Communicate with Power®: 7 Days: Crisis, Risk, Politics and Scandal

Communicate with Power®: 7 Days: Crisis, Risk, Politics and Scandal: Welcome back... The saying that "a week is a lifetime in politics" has never been more apt than these past 7 days. In that time, ...

7 Days: Crisis, Risk, Politics and Scandal

Welcome back...
The saying that "a week is a lifetime in politics" has never been more apt than these past 7 days. In that time, we have seen the 'risk' of Ebola arrive in New York. Prime Minister Harper is on a public rebound following his determined and compassionate response to the 'crisis' in Ottawa. The nation and people around the world mourned the murder of a heroic young man, while in the world of 'politics' John Tory emerged victorious from the Toronto Mayor's race. 'Scandal' in the world of broadcasting has set the Twitterverse® on fire with Jian Gomeshi, host of CBC Radio and NPR's 'Q'  fired by the CBC after stories emerge alleging physical abuse and sexual improprieties. The week was an exceptional mix of Crisis, Politics, Risk and Scandal. What to make of it all?
Reliant-upon-Twitter® coverage
The terrible events in and around Parliament Hil last week triggered by the shocking murder of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo while standing on guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier left Canadians and people around the world angered and saddened by what they saw unfolding on their television screens. In media terms, the network anchors, print and radio reporters did an excellent job under very difficult circumstances to report it in as responsible a way as they could. However, the media had to rely heavily upon Twitter® accounts for their news, resulting in inaccuracies and speculation (about a 'second gunman', another shooting at the Rideau Centre or the Chateau Laurier). That - combined with only the sketchiest of hard news from the authorities, kept the fear factor high for much of the day.
Although a great deal of appreciation is owed to our police and security personnel who managed the terrible situation, lessons can be learned about how to keep the public and the media informed while protecting the public.
5 'Crisis' Lessons that we learned from the terrible events in Ottawa: 
1. Identify in advance, and execute instantly, an Incident Command system, in which all of the key police, security, medical and other members are acting in a coordinated, coherent way.
2. Set up and utilize regular social media and traditional media channels and update throughout the event.
3. Don't leave long gaps between announcements, as the media will fill it with social media commentary and raw 'reports' that can serve to confuse, rather than inform. There was  a clear vacuum of official information throughout much of the day, as downtown Ottawa was shut down in search for the 'second gunman' who never materialized.
4. Don't hold a news conference with no news to announce. At 2 pm, the media were called to RCMP headquarters for a 'joint news conference' that mostly involved deflections, instead of advancing what we already knew. Better off not to have one until you can bring certainty to the situation.
5. Seek to reduce anxiety. Although they did a good job of inviting members of the public to share photos or video that would help in the operation, the police could have expanded on their use of social media to reduce anxiety and provide clear directions to the public on an ongoing basis.

However, those lessons should that take nothing away from the courageous and determined efforts of the RCMP, Ottawa Police Force and the heroics of the House of Commons and Senate security staff - particularly the actions of House of Commons Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers in taking down the gunman before he could inflict any further harm. The media too should receive kudos for their difficult work under fire as fear and anxiety reigned throughout downtown Ottawa.

In the aftermath, the Harper Government tabled long-delayed legislation to strengthen security provisions against terrorism. According to Ekos Research polling the public's initial acceptance of such state actions, subsides in the long run. But before the next election? That depends, of course, on when it is. However, Mr. Harper is wasting no time to find out.
PM unveils child tax credit plan
Within days, the Prime Minister's well-orchestrated pre-campaign announcement of income-splitting between couples combined with increased tax credits for children will mean over $1100 for the average family in their pockets. It looks like the run-up to the election is near. Combined with the Mike Duffy criminal trial scheduled for April 2015, speculation is rampant that the Prime Minister intends to pull the plug on his government in the late winter - wrapped around a balanced budget. Those tax benefits are clearly targeting not just the Conservatives base, but their 'voter universe' - including middle income taxpayers in the growing suburbs around all metropolitan centres such as the GTA.
Let's put it this way. The Prime Minister is clearly keeping his electoral options open. He wants to be in a position to go when he wants - rather than waiting for his own fixed election date of next October. One thing we know after nine years in power.

