It is also the day when the memorial service to remember our fallen soldiers takes place. Well, I'm usually pretty good at holding it in, but the choir topped it off with a song guaranteed to do me in - that fabulous Celtic song, The Green Fields of France. So tomorrow take 2 minutes at the 11th hour of the llth day of the 11th month to pray for all of the soldiers in all of the wars who fought so all of us can live our lives in freedom and dignity.

Moving on to Political Matters....Why Wasn't it a Landslide?

Well it's all over but the backstabbing and recrimination. Oh wait, that's already underway! When you consider that: Sen. Barack Obama outspent John McCain by something like 3-to1; the economic meltdown occurred a month before the election, the Republican brand was at an all-time low... although a solid victory (8 million votes and 200 electoral votes separated the two), it was certainly no landslide.

So, why wasn't it a landslide?
Automatically many people say the reason was race but thankfully it was not. Age turned out to be a huge differentiating factor, by more than 2 to 1 over race. Obama benefited from both those issues. So, to the disappointment of the MSM (mainstream media) all that talk about the 'Bradley Factor' in the media proved to be a non-issue.
A few final thoughts on the Endless Campaign. Barack Obama deserved to win - he was hopeful in message, cool and Presidential in style and tone, focused on healing divisions, and although somewhat lacking in specifics, gave himself enough breathing room to make the tough decisions he's going to have to make - and fast.
Obama's most popular day will be inauguration day, so he needs to spend his political capital wisely. He will use much of it in the next four years, but he should view his victory as a mandate to govern from the middle. The nation needs healing and a fresh direction. He has a 'once-in-a-generation' opportunity to make a difference and everyone around the world wishes him the very best.

President-elect Obama's First news Conference
Okay we have to cut the guy some slack, as it was only three days after his victory. But this strange comment was clearly out of bounds (and for which he had to apologize to Nancy Reagan). Also his joking reference to himself as a 'mutt' will never be repeated as Rahm Emanuel has no doubt already reamed him out for that. A President should never refer to himself in such a demeaning way - even when just trying to be funny.

What about McCain?

As for Sen. John McCain, his concession speech was the John McCain everyone knew was there - high road, gracious, and filled with a sense of purpose, resolve and humanity. Where was it for most of the campaign? As I said in my last blog, it mostly wasn't in the cards for any Republican Presidential candidate, but he had a very narrow chance to pull it off. He needed a strategic, principle-based campaign, with sound decisions, an uplifting visionary message and tone. For whatever reason, it didn't happen.
However, he gave it his all and he has made a great contribution over the course of his life to his country and he needn't apologize to anyone.

What about Sarah Palin?
With regard to Sarah Palin, she has a lot of recovery to do. People who want to scapegoat her for the defeat are in denial. Yes she was out of her depth. The McCain people, though, have to take responsibility for throwing her into it without any due diligence or extensive preparation.
The clothing issue can be taken care of very simply. Get the auction underway immediately. Cut a deal with Sotheby's or some other auction house for $150,000 or more, and they keep whatever extra they can raise in an auction. Then cut the check to the Republican Party and get it over with. Fast.
Does she have a future? Yes. As Governor. As Senator. But probably not as President. Sorry she was 'Dan Qualyed' which is virtually unrecoverable.

Until next time.....let's all take a deep breath and keep our heads. We will all emerge from this better and stronger. Have I ever lied to you before?