Earth-shaking news

Welcome back!!
Having just survived the 5.0 magnitude earthquake here in Ottawa....it gives new meaning to the phrase 'earth-shaking news'.

First some random thoughts.....

Spitzer lands on CNN

1. CNN's announcement that disgraced New York Governor Eliott Spitzer will be co-anchoring the 8 pm Campbell Brown slot with the Pulitzer prize-winning conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, reinforces the downward spiral that these cable talk programs have been on for many years. The other disgraced Governor, Rod Blagojevich, at least had the dignity (if I can use that word with a straight face) to end up on an entertainment show - Celebrity Apprentice. Although Fox News' hiring of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin might be a more apt comparison to the Spitzer gig, in the end it's all about ratings. Campbell Brown had the good grace to admit that she just couldn't deliver the ratings required for such a prime-time slot.

Supreme Court throws out charges against Conrad Black 

2. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Conrad Black's favor, ruling that the appeals court had treated him unfairly. Watch for the ultimate dropping by the District Court of the three mail fraud charges (the 'honest services' charges, and for him to be released, as he has already served 27 months - longer than the obstruction of justice charges would have warranted. Regardless of the vituperative anger that has been aimed at Mr. Black by the usual suspects, in my view he has served his sentence with dignity and forbearance, making constructive use of his time and maintaining a stoic view that ultimately justice would prevail.

The BP saga goes on...and on....and on 

3. As BP and their beleaguered CEO Tony Hayward continue to squirm under the media spotlight, it looks like the PR debacle continues unabated (never mind the oil in the Gulf). When word came out that BP was about to announce a shuffle involving Mr. Hayward, I immediately thought, "okay BP gets it and is going to remove Mr. Hayward as his brand has been completely destroyed." But no.......instead they named Bob Dudley will be taking over day-to-day operations of the spill management. That's a partial solution at best. As we then saw, Mr. Hayward's weekend participation in a yacht race drew another round of grief that BP could have done without. Even Rahm Emanuel got into the act saying, "Tony Hayward is not going to have a second career in PR consulting, after a long line of PR gaffes..."
Gotta love the under-statement!

Generals behaving badly....
Perhaps it's the craziness of Afghanistan that led to this but, Canadians and Americans have witnessed some disasters which have befallen their respective military commanders in Afghanistan - off the field of battle, but just as lethal to their careers.
The Canadian General is Gen. Dan Menard, who was unceremoniously relieved of command for allegedly inappropriate relations with someone who reports to him in Kandahar. Even without a charge being laid or a chance to defend himself, he was out of there so fast it was shocking to behold.

With news that ISAF Commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has been relieved of command, you gotta wonder what's in the water over there in Afghanistan?! [Actually about a trillion dollars worth of minerals, as it turns out....but besides that!] Take a look at the Rolling Stone article that was Gen. McChrystal's undoing: Rolling Stone Article on Gen. McChrystal

Anyway President Obama moved quickly to change the channel and installed General Patraeus immediately. In the end, it was the only decision he could have made, as the issue had quickly become the principle of civilian command. Why did Gen. McChrystal and his aides say these things in the presence of a reporter? In a word, hubris. Surrounding himself with acolytes and developing a world view that he knew what needed to be done, and that he knew better than his civilian masters, this was inevitable.

Lessons for all in that one!

As the world leaders - and protestors - descend on Toronto for the G8 and G20, there's never a dull moment!

Until next time....


Take a deep breath and appear normal

Welcome back
We must be getting near summer...the crazy season is already underway. The oil is still in the Gulf...Parliament is even more insane than usual....but hey we've got FIFA soccer (or football as they say across the pond).
You gotta laugh, right? It's hard to believe that there's anything funny about the oil nightmare but this comes pretty close: Great BP parody
As President Obama fights harder and harder to make BP own the spill - financially - he knows that politically it doesn't have to make sense in order to be damaging. Hence his four visits to the Gulf and his televised speech from the Oval Office tonight. He has a lot riding on this.

G20 Oil Spill?

There's got to be a lot of concern at Toronto's G20 headquarters about a possible 'oil spill' [real or 'just for fun'] in that 'lake' they are constructing in the media centre. Can you imagine?! They'll have to frisk every reporter going in for any lighter fluid or WD 40. Wouldn't it just be just too tempting for some journalist to be sitting in a Muskoka chair, next to the 'lake' and doing a 'throw' to their camera reporting live while the water burns in the background? If Rick Mercer, or one of Jon Stewart's or Stephen Colbert's 'reporters' are allowed in, it'll be a done deal, mark my words.