Toronto Mayor-Elect John Tory
The Toronto Mayor's race ended a little more closely than predicted, with the defeat of Doug Ford, standing in for his ailing brother Rob (who was elected Councillor for Etobicoke) and the election of John Tory. Politics in Toronto might get dull again. But, in politics, especially in Canada, being 'dull' ain't too bad eh? Having worked closely with John Tory in the past, I am confident that he will do an excellent job of moving Toronto forward, while staying off the Jimmy Kimmel Show!
Canada 150th Ad
The Power of Incumbency On the Airwaves
Of course what would politics be without advertising? Which brings me to the issue of Government ads - are they a propaganda tool? Here on the CBC News' 'The National with Wendy Mesley', I give my analysis of the thin line separating government public service ads from political propaganda. Although these ads do not cross the line in my view, but they do demonstrate the power of incumbency.

First, whether it's Ebola or 'terrorist' actions, count on over-reactions from the public. The basic principle - which we teach in our Communicating Risk Seminar - is that  is that the public tends to underestimate real threats (flu) and tends to overestimate perceived threats that pose much less risk (Ebola).
One reason is that the traditional definition of risk was this formula: 'Amount of Hazard x Likelihood of Occurrence = Risk".
According to Peter Sandman of Rutgers University, today the definition is: "Amount of Hazard + Public Outrage = Risk".
The public was outraged once Ebola landed in Texas, and again in New York, due to medical personnel who, themselves, under-estimated their own exposure to Ebola. When the state governors over-reacted to the threat by issuing mandatory quarantine orders for all returning doctors and nurses from West Africa (without taking into account the huge disincentive for organizations such as 'Doctors without Borders'
At the political level, it translates into over-reactions by Governors Christie (New Jersey), Cuomo (New York), Lepage (Maine). Although, just yesterday, after a mounting backlash against the mandatory quarantine, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to financially compensate medical personnel who volunteered to fight Ebola in West Africa.
Nurse Hickox defies the quarantine

However, Gov. LePage is losing in the court of public opinion over his enforcement of the quarantine agains nurse Kacie Hickox as she defies the Governor's actions. He appears determined to make her a hero. President Obama has moved to pick up on the growing public sentiment that it's wrong to treat medical professionals in this manner. However, we are days away from the mid-term elections, so it's all fodder for the political machines.

Jian Gomeshi in happier times
Finally, the Jian Gomeshi escalating 'scandal'. As I posted early on in the unfolding story, his decision to post a 1600 word Facebook statement in which he attempted to jump ahead of the brewing scandal, only ended up triggering the Toronto Star to publish the results of its investigations, including detailed allegations from women who had powerful stories to tell that contradicted Gomeshi's attempts to paint his behaviour as 'kinky' rather than violence against women. The public outrage was so great that it backfired on Gomeshi - to the point where even his own crisis communications and public relations firms fired him! [That is usually done when the client doesn't tell you the essential truth and the firm ends up wearing the disaster.] The CBC is moving quickly to investigate his behaviour at the CBC by bringing in an outside investigator. As more and more women come forward with stories of his conduct, one can already see that the tide has shifted.
 'Never pick a fight with people who buys ink by the barrel'. (Mark Twain)
Of course, the CBC is already demonstrating that it has enormous resources to air 'the other side' of the story in which every day, Jian is looking worse and worse. Mr. Gomeshi is going to wish that he had stayed with his original storyline, that he "wanted to take some time to deal with personal issues". As normally happens in these stories, there is a rush to judgement. We need to remember, however, that he has not been charged with any crime, and even if he is, he is presumed innocent. So, even though his handling of the case has been spectacularly ineffective, we need to wait until the process is completed before deciding ultimately the true nature and extent of what he has done.
In the meantime, however, his once spectacular career has become 'toast'.

