May the PR gods smite me now for even delving into this topic. But, in listening to excerpts from Jon Gosselin’s interview on the radio, from last night’s ABC Primetime interview, I felt compelled to find a “teachable moment” among all of this buffoonery.
Jon, er…eloquently noted last night, among other brilliant revelations, about the press: “They’re going to write and say whatever they want to. Why not just let them?”
Let’s examine this wisdom in some detail:
They’re going to write and say whatever they want to.
It is very true that the media, in covering a high-profile, sordid or otherwise controversial topics, is going to write their story with or without comment from all parties involved. In fact, it is their professional obligation to do so. The media couldn’t ignore the Mike Vick story, say, simply because Mr. Vick declined comment, right? This, one cannot control.
Why not just let them?
What one does have control over, however, is their participation. Getting out your side of the story, appearing accessible and cooperative to the press, and managing and mitigating an otherwise completely negative story are your chief weapons in salvaging reputation amid crisis. Reacting to a crisis is infinitely more difficult than addressing the situation head-on, being a proactive participant in the storyline, and balancing the ugly story with your story—before it’s too late. Sitting on the sideline hoping the play comes to an end is no way to move the ball down the field. (Football metaphor for UM-ND week.)
Further quoting (perhaps paraphrasing)…
“I just want to let the world know that I’m a person with feelings.”
That’s your message?! That you’re a “person with feelings?” Having a succinct, memorable, resonant and compelling messaging is paramount. Having that message honed and cultivated before talking to the media is critical. If something akin to “I have feelings, so like me,” is your message, perhaps you are better off sitting this one out.
“I just want America to get to know the real Jon.”
WOOPS. TOO LATE!
Jon, “America” has gotten to know you. And they don’t like what they see. Appointing the appropriate spokesperson is absolutely, positively a game changer. When Ford Motor Company had a safety crisis at one of their plants several years ago, the PR team deployed none other than Bill Ford to address the workers and the press. He came across as sincere, concerned and committed to fixing the situation. He was the face of the company, and it demonstrated that the company took the matter very seriously, from the very top down. Similarly, when Domino’s had their recent YouTube crisis with a franchisee, the president himself addressed constituents, via none other than YouTube—the very media that became the center of the firestorm in the first place. Though the company was playing social media catch-up, they assembled the right team, crafted the right message, and delivered it in the right medium, with as much immediacy as they were able and the situation warranted. In this case, however, Jon is his own worst spokesperson. He comes off as slimy, disingenuous, unbelievable and predictably ill-equipped to handle the media.
Okay, so maybe no “teachable moments” exist here, as Jon fails almost every PR test. But I guess Jon once again demonstrates, valuably, what not to do. And for that, we thank him.
Grace-saving disclosure: I’ve never seen the show, so I might not be the perfect person to comment. But I know a PR train wreck when I see one. Perhaps the gals in the office can offer more first-hand insight…