So what about the $1 billion security bill for the G8 and G20? My gut reaction is that, if nothing goes wrong (fingers crossed) it will continue to be labelled as a 'waste'. If something does happen, then demands will be made that it clearly wasn't enough! A lot of people forget that while the G8 leaders were meeting in Gleneagles, the London subway bombing took place. Coincidence? I think not. So we all have a stake in getting this right.

The government could be doing a better job of telling Canadians what the money is being spent on, that's for sure. There is, however, only one thing worse than spending too much money on security...and that is not spending enough!!

Bloody Sunday Inquiry Report
After 12 years and $300 million, the Report of the Inquiry, led by Lord Saville, into the 1972 'Bloody Sunday' massacre in Northern Ireland has been finally released. It was great to see the reaction of Prime Minister Cameron, who nailed it beautifully by saying, "what happened on Bloody Sunday (when 13 were killed and 13 were injured) was unjustified and unjustifiable.....you do not defend the British Army by justifying the unjustifiable." Well said! As I was born about 14 miles from that site in Londonderry, I have a particular interest in it. I view it as putting in place one of the essential pieces of resolving "the troubles". Without justice, peace has little meaning. Congratulations Lord Saville and all who worked hard to achieve this difficult, but necessary, reckoning with the past.

Here it is. It makes fascinating reading: Bloody Sunday Inquiry Report

Or if you don't have time, then read the lyrics to U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday or watch this video of U2 singing their song. Check out how they looked back then: U2's Sunday Bloody Sunday

Attention all Podcasters and Content Creators

I will be speaking this Friday night, June 18th at the Podcasters Across Borders Conference at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre at 7:30 p.m. They've got a great lineup for their conference this weekend. Check it out here: http://www.podcastersacrossborders.com/

Until next time.....take a deep breath and appear normal.


BP Crisis Communications Disaster

Welcome back!
Could it get any worse for BP in its efforts to get in the driver's seat of the crisis in the Gulf? On Thursday I did a series of interviews on CBC Radio stations in the drive time slot from one end of the country to the other. Take a listen to this one on CBC Radio's All in a Day 91.5 FM with host Alan Neal to get my take on how BP's crisis communications efforts are working out [it starts at 7.00 minutes into the podcast, following an interview with Taylor and Peyton, two wonderful young girls with a mission to help the wildlife in the Gulf nightmare]

BP's 'Failure to Staunch'...and to communicate
1. BP failed to manage expectations - of the media and the public. The goal is to under-promise and over-deliver; not the other way around. They raised so many expectations throughout that they lost credibility by the final Top Kill or was that Top Hat?
2. They failed to manage perceptions - of caring and competence. They didn't communicate that they were listening or caring. At one point early on when people in the affected Gulf communities complained that they weren't getting answers to their questions from BP, a senior executive was quoted as saying, "I've been too busy to worry about communications." Ouch!

3. "I would like my life back." A comment such as that from the CEO Tony Hayward, was tone deaf when the families of eleven oil rig workers will never have their lives back. It triggered anger and ridicule. He did the right thing and quickly apologized for it, but it lingers on in (media) public memory.
4. While the public suggestion line sounds like a good idea on the surface, after 43 days it sounded more like desperation.
5. Engage the fishing industry and local communities more. While it's true they have to be trained as volunteers, putting them to work mitigating the damage gives people a constructive role.

The 'Spilling Fields' (with apologies to Jon Stewart) 
We have done numerous seminars over many years for the United States Coast Guard on major spills and emergencies, so I know that it's not easy - and in this case with unprecedented difficulties due to the mile deep site of the 'leak' it's testing everyone to the maximum. Former Commandant of the Coast Guard and National Incident Coordinator Admiral Thad Allen has done a solid job in communications on behalf of the Coast Guard; however in all of the multi-party 'Unified Command' training which we conducted, a key principle is that the communications effectiveness of the Responsible Party is essential to have effective communications on behalf of the whole team.

Notice how the President has clearly positioned his Administration against BP - with not-so-veiled threats of criminal prosecution only the latest salvo. Here he is on Larry King Live last night trying to position himself as in charge, while holding BP's feet to the uh...spill:

If BP doesn't plug it very quickly, watch for Mr. Hayward's head to roll, and possibly a 'change in command' at the top of the Crisis Management team. Nobody ever said it was fair, but that's the reality of trying to manage the worst environmental disaster of its kind in American history.

Let's hope BP not only plugs the leak, but plug the gap in their communications too!

Until next time.....