Until next time!


Crisis Communications 101: Overcoming Panic and Fear

Welcome back.  It's a sober day in Ottawa, with the sounds of gunfire still ringing in our ears following the terrible events of today in the Nation's Capital. As with all Canadians, as well as from friends we've been hearing from in the United States and around the world through social media, we are left with a sense of profound sadness and a realization that our world somehow won't be the same again.

Crisis Communications 101: Overcoming Panic and Fear
As with many emergencies and crises, communications is critically important to:
1. help the management of the response itself by giving people clear information and directions
2. rapidly de-escalate the crisis, and
3. create confidence in the public that the situation is being handled credibly and coherently.
So, having established those goals, let's look at how communications was handled by police, politicians and the government in the terrible events of October 22nd?
1. Speak only on facts. This was - for the most part - accomplished under very difficult circumstances, while operating without perfect information. Given that the situation was still 'fluid' or 'active' as officials said, there were bound to be contradictory information and a certain level of confusion. This was particularly true in this crisis regarding the possibility of another gunman. The gravest error - under great pressure to reassure - would have been to give false assurances that there wasn't another gunman. The simple fact is that the security and police forces couldn't rule out that possibility. As a result, the security perimeter kept widening around Parliament Hill (where the shooter was killed) and the National War Memorial (where Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was cold-bloodedly murdered).
2. Get information out quickly - even when you don't have all the answers. The police forces began tweeting very quickly with information - as well as requests for photos and videos from the public. Although it took four hours before a news conference was held, it was reasonable in the circumstances. The news conference itself, held at RCMP Headquarters, didn't provide much new information and the response to it by journalists and the public (as evidenced by social media) was one of disappointment. So, either they needed to wait until they had something more solid, or perhaps go earlier with a quick update. However, they would no doubt have been equally criticized in either of those scenarios too. All in all, it demonstrated coherent action among the RCMP, Ottawa Police, the Canadian Forces and the Mayor of Ottawa - was the best they could do in the circumstances.
A somber PM addresses the nation
3. Political Leaders need to be present - but not 'political'. The Prime Minister's Office issued a statement early on but the decision was taken for Prime Minister Harper to wait until 7 pm to speak - which some felt seemed a little late - as President Obama had made remarks and shared his condolences hours earlier from the White House. Nevertheless, the PM, as with Opposition Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau - all did an equally good job of their statements of condolences, praise and determination. Mayor Jim Watson of Ottawa also did an excellent job of conveying the feelings of the people of Ottawa at the news conference and in subsequent media interviews.
4. Communicate action that people need to take without invoking 'panic'. This, the RCMP and Ottawa Police did superbly well. Their orders to 'shelter in place' for those in downtown offices and for the rest of the public to stay away were respected and followed. [I was downtown in my car a block away on Queen St. in the first hour, and the sense of order was already apparent].
5. Manage public perceptions and expectations. This was done very well, overall. The perception of professionalism and purposeful response was evident from the beginning of the crisis. They didn't fall into the trap of 'over-promising and under-delivering' on expectations. Instead, the RCMP, Ottawa Police and Canadian Forces managed and fine-tuned our expectations well, and as the afternoon wore on, you could feel the relief start to take hold. By early evening, as with many of our neighbours, people emerged from their homes to walk their dogs, get some air, and try to feel 'normal' again.

Cpl. Cirillo minutes before on duty, R.I.P.
Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who sacrificed his young life in duty for his country. It is difficult to find the words to convey how profoundly we admire and respect his sense of devotion and the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that the public never forget those who had fallen in defence of our nation's values. Now, we in turn, owe him that determination.

