All jokes aside (but do send me your answers to the title question for fun) what do these three have in common?
Failed attempts at message control.
Let’s take Weiner – his foolish use of social media (Twitter is a broadcast system NOT a private conversation), his week of narcissistically courting national media interviews only to lie to the even more narcissistic anchors, and his disastrous press conference where he broke all the rules of crisis management, made for a historic screw up of message control.
Specifically, he did not reinforce his mea-culpa with real action or proof that he would change his ways. He also ventured into unbelievably dangerous ground hypothesizing about the ages of the girls to whom he may have sent lewd photos and messages. Third, he gave actual clips that were so damning and unnecessary, his future opponents won’t even have to edit their attack ads. And finally, he broke the cardinal rule by staying up there too long. The more you say, the more you can say wrong.
Frankly, the narcissism that got him in the mess in the first place is the same that kept him up there, sucking in all of the negative attention. How bad was it? PR professors will teach about it. I will use it in my media training courses. The world will now refer to screwing up a communication as “weinering it”. It was that bad.
In the same week as Weinergate we found ourselves talking locally about the public school board’s attempt to control the communication of its trustees. As you see in the clip, the actions are too close to the scandal time-wise to appear as anything less than a blunt attempt at damage control. Like Weiner, they should have given a little more thought to the strategy of controlling their messaging crisis before going public with this hammer. And back to the Mayor’s office - their attempt to limit media access to those with a boss was both the subject of my last blog post and another example of how NOT to attempt message control.
So Weiner, school board, and Mayor’s office here are three simple tips:
1. Take a good look at your audience and their CURRENT communication habits, needs, and expectation. Communication and crisis management are evolving.
2. Take a deep breath before launching anymore defences of your attempts at message control. Don’t further Weiner it.
3. Understand that (as my husband is so fond of saying) control is an illusion. Encoding your message properly so your audience can decode it, and receive it as intended, is a good strategy.
Grasping for control however, is not.
See the U.S. Representative for New York’s 9th congressional district Weiner it.