A true hero, Sgt-at-Arms Kevin Vickers
Finally, amidst all of that sorrow, however, there were inspirational stories - ranging from ordinary tourists and passersby pitching in to volunteer medical aid to Cpl. Cirillo - to Parliament's Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers who saved many lives by taking down the gunman - to police, emergency and security personnel - who acted with courage and professionalism to contain and reduce what could have been a far worse tragedy today. And yes, to journalists - print, radio and TV - who kept us informed, with restraint and tact, at risk to themselves on this terrible day, thank you.
Follow Barry on twitter.com/mclomedia or subscribe to this blog 'Communicate with Power®' by emailing mclomedia@msn.com.


Politics at the movies

Coming soon...to a multiplex from hell...Politics at the Movies
     Here we are at the mid-summer mark. As it has turned out to be a particularly tragedy-laced   summer internationally - the shooting-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH 17 in Ukraine; the explosive and deadly bombings and killings in Gaza; the strange and tragic crash of Air Algerie in Mali...and now an Ebola outbreak in West Africa! If one cares about the world, it's not exactly the hazy, lazy days of summer, is it? 
     Laura Peck and I have been traveling - to Washington, Boston (where we completed the Certificate program, Teaching the Case Study Method at the Harvard Business School), Toronto, Labrador, Halifax and a few other places - all for work, alas, but I've tried to squeeze in a day here and there to read, think, swim and try to enjoy a pretty hit-and-miss summer when it comes to weather.
     Along with an occasional media interview, I've even managed to read a few books! Based on the recommendation of my daughter, Caroline, right now I'm deep into the second of a planned trilogy of novels about the life Cicero, by Robert Harris. The first was Imperium and the second - that I also can't put down - is Conspirata (I hope by the time I finish it Robert Harris will have announced the publication of the closing chapter!). Who knew that in the 60s B.C. they played politics as dirty and as personal as today? Now there's fewer murders, but more political deaths by Twitter® and smart phone videos. They would make a great premium cable mini-series for sure..... all of which leads me into the theme of this summer version of my blog post.
For Your Consideration...Politics at the Movies
Here are some sequels, re-makes and other summer flicks that you may want to consider as we head into the second half of summer. Will they be enough to rescue the anemic Hollywood Box Office this summer?
Putin in his first role as a typical tourist.

1. A Most (Un) Wanted Man... Now that Navi Pillay, the U.N. Commissioner for Human Rights, has labelled what happened to the shooting down - and the crash site aftermath - of Malaysia Air Flight 17, a 'war crime', perennial bad buy Vladimir Putin has done it again.

Harper freezes Putin's assets

However, in this international thriller, Putin comes head-to-head with Canada's own Stephen Harper who smacks him down by freezing his assets and those of his cronies. Will it be enough to stop the 'Back in the U.S.S.R.' tendencies of nemesis Putin? Not so fast, as Vlad [played by aging martial arts "star" Steven Seagal, who is a vocal admirer of Putin] is every bit the conniving vicious thug that one always suspected he was.

Seagal and his pal Vlad
[Spoilers ahead!] Reports that he has managed to squirrel away $40 billion into his personal bank accounts, real estate and other nefarious 'investments' just pours salt into the wounds of those who have been particularly outraged by his Ukrainian atrocities. Vlad has played the role of villain to an extent that not even John Le Carré could have imagined. Not satisfied with stealing territories that don't belong to him, Seagal shows Putin stealing upwards of $40 billion through state-sanctioned extortion and bullying on the home front. The real question is, will EU countries turn a blind eye in hopes of maintaing their oil and gas imports? Will Harper be able to rally his fellow G7 leaders to avert a global catastrophe? You don't want to miss this climax!

Bill threatens to upstage Barack
2. A Solitary Man... After years of disappointment in his dreams and dealing with his unhappy arranged marriage to the Republican-led Congress, Barack Obama [Denzel Washington] has mentally checked out from his life (but with none of the creepy fantasies and drugs from the original movie). Barack Obama has been hit with a lot of criticism as his career seems to be running out of gas. Critics say that he is 'dis-engaged' with all the big issues - while fund-raising, playing golf and dining with his Hollywood pals. Does his 'no-drama Obama' persona give people the impression that he's lost interest? As the movie reveals, Barack is never going to be the Bill Clinton 'feel your pain' kind of President no matter what. But can he pull it together for a final act to cap his career? Stay tuned!
3. Secondary Colors... With Emma Thompson reprising her Primary Colors role, this sequel switches focus as Bill [played once again by John Travolta] plays second fiddle to Hillary who is gearing up  for the Presidency in 2016. All jokes about pants suits and bad hair days have fallen by the wayside as Hillary proves she's up for the role of her lifetime. Yes, she stumbles - in one poignant scene, she tries to relate to ordinary folks, claiming she and Bill were essentially 'broke' when they left office. (Somehow, knowing each had a multi-million dollar book deal awaiting their signatures, triggered audience hisses and boos in the screening I attended.) Her speech-making fees  -  upwards of $250,000 - puts her in the category of ... well....Bill! So, there will be no pity party for her as she revs up her campaign early in the New Year. Although nothing is a done deal (as she herself learned in 2008), this movie promises that Hillary will be a formidable candidate. No more 'Tammy-Wynette-stand-by-your-man' for her. The only vacuuming going on in this movie is the dollars from the pockets of Democrat donors. 
House of Cards- Trudeau, Harper, Mulcair
4. House of Cards: Another Foreign Adaptation... Frank Underwood would have a field day with this trio of politicos up north. The versatile Kevin Spacey hits the mark with this Canadian Netflix-only version of the political drama. This Hollywood North taxpayer-subsidized soap opera highlights the looming horse race in the 2015 federal election race, among Stephen Harper [Kevin Spacey], Justin Trudeau [Rob Lowe] and Thomas Mulcair [Tommy Lee Jones - he's can't capture the 'bearded Canadian intellectual' side of Mulcair, but he can play the crotchety aspects in his sleep]. The movie shows that anything can happen in an election campaign.  It deftly illustrates what happened in recent provincial campaigns - Quebec and Ontario when the pundits had it wrong.  The RCMP's laying of 31 charges against Mike Duffy [deftly played by SNL's Bobby Moynihan] triggers Tommy Lee Jones - as Mulcair - to play the defining role of his career - as the coldly incisive prosecutor. Although Mr. Mulcair would be best to remember that no one loves the prosecutor.

So, as we approach the Mid-Summer Night long weekend, it's perhaps the last chance for Hollywood to recover from a less-than-stellar box office summer. Let's hope that the movie of your summer beats anything that you see here! 

Until next time.....


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Jimmy, we hardly knew ye

Welcome back...

'Jimmy, we hardly knew ye'
This post is devoted to Jim Flaherty whose State Funeral was broadcast earlier today. Laura and I were working in Los Angeles traveling when our son Brendan phoned us with the shocking news of his death last Thursday.  Although we've been in Winnipeg the past few days,  we were able to make it back home just in time to catch the broadcast. While flying home, I thought back over the Jim Flaherty that I knew.
Jim's gift of friendship
Jim had the gift of friendship and there were many more who had deeper, long-lasting friendships with him, than I. However, being in the business of media training and coaching, I had the privilege of working with Jim Flaherty in his various Cabinet portfolios provincially, as well as his first leadership run. Several years later, as Finance Minister he came to me to prepare him prior to the delivery of his first Budget Speech. In between, Laura and I would bump into him on many different occasions and we always enjoyed our conversations.
The last time I spoke with him
Being Irish-born, I found it easy to strike a rapport with him - a friendship which stayed true all the way through, including the last time we chatted a few weeks ago. It was after Sunday Mass at Notre Dame Cathedral and as Laura and I introduced to him our young adult children - Caroline, Brendan and Liam, we all joked about our shared propensity for Irish names. That triggered the rest of the conversation that was mostly about his three sons - Galen, Quinn and John. He positively glowed as he spoke of them. Although he clearly looked like he was struggling with his health, he was as hard-working as ever. In fact, he was on his way to the office to put the final touches on his Budget Speech - the last one he was to deliver, only a day later. When he resigned from Cabinet a few weeks later, we all thought that now he would be able to take the time to rest and get his health back. Tragically, it was not to be.
                                                     Jim 'slips away to the next room'
The State Funeral - with everyone wearing green ties and scarves in his honour - was a great tribute to Jim, as he was one of the most significant Finance Ministers in history. Prime Minister Harper did a superb job of capturing - with humour and emotion - both the tender side and the tough, determined side of Jim Flaherty. He revealed his own feelings as he addressed Jim's three sons, Galen, John and Quinn, about how he dealt with the loss of his own father eleven years ago. It was a very meaningful comment from a Prime Minister who doesn't often reveal his own personal feelings. Jim's family were remarkable in their poise and their tributes, that gave us insight into his role as a devoted father and a husband. Quinn's message to his father was both humorous and touching: "Put your feet up. Lay your head back. Close your eyes and relax. We will take it from here." And they did!
His wife Christine Elliott, M.P.P., in one of the most unimaginably difficult things to do, gave a wonderful tribute, including these lines from the ballad, Death is Nothing at All, by Henry Scott Holland:
"Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other, 
That, we still are.
Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.
Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it."

His sister Norah, in her funny but profound tribute, revealed that his siblings and parents always called him 'Jimmy'.
Jimmy we hardly knew ye
The Irish song, "Johnny I Hardly Knew Ye" was used as the title of a book by Kenneth O'Donnell and Dave Powers about their boss, John F. Kennedy, that is a wistful way of saying, 'I'd wished we'd spent more time getting to know you'. That would capture how most people who knew him would feel about 'Jimmy' Flaherty.

On a personal level, what will be left behind was the memory of his laughter and deft wit - sardonic, self-deprecatory and playful - that left one feeling better about life and the world. He told more with his eyes than with his words at times. Helpful, in the sound-bite world inhabited by a Cabinet Minister whose every word is measured by the markets.

Something else stays with me in his personal story.  While he was a Princeton student, Jim supported himself by driving a cab and bussing tables. I think that tells us a lot about his character and his ability to understand the realities of people's lives, and of those who need a 'hand up' [as illustrated by The Abilities Centre he created in his beloved hometown of Whitby].

His most significant contribution, of course, was his handling of the October 2008 economic meltdown, and the actions that he took - in concert with the Prime Minister and the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mark Carney - to save the jobs of hundreds of thousands of Canadians and to ensure the continued flow of money in the economy.

As we saw in the State Funeral and in all the tributes that were shared in the days following his death, was how he was able to maintain personal friendships and respect across the aisle. Even though he had a partisan streak in him and could fight fiercely for what he believed, he had the gifts of friendship and empathy and was able to develop friendships with politicians of every stripe. We need more Jim Flahertys'!

So, to adapt a toast from one of my favourite movies, 'Waking Ned Devine',
"Take a drink and remember the man. And raise your spirits to the sky. Raise them to Jim Flaherty. God bless you Jim, and may we be forever in your debt." 

Jimmy, we hardly knew ye!


6 Rules for Managing a Scandal

Welcome back! It's been a whirlwind time at McLoughlin Media as we celebrate our 30th anniversary in April. Laura and I have been traveling from New York (media training); to L.A. (message development); to Montreal (media training); and Toronto (presentation skills). Earlier this week I was in beautiful St. Louis doing a seminar in crisis communications. So life has been busy.

Just yesterday, we completed the term for our course, 'Political Management and the Media' in the Clayton H. Riddell Masters of Political Management program at Carleton University. Once again, a great group of students who represent the political spectrum and who are an inspiration for the future of politics.

On April 7th Laura and I will be attending the Women in Communications and Technology Awards Gala at the Westin Hotel in Ottawa where Laura will be receiving the Communications Excellence Award. Congratulations Laura!
After that, Laura and I are back in L.A. where we are on a panel discussion at the Spring Meeting of the American Bar Association, April 11th, called "Scandal Scarred: Managing Your Clients Through a Political or Government Scandal.  We're looking forward to it.

Which brings me to my topic of this post....

Six Rules for Managing a Scandal
Over the past thirty years, we have consulted on behalf of clients in the political, corporate, government and non-profit sectors. Here are some rules for managing scandals.
1. Make sure your client doesn't become a joke. This week's outrage was that Mayor Ford had to stand up and change two votes - in which he had voted AGAINST Council congratulating Canada's Olympic and Para-Olympian teams, and AGAINST naming a street after Nelson Mandela. Jimmy Kimmell had another field day with that piece of news, and even Bill Clinton weighed in [ironic isn't it?] Interestingly enough, it looks like Rob Ford will probably avoid criminal charges for his actions, but will it save his political future? Right now, it's even odds that he could pull off a victory in October against John Tory and Olivia Chow, as they seem determined not to bring up the Mayor's ahem peccadillos.
Dimitri and Eve
2. Don't bring in people who are 'toxic' to manage other people.
The antics of Conservative MP Eve Adams and her fiancé, Conservative Party Executive Director Dimitri Soudas have tripped up Prime Minister Harper's efforts to shake loose last year's Senate 'Scandal'. Now that Mr. Soudas has been let go, there isn't anyone in his camp willing to defend him.

3. Turn the channel. Mr. Harper's strongest suit as Prime Minister was on show last week as his visit to Ukraine, Germany and the G7 in Brussels showed him to be resolute in his stance for justice and call to action on Putin's take-over of Crimea. However, when he arrived home to the swirling controversy over the Dimitri Soudas-Eve Adams side-show, he must have been furious that he couldn't spend one day basking in the success of his European trip.

Premier Redford Takes Her Leave
4. Style of leadership matters. The resignation of Alberta Premier Alison Redford underscores the importance of leading by listening and motivating - not by command and control. A government requires a team. It is not a one-person power machine. No matter the progress she was making in Alberta's economy and development, her style began to grate - first internally, and then with the public.

5. Understand and respect your own brand. Every successful government understands its brand - that is, it's promise to voters. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie still hasn't recovered the damage to his 'just folks, man of the people' brand as a result of the 'Bridge' scandal. In Canada, for three elections, the Conservative brand was powerfully and persuasively built, but it has eroded badly since the last election - on political reform, the military, veterans and even solid management. The Conservatives have only 18 months to re-discover their brand and get off the defensive.
6. Make sure your message hits the target. The government's 'Canada's Economic Advantage' campaign is long in the tooth and has lost its ability to move the dial. The party's 'He's in way over his head' personal attack ads on Justin Trudeau seem weirdly personal (clips of him removing his shirt) and not serious.  Justin Trudeau's F-bomb at a charity boxing match last week, followed by his cursing on television last night won't cause permanent damage. However, it does play into the counter-narrative that the Conservatives have proven so adept at creating - with former Liberal leaders Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. Will lightning strike three times? Although Mr. Trudeau seems to have a teflon coating, the Conservatives are betting heavily that the attacks will start to stick.

So those are only some of the rules for managing a scandal. But they're a start!

Until next time......welcome to spring!

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5 Reasons Why Doubling Down Won't Work

Welcome back!
It's been such a busy New Year that I haven't got around to a 2014 blog post until now. Laura and I just got back from New Jersey - where we did a seminar, and then New York City where we took a few days to unwind. Among the highlights was when we took in the new Broadway play, 'All the Way' about the first year of Lyndon Baines Johnson's presidency as he pushes the Civil Rights Bill through Congress.                                                                                                                                    
Playing LBJ was the multi-talented Bryan Cranston whose tour-de-force performance brought the Neil Simon Theater audience to its feet. We had a chance to meet him after the show, and I was impressed by his great attitude and patience with all the fans. The Breaking Bad star told me how he loved working in Canada, and rhymed off all the cities where he had worked - Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. There wasn't a hint of Walter White that emerged!

Gov. Christie Tries to Recover His Brand
While in the Tri-State area we were able to catch up on the travails of Gov. Chris Christie as he tries to recover from his Bridge issue. Although no one brought it up at a Town Hall meeting, the national media were all over it, looking for evidence that the issue had created permanent damage to his political brand - and thus his 2016 putative Presidential bid. Although two years is a lifetime in politics, he now has a mountain to climb in order to recover. What the allegedly deliberate traffic carnage revealed was a petty, partisan motive that was at odds with his brand of the truth-teller who wasn't going to let partisanship get in the way of helping his state. [Recall his bromance with President Obama in the post-Sandy recovery. A devastating critique by the New York Times' Maureen Dowd pretty well sums up his challenges. Which probably means...Jeb Bush will be testing the waters in a serious way.

Doubling Down....and out?
I have just finished reading Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's insightful new book Double Down, their account of the 2012 Presidential election campaign. It's the follow-up book to their smash hit, Game Change, which was a brilliant chronicle of the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Double down can be defined as, adopting a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Romney deployed it increasingly throughout the primaries and then in the Fall campaign - to increasingly disastrous results.
As the Romney campaign 'doubled down' on his Republican base, and President Obama did the same with his Democrat base [which is wider], some lessons can be learned that apply elsewhere.

5 Reasons why Doubling Down Won't Work
1. The public is increasingly fed up with 'politics as usual'. Although this has been a long time in coming, any political party or leader who smacks of playing the same old partisan games is offside with the voter. When people are looking for signs of principle and character, such games are a major turn-off.
2. It makes it hard to reach the uncommitted voter. Although it's vitally important to keep a political party's base onside the name of the game is the middle class voter who is worried about jobs and the economy. Doubling down on the base makes no effort to 'cross the chasm' to reach the uncommitted voter who is not politically invested.
3. The political zeitgeist is undergoing a profound change. Personal attacks and cheap shots have lost their 'appeal'. Although they can gain headlines, getting personal is reminiscent of school yard bullies. Although it doesn't automatically show up in polls, when the public sees someone who represents change, not only in policies, but in vision and tone, they leap to it. Witness Obama in 2008 and - for a limited time in 2012-13 - Gov. Chris Christie. North of the border, Justin Trudeau is betting that his 'non-partisan' messaging and actions such as his Senate initiative will position him as less partisan and more in tune with the political zeitgeist.
4. It's hard to project true leadership when you're busy attacking your opponents. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has proven to be an effective 'prosecutor' of Prime Minister Harper on the Senate 'scandal' issue. Yet very few flock to a prosecutor as a visionary. That may partially explain the lack of 'lift' under Mulcair in the past year. This past week, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson went out of his way to attack Lt. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Leslie for accepting a $72,000 payment to cover the costs of his final move, as allowed for in Canadian Forces policy]. While it might be red meat for the base, such an aggressive, personal attack runs the risk of being seen as mostly political in its motivation - as Leslie is now a declared Liberal defence policy adviser to Justin Trudeau. l.

5. People get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. This is true in politics and it's also true in television. Piers Morgan doubled down on his belief that viewers would tune in to his repetitive anti-gun diatribes [no matter how legitimate some of them may have been]. The news that CNN is pulling the plug on Piers Morgan Tonight is not a big surprise.

I can't sign off without a special congratulations to my partner, Laura Peck, who started this company with me 30 years ago this year. It has just been announced that Laura has won the WCT [Women in Communications and Technology] Award for Communications Excellence. The Awards Ceremony will be held on April 7th and I will proudly be there along with her.

On a final note.....Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people...
Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, with the events unfolding in Kiev leading to the removal of the President by the Ukrainian Parliament and the ordering of an election, I couldn't help but think back about five years when Laura and I were in Kiev and conducted three seminars for the three main courts of Ukraine. Hopefully, part of the new revolution will ensure that the rule of law will prevail, with an independent judiciary. Our thoughts and best wishes are for the Ukrainian people as they go through this historic revolution.
So for now, it's off to Saskatchewan - where it's a dry cold - and we will see you all soon!
Until